Medical Tests Every Man Should Have
Screenings to Safeguard Your Health
If you don’t have a regular source of health care or have never had your cholesterol checked, you’re not alone. A 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that nearly 26 percent of men in the United States do not have a regular source of health care (CDC, 2011).
Read on to learn how to reverse this trend with medical tests and screenings to keep you healthy.
Check Yourself to Start
Excess weight increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Your body mass index (BMI) measures your body fat based on your height and weight, and can determine obesity. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a BMI between 18.5 and 25 is within normal range.
You can check your BMI here.
Know Your Good and Bad
If you’re 35 or older, have your cholesterol checked every five years. You’ll need earlier screening (age 20 if you have risk factors like diabetes, smoking, or BMI over 30), or more frequent testing if your cholesterol is high. A small blood sample drawn from your arm is used to measure your total cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Cholesterol test results are shown in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL).
According to the American Heart Association, a healthy total cholesterol goal should be below 200 mg/dL (AHA, 2012).
Look into Your Lipids
High triglycerides are associated with metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. The same blood draw used to measure your cholesterol provides a reading of your triglycerides, a type of fat. An optimal triglyceride level is less than 100 mg/dL, although levels below 150 mg/dL are considered normal (AHA, 2012).
Keep Tabs on Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure may require medication to control it and to ward off heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. If you’re within normal range, you only need to strap on the blood pressure cuff every two years (HHS, 2012). Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg (AHA, 2012).
Blood pressure higher than 135/80 mm Hg may be a symptom of diabetes. Testing for diabetes may include a hemoglobin A1C blood test, a fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, or an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). A single test is insufficient to diagnose diabetes. A second test must confirm that blood your glucose level is abnormally high.
50 Candles = Colorectal Cancer Screening
According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in U.S. men and women (ACS, 2012). If you’ve feted your 50th birthday and haven’t been screened for colorectal cancer, it’s time. You should get screened earlier if colorectal cancer runs in your family.
Don’t worry: a colonoscopy is painless and takes only 15 to 20 minutes. Even better, this test can detect colon cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Your doctor can find and remove precancerous growths before they become malignant.
Don’t Blow a Gasket
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is caused by an enlarged blood vessel in the stomach that ruptures suddenly. AAAs frequently have no symptoms and are often fatal: approximately 30 to 50 percent of people with a ruptured AAA die before reaching the hospital (USC, 2013).
The good news is that an ultrasound can detect AAA. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends screening for men between 65 and 75 who have smoked 100 or more cigarettes in their lifetime (HHS, 2009).
Forget the Stiff Upper Lip
Although depression occurs twice as often in women as it does in men according to the Department of Health and Human Services, men are susceptible to it too (HHS, 2012). Feeling hopeless or experiencing loss of interest in things you normally enjoy for more than two weeks may signal depression.
Don’t dismiss prolonged bouts of feeling down or try to tough it out. Your doctor can screen you for depression and help determine how to treat it: with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Protect Your Hide
Rates of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, continue to climb in the U.S. According to estimates made by the National Cancer Institute in 2009, 44,250 men would be diagnosed with melanoma in 2012 (NCI, 2009).
Check your skin every month for moles that have changed or look abnormal. You should also look out for sores that won’t heal. Have your doctor check your skin thoroughly as part of your physical— melanoma is highly curable when diagnosed early.
Other Tests for Men
Current U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations say that risks of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test outweigh the benefits (USPSTF, 2012). False positive results lead to too many unnecessary biopsies. Talk with your doctor about your risks for prostate cancer, and whether a digital rectal exam (DRE) should be part of your physical.
You should also talk with your doctor about whether testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is appropriate for you.