5 essential health screenings for men
Health screenings are essential for all men to maintain good health. From cholesterol testing to prostate cancer screenings, learn what tests are recommended based on your age, health and family history.
Whether they fear going to the doctor or simply don’t have the time, many men avoid routine health screenings. But getting your annual physical exam and undergoing preventative screenings are important. These tests can help detect diseases and conditions before the onset of symptoms, often when conditions are most treatable.
Here are some of the top men’s health screenings and recommendations on when to start getting them.
Blood pressure screening
Most physical exams and routine checkups include blood pressure tests, which measure the force or pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps. If you’re a healthy man under the age of 40, you should get a high blood pressure screening every two to five years. Men over 40, or those with a family history or other factors that put you at-risk for heart disease, should have their blood pressure checked annually.
High blood pressure can increase your heart disease and stroke risk. Treating high blood pressure can help prevent stroke, heart failure and other disorders. The good news is that high blood pressure can easily be treated with simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising and reducing the amount of sodium in your diet. If needed, there are also medications that can lower blood pressure.
Additionally, you can keep an eye on your systolic and diastolic blood pressure by recording your numbers in a tracker. It can let you know if your reading is healthy and help you track changes over time so you can discuss them with your doctor.
Typically, adults under 40 should undergo an annual routine checkup by a healthcare provider who will ask questions to determine what blood tests are recommended. Most physicians recommend an initial cholesterol screening to men at age 18. If your numbers are normal, you may only need to be screened every five years. Men 45 and older, or those with a family history of high cholesterol or at-risk for developing heart disease, should have more frequent testing.
Treating high cholesterol can help you avoid serious health complications such as heart attack and stroke.
Diabetes is a condition caused by too much sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream, and can cause serious health complications, including kidney failure and heart disease. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes can be treated, and in some cases reversed, with lifestyle changes and medication, if needed.
Typically, adults under 40 will receive recommendations for blood tests during their annual physical exam. Common blood tests check for cholesterol levels, vitamin deficiencies, metabolic panels and blood disorders and can detect if someone has diabetes or prediabetes. Beginning at age 45, The American Diabetes Association recommends that all men undergo a diabetes screening. If you have a body mass index above 25, you should be screened sooner.
Colorectal cancer screening
The most common procedure used to identify cancer or pre-cancer in the colon and rectum is a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, a specialist uses a long, flexible tube with a light and small camera at the end to look for abnormalities, such as polyps. Polyps are growths that can become cancerous over time. Suspicious polyps can be removed, if necessary, during the exam.
Men with an average risk of colorectal cancer should undergo a colonoscopy beginning at age 45. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you are considered high-risk, your doctor may recommend screenings at a younger age and more frequently.
Prostate cancer screening
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men. The good news is that prostate cancer is very treatable if caught early. That’s why cancer screening tests are so important.
As you begin to reach your 50s, you should discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits of getting screened. There is no way to tell if your prostate is healthy unless you’ve been tested. Your provider may recommend that you get screened at a younger age if you have a family history of prostate cancer or other risk factors.
Additional screenings you may need
Mental health checkup: Many men neglect their mental health or don’t realize the symptoms they are experiencing can be alleviated. Men are less likely than women to be diagnosed with mental illness, yet they are more likely to die by suicide. Discussing your mental health with your doctor is important. If you are experiencing anger or irritability, mood swings, changes in your sleeping habits or appetite, increased feelings of stress or anxiety or thoughts of harming yourself or others, see a doctor right away.
Skin cancer screening: Your provider may or may not recommend a professional skin exam every one to three years. Their recommendation will depend on your risk factors. People at high risk of skin cancer often have fair skin, red or blonde hair, fair skin, a personal or family history of skin cancer or are frequently exposed to the sun. Please let your doctor know if you notice potential signs of skin cancer, such as new moles or ones that have changed in appearance.
Lung cancer screening: Annual lung cancer screenings using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) are recommended for people aged 50 to 80 with a 20-pack-year smoking history who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. (A pack-year describes the number of cigarettes smoked in a lifetime. If you have smoked a pack a day for the last 20 years or two packs a day for the last 10 years, you have 20 pack-year history.)
Testicular cancer screening: Your provider might include a testicular cancer screening as part of your routine physical exam. Some physicians recommend that men perform self-examinations regularly.
AAA screening: An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) often grows slowly without noticeable symptoms, making them difficult to detect. In some cases, AAAs require emergency surgery, so it’s important to screen for them when appropriate. Your provider may recommend an AAA screening if you are between 65 and 75 and have a history of tobacco use or a family history of AAA.
We know life gets busy. That’s why HCA Florida Healthcare makes it easy to find and schedule the preventative screenings you and your loved ones need. Visit our health screenings page to discover which screenings are recommended for you.