Screenings to safeguard your health

If you don’t have a regular source of healthcare or you’ve never had your cholesterol checked, you’re not alone. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 26 percent of men in the United States do not have a regular source of healthcare.

Read on to learn how to reverse this trend with medical tests and screenings to keep you healthy.

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 it can determine if you’re overweight or at risk for developing obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an adult BMI between 18.5 and 25 is within normal range.

You can check your BMI here.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that all adults over the age of 35 have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. Screening should begin at 20 years of age if you have certain risk factors, which include:

  • diabetes
  • smoking
  • BMI over 30
  • family history of stroke
  • first degree relatives who’ve had heart attacks

To measure your cholesterol, your doctor will draw a small blood sample from your arm. The results will indicate your levels of:

  • HDL (good cholesterol)
  • LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • triglycerides

Cholesterol test results are shown in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy total cholesterol goal should be below 200 mg/dL.

High triglycerides are associated with metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. 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.

If your blood pressure is high, you may require medication to control it and ward off heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. If your blood pressure is within the normal range, you only need to have your blood pressure checked every two years. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg, according to the AHA. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor will probably want to check it more frequently. The diagnosis of high blood pressure requires two readings taken four hours apart of greater than 120/80 mm Hg. One blood pressure measure greater than 120/80 mm Hg always has to be confirmed with a follow-up measurement.

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 your blood glucose level is abnormally high.

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in American men and women. If you’ve celebrated 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.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is caused by an enlarged blood vessel in the stomach that ruptures suddenly. AAAs frequently have no symptoms, and they are fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, according to a study published in the American Family Physician.

The good news is that an ultrasound can detect an AAA before it ruptures. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for men between 65 and 75 who have smoked 100 or more cigarettes in their lifetime.

Although depression occurs more often in women than it does in men, men are susceptible to it, too. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 6 million men are diagnosed with depression in the United States every year. Feeling hopeless or experiencing loss of interest in things you normally enjoy for more than 2 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. Therapy, medication, or a combination of the two can help.

The number of cases of melanoma has increased more rapidly over the last 40 years in the United States than any other form of cancer, according to the AIM at Melanoma Foundation. The number of cases in the United States doubled since 1973. Melanoma is currently the country’s fifth most common cancer among men. More women then men get melanoma before the age of 50, but by age 65 the ratio reverses. Men then get melanoma twice as often as women. By age 80, men account for three times more cases of melanoma than women.

Check your skin every month for moles that have changed or look abnormal. The ABCDE’s of melanoma are used to help you keep in mind what to watch for:

  • A, asymmetry: If the mole is cut in half vertically, the two halves are not the same.
  • B, border: The edges of the mole are irregular.
  • C, color: There are changes in the color of the mole or surrounding area.
  • D, diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than 5mm.
  • E, everything: The mole starts to itch, bleed, or change in any way.

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.

Current U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations say that risks of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test outweigh the benefits. 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.