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June is Men's Health Month: Make sure all the men in your life are following these age-related medical recommendations

June 04, 2013

If you're a woman reading this, you know that men can be reluctant to see a doctor for regular health screenings and checkups. If you're a man reading this, you might be thinking that regular checkups are a waste of time because you're fine—after all, you don't have any symptoms.

And maybe you're fine now, but the purpose of Men's Health Month is to raise awareness about preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men. Being proactive about your health is important, not only to evaluate your current state, but to monitor how things change over time and take preventative steps to avoid more serious health conditions later in life.

Below, I've summarized a list of medical recommendations for men based on age group. See if you're keeping up with some of the essential screenings and checkups, and please if you have additional questions I can answer.

In your 20s

  • Get a baseline physical exam at age 20 and continue with preventive health visits every two years.
  • Know your numbers. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you have your blood pressure checked every two years unless it is above 120/80 mm Hg, and then you should have it checked every year. The AHA also recommends getting a fasting lipoprotein profile every five years starting at age 20. This important profile includes numbers for your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Find out if you are at higher than average risk for colon cancer because of family history or other factors. If not, then no test is needed at this time, according to the American Cancer Society. But, if you are at increased risk (i.e., ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), or if you have a family history of certain colorectal cancer syndromes, you are likely categorized as “high risk." In this case, it may be recommended to have a colonoscopy as early as 20 to 25 years old.

In your 30s

  • The American Cancer Society recommends getting a colonoscopy at age 50 if you are not high risk. Keep in mind, however, that if a family member was younger than age 50 when diagnosed with colon cancer, you should have the colonoscopy ten years earlier than the age of the person when diagnosed.
  • Keep up with blood pressure checks and lipoprotein profiles.
  • See your doctor every two years for a physical exam.

In your 40s

  • Men at higher-than-average risk of prostate cancer should talk with their doctor about the uncertainties, risks and potential benefits of testing so that they can decide if they want to be tested beginning at age 45. In particular, this applies to African American men and men with close family members, such as a father, brother or son, with prostate cancer.
  • Men with several close relatives who had prostate cancer before age 65 are at even higher risk and should talk with their doctors beginning at age 40.
  • Men should be screened for diabetes every three years beginning at age 45, especially those who are overweight or obese. If multiple risk factors are present, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and family history, screening should be done at an earlier age and more frequently.
  • Monitor your weight. Men tend to gain weight around the midsection during this age period. This puts you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
  • Keep up with blood pressure checks and lipoprotein profiles. After age 45, you may need to get a lipoprotein profile more frequently than every five years.
  • See your doctor every two years for a physical exam.

In your 50s:

  • Start getting a physical every year.
  • Men should undergo some type of colon cancer screening beginning at age 50. A colonoscopy is the most thorough screening test available, and it should be conducted at least once every 10 years. If one of your family members was younger than age 50 when diagnosed with colon cancer, you should have the colonoscopy ten years earlier than the age of the person when diagnosed.
  • Keep up with blood pressure checks and lipoprotein profiles. After age 45, you may need to get a lipoprotein profile more frequently than every five years.

Additionally, at any age:

  • Always try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Always take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Don’t ignore that pain. Often, men are afraid or ashamed to go to the doctor—but don’t wait. That little pain may turn into a serious health concern.

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