Annual health screenings aren’t limited to women and children.
Men, too, should take part in annual screenings for a variety of specific health issues and for their general health.
A survey of the American Academy of Family Physicians found that 55 percent of men responding had not seen their doctor for a physical exam in the previous year, even though 40 percent of them had at least one chronic condition.
During these annual screenings “we can pick up abnormalities,” says Steven Mattson, MD, an internal medicine provider with Trinity Health, who noted that healthcare providers may be able to notice things patients might not see. “Prostate cancer is fairly asymptomatic until it has spread to other areas, so it’s good to pick that up early. Cholesterol problems are also asymptomatic.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top causes of death among adult men in the United States are heart disease, cancer (prostate, lung, colorectal, bladder, and melanoma are the five most common cancers in American men, the CDC said), unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke.
Lifestyle changes, Mayo Clinic pointed out, can help reduce the risk of these diseases significantly. Dr. Mattson recommends lifestyle changes that include weight loss and exercise and a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables, less red meat, and more fish and chicken. Mayo Clinic adds to that, advising the following:
Don’t smoke. If you do smoke or use tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and chemicals, such as those in the workplace.
Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, and foods with added sugar and sodium.
Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds – and keeping them off – can lower your risk of heart disease as well as various types of cancer.
Get moving. Exercise can help you control your weight, lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, and possibly lower our risk of certain types of cancer. Choose activities you enjoy, such as tennis, basketball, or brisk walking. All physical activity benefits your health.
Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. That means up to two drinks a day if you are age 65 or younger and one drink a day if you are older than age 65. Examples of one drink include 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of standard 80-proof liquor. The risk of various types of cancer, such as liver cancer, appears to increase with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly. Too much alcohol can also raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under pressure, your lifestyle habits may suffer – and so might your immune system. Take steps to reduce stress – or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
It also pays to visit your primary care provider for annual examinations. “Women come in annually for pap smears; men should come in annually for prostate exams,” Dr. Matttson said.
The annual exam includes lab work, a physical examination, checking vital signs, and reviewing systems, he explained.
“When they make an appointment for an annual exam, we have a list of things we like to do during the exam. It’s a standardized thing we do automatically,” Dr. Mattson said, noting that some men come in with a list of concerns, while others put themselves in the doctor’s hands to figure out if anything is wrong. If a patient presents with a particular symptom, that is also checked out.
In addition to the typical annual examination, screenings for diseases with recommendations of when they should begin based on age are also taken into account. For example, the American Cancer Society advises that men should be screened for prostate cancer at age 50 if they are at average risk; age 45 if they are a high risk, and age 40 if they are at an even higher risk. The ACS also recommends that people at average risk for colorectal cancer should be screened at age 45 – and then continually up to age 75.
To schedule your annual examination, call your primary care provider today.