When it comes to most men and routine health care, the numbers just don't lie: Men are 24 percent less likely to visit their doctors in any given year than women. Men also drag their feet in getting their cholesterol checked. Even worse, many tend to balk when it's time to get a cancer screening, although men's cancer mortality rates are higher.
Men can be quite stubborn when it comes to getting routine health screenings for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons men share for bailing on these health screenings are:
- Fear that something being wrong
- Being too busy to get a health screening
- Not attuned to symptoms they're experiencing
It's fortunate that most men's health screenings take very little time to complete and are simple enough to be given in a physician's office. Here are five routine health screenings that every man should add to their preventative care plan:
Blood Pressure Screening
This is by far the easiest and most painless type of testing. In fact, it's so simple that there's no excuse to skip it. Blood pressure screening is so easy; it's something most men can do when they stop by their local pharmacy. Men between the ages of 18 and 64 should be screened at least once every couple of years. Of course, this depends on how high your numbers are. Men with higher readings may be tested more frequently. Optimal blood pressure range is considered less than 120/80.
Skin Cancer Screening
Since men are two to three times more likely to get squamous cell and non-melanoma basal cell skin cancers than women are, it's vital they perform a self-examination approximately every three months. During the self-exam, it's important to take note of new or changing skin lesions. Any noticeable changes should be reported to the doctor immediately. Men should also ask their doctors to check their skin from head to toe during their yearly physicals as part of their regular preventative care.
Colon Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, is a grave risk for men. According to the American Cancer Society, of the 103,170 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in the next year, more than half will be detected in men. This is why current guidelines recommend that men start getting checked as soon as they turn fifty.
Prostate Cancer Screening
While this type of screening has been the subject of some recent controversy due to false positives and overly aggressive treatment, most experts agree that men should still be screened for prostate cancer. The necessity of this test may be in question for some, but since this health screening has been instituted there has been a 40 percent decline in prostate cancer rates. With this in mind, men should also remember that PSA levels, can be affected by conditions other than cancer, so a positive screening should be double-checked. Since opinions vary on how often these screenings are needed, it's best to consult with a physician to determine the appropriate screening schedule.
Individuals over 45 who have higher risks for heart disease, or who have high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol may need frequent cholesterol screenings. Most physicians recommend screenings every five years in people who are healthy. Optimal cholesterol levels are less than 200 milligrams for deciliter, but cholesterol ratio is also necessary. In some cases, an elevated total cholesterol and a very high HDL may be insignificant. It honestly depends on the situation. There is also some minor differences between labs when it comes to acceptable levels, so a recheck or additional evaluations should not be incredibly concerning.
Prevention is a critical component of maintaining a healthy life and living longer. Screenings are so important because these tests help doctors to catch serious diseases early on. Frequent screening and early detection can help prevent major health issues from becoming a problem. Skipping out on health screenings can be a matter of life and death, especially for men, who are less likely to go to a doctor on a regular basis.
Since many of these exams are included during a yearly physical, your primary care physician is a good place to start. Use our Find a Doctor search if you need a family physician.