It’s a fact: Most men need to pay more attention to their health.
Compared with women, men are more likely to smoke, make unhealthy choices and put off medical care, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The risks that put men at danger — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity — can be treated with early diagnosis and preventive care.
Here, then, is your healthy checklist by decade.
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The National Institutes of Health recommends that men should begin screening for high blood pressure at 18 once every two years. If your blood pressure numbers are high, your doctor might suggest a test every year.
Optimal blood pressure range is 120/80.
“People ask me, ‘Can you go to the machine in the pharmacy?’” said Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, chief of the division of internal medicine at the University of Miami Health System (UHealth). “In general, it’s fine. But you don’t really know if that machine has been calibrated and how good it is. Some of these machines can be offset. It’s better to see a doctor.”
Although the American Diabetes Association recommends that adults age 45 or over should get tested for diabetes every three years, Carrasquillo suggests screening sooner.
“By age 18, you should start,” Carrasquillo said. “It’s becoming a major problem.”
Unchecked diabetes can result in heart disease, kidney disease and blindness, among other issues.
If you have symptoms of diabetes — frequent urination, extreme fatigue, blurry vision or numbness in your hands or feet — talk with your doctor about getting a blood test. Glucose levels between 120 to 126 mg/dL are considered pre-diabetic. If results are greater than 126 mg/dL, you may have type 2 diabetes.
For people without diabetes, normal blood sugar range is between 70 to 80 mg/dL.
Joining the list of routine checks: skin exams checking for skin cancer. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
And if you engage in high-risk sexual behavior, get a blood test for Hepatitis B and HIV.
Other recommended screenings: a body mass index (BMI) to check for obesity, yearly vision exams, a dental visit every six months and yearly check-ups for depression and alcohol use.
Once you hit 35, check your cholesterol.
Too much cholesterol is one of the major risk factors leading to heart disease. A blood test at your doctor’s office can quickly determine your cholesterol levels. Optimal levels of total cholesterol fall beneath 200 mg/dL. Any number above 240 mg/dL is high.
Not all cholesterol is bad, but too much of one type makes you vulnerable to coronary heart disease, stroke or a heart attack, says the American Heart Association.
Increased intake of saturated fat and cholesterol can increase levels. Changing your diet and exercising can help lower cholesterol.
If you’re obese, diabetic, have high blood pressure or smoke cigarettes, visit a doctor before 35.
Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death. Guidelines suggest starting screenings at 50 unless there is a family history, which means screening earlier.
There are a couple of ways to test for colon cancer: a colonoscopy, stool sample or sigmoidoscopy.
The colonoscopy checks the colon with a flexible lighted tube and a camera. It’s recommended every 10 years unless you have a family history, which means much more frequently. The sigmoidoscopy is like the colonscopy but only checks the lower part of the colon. No sedation is needed for this exam. The stool sample is the cheapest of the three options but has to be performed every one to two years.
In terms of diagnostic ability, the tests are about the same. To get a screening, seek out a gastroenterologist.
After 50, the chance of having prostate cancer —the most common cancer among men — rises. About six in 10 cases of prostate cancers occur in men over 65, according to the American Cancer Society.
Doctors have disagreed recently over prostate cancer screenings because of false positives.
“Most primary-care doctors are now coming around, so that we don’t need prostate screening in most men,” Carrasquillo said.
Other experts disagree and say men should still be tested. Check with your doctor to see what works for you.
Smokers beware: If you have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 30 years, Carrasquillo recommends a CAT scan to check for lung cancer.
About one in five people who previously had chicken pox will get shingles later on in life, says the National Institute on Aging.
The risk of getting shingles, and their severity, increases as you age. Adults 60 and older should get the shingles vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The two-dose vaccine is imperative, Carrasquillo said.
Shingles is a disease that affects nerves and causes pain and blisters in adults. It is caused by the same varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that causes chickenpox in children. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus does not leave your body but continues to live in some nerve cells. For reasons that aren’t totally understood, the virus can become active again. When it’s activated in adults, it produces shingles. It’s frequent in people over 50.
And at 65, make an appointment to schedule yourself for another vaccine.
You might recall getting your own kids vaccinated with a PCV13 or pneumonia vaccine as a baby. The shots typically are given as four doses, spanning from 2 months to 15 months. Now it’s time to revisit the doctor to get your pneumococcal shot — again.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs and in adults over 65 it can be lethal combined with weaker immune systems, frailty and other senior health conditions. Doctors recommend getting an annual flu shot as well to help decrease chances of getting sick and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Men over 65 who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime are recommended to undergo a non-invasive ultrasound of their abdominal aorta for aneurisms.