In your 20s:
Get a baseline screening for cholesterol and triglyceride levels at age 20, and get rescreened every five years until you’re 40. After that, it’s important to be tested every year because high cholesterol leads to heart disease and stroke, and these risks naturally increase with age.
Blood Pressure Checks
One in every five adults has elevated blood pressure, also known as hypertension. When your blood pressure is higher than normal, your heart is under increased stress, which can leave you at risk for stroke, heart attack, blindness, and/or kidney disease. Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year (more often if you have a family or personal history of heart disease or hypertension).
Have annual vision screenings if you wear contacts or glasses; if you don’t, get screened every other year. Older men and those with hypertension are at risk for dry-eye syndrome—a condition in which the tear glands produce fewer tears. Furthermore, men with hypertension or diabetes are at increased risk for diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma that can lead to blindness.
At one of your twice-annual cleanings, ask your dentist to perform a periodontal exam. He or she will X-ray your jaw and inspect your mouth, teeth, gums, and throat for signs of potential oral health problems.
In your 30s, add:
More than one million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Once-a-month self inspections are essential to check for new or suspicious moles. Visit your dermatologist once a year for a full-body exam. If you’re in the sun a lot, have very fair skin, or have a family history of skin cancer, begin your skin checks earlier—in your 20s or after continued sun exposure (in the case of people who work outdoors).
Depression affects nearly six million American men each year. However, depression in men often goes undiagnosed because many are unwilling or unable to talk about emotions. While you don’t need annual screenings for depression, it is something to be aware of as you move into your 30s and beyond. If you’re feeling any emotional distress or experiencing continuing symptoms of depression, it is important to find a medical or mental health professional you trust to talk about it. He or she will ask a series of questions to gauge your symptoms, which might include sleep troubles, irritability, loss of libido or sexual interest, and sluggishness.
In your 40s, add:
Vitamin D Test
Adequate levels of this important vitamin help protect your bones, especially after the age of 40. You only need the test every two or three years at first, but as you get older and your body has a harder time synthesizing vitamin D, you may need it more often. Your doctor can advise you on frequency.
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone Screening
As we age, the thyroid—a small gland in the neck that regulates your body’s metabolic rate—can begin to slow down. This may translate to sluggishness, weight gain, depression, palpitations, or unusual achiness. In men, it may also lead to problems such as erectile dysfunction. To determine if your thyroid is properly functioning, your doctor will check your level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) with a simple blood test. Your doctor may also check T3 and T4 levels; these help give a more complete picture of your thyroid’s overall function.
In your 50s, add:
An audiogram will test your hearing at a variety of pitches and intensity levels. Doctors recommend this test once every three years starting at age 50, when hearing typically begins to decline. If you blast your MP3 player at full volume or had a youth full of rock concerts, you may want to get your hearing checked in your 40s.
Colorectal Cancer Exam
Starting at age 50, most doctors recommend a colonoscopy, a test in which a camera scans your colon for cancerous polyps. (Get tested earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer; if polyps are found, get tested more frequently.) If caught early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable, but nearly half of all colorectal cancer cases are not caught until they have progressed to advanced stages.
Prostate Cancer Screening
One in six men is diagnosed with prostate cancer. A digital rectal exam and the accompanying blood test is usually recommended at age 50 (earlier if you begin having urination problems or a family history of prostate cancer). There are varying opinions as to what age and how often this test should be administered. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Fecal Occult Blood Test
A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) checks for trace amounts of blood in your stool that may not be visible to the naked eye. This could be the earliest way to discover colon polyps or cancer.
In your 60s, add:
Bone Density Scan
As we get older our bones begin losing calcium and other minerals. Nearly two million American men live with osteoporosis (brittle or porous bones). Millions more are at risk. A bone density scan measures bone mass—the amount of calcium and minerals in bones. This is a key indicator of bone strength relative to other people your age. This can help make a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis, conditions that can be slowed with medications and other interventions.
Doctors recommend a tetanus booster every 10 years. For people over age 65, yearly influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are important to protect against the flu and pneumonia. (Some doctors recommend flu shots for people starting at age 50, especially those who are chronically ill.)