By the age of 20, men should start seeing their doctor for regular medical checkups. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. In fact, studies have shown that men tend to visit the doctor less than women by a considerable amount. Whatever your reason is for avoiding the doctor’s office, wait no more! Your body is irreplaceable and keeping it in tiptop shape is up to you.
Why Physicals Are Important
An annual physical is vital to monitor and maintain your health. These visits to your doctor have been proven to not only save lives, but also extend lifespans. Considering that men still live at least five years less than women on average, don’t hesitate! There are 8,760 hours in a year and all your doctor asks of you is just one of those hours.
What Men Can Expect
In 2016, Orlando Health conducted a survey to further understand the reasons why men delay making appointments with their doctors. We found that this avoidance of medicine may in part stem from a fear of what happens during an annual physical.
Let’s clear the air and talk about what to expect:
You will likely get lab work and urine testing done before your visit. Sometimes the doctor may see you first and then order lab work, particularly if it’s your first visit. For a follow-up visit, the lab work may be ordered beforehand and reviewed during your appointment.
During the visit, you also will be asked to do paperwork. Try to be as honest as possible when you fill it out. If it makes you more comfortable and helps save time, ask if you can do the paperwork beforehand. Most offices are happy to comply.
If you have questions for your doctor, consider writing them down and bringing them with you. Having your list ready can help if you feel nervous about discussing certain topics.
Once at the office, you may see a doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. If you have a preference, let the office know beforehand. And if you feel more comfortable talking to either a male or female doctor, express that to office staff while booking your appointment.
You also will be asked questions about your current health, past health and family history. An exam also is likely to be done. Most men over the age of 50 should be prepared for a prostate exam. Be aware that it usually only takes five seconds and that the exam is done to screen for prostate cancer and to estimate the size of your prostate. Other exams may include checking your eyes, heart, lungs, abdomen and other organs.
Finally, the doctor may review your lab results if they’re already available. From all the information gathered, recommendations will be given on what to do next. This feedback can range from “all clear, see you next year!” to planning next steps for a potential problem.
How Often You Should Go
Men should schedule their first visit with a primary care physician by the age of 20. If you’ve missed this starting point, it’s okay! Just go now. It’s never too late. At that appointment, your doctor will recommend when you need to schedule your next visit. Usually, they’d like to see healthy patients annually.
Your healthcare journey should always start with your primary care physician. During that visit, your doctor may recommend that you see a specialist. Of course, you can make an appointment directly with a specialist, but it’s not usually recommended — and not just for insurance reasons. Primary care physicians take a more global view of your body and make sure the problem you’re having isn’t caused by other treatable reasons.
Depending on certain factors — including your age, medical history, family history, occupation and other risk factors (such as smoking and alcohol consumption) — the advice you receive about screenings may vary. Although there’s no set schedule for screening, here are the general recommendations.
From Age 20
- Monthly, perform a testicular self-exam.
- Annually, have these screenings:
- A physical exam (including a skin exam)
- A vision exam
- A dental exam
- A check of your blood pressure height, weight and body mass index
- At least every five years, have a cholesterol test.
From Age 45 (or Sooner for Family History)
Starting at age 45 — or age 40 or sooner if there’s a family history — all men should have a colonoscopy. Repeat every five to 10 ten years.
Annually at 50 — or age 40 to 45 if there’s a family history — have a prostate cancer exam.
From Age 65 to 75
Once between the age of 65 and 75, anyone who is/was a smoker should have an abdominal aneurysm exam.
If you’re ever worried about a potential medical issue at any age, no matter when you received your last exam, go get checked. There’s never a wrong time to be screened.
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