While going for a routine physical may not be at the top of many men's to-do lists, especially those in middle-age, males between 40 and 64 years old should begin regular health screenings, even if they feel healthy.
“Your family health history really starts to come into play in middle age,” said Dr. Howard Feldfogel, of Highland Medical, P.C. Clarkstown Medical Associates and director of the Department of Medicine at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. “If you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, you should be tested for these things, too. Even if you don’t have a family history of these conditions, you should be screened.”
He recommends the following screening tests:
Blood pressure screening: Have your blood pressure checked once a year. Left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to many serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol screening: Your cholesterol should be checked every 5 years. If you have a high cholesterol level, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or certain other conditions, you may need to be checked more often.
Diabetes screening: If you are age 45 or older, you should be screened every three years. If you are overweight, ask your provider if you should be screened at a younger age.
Colon cancer screening: If you are under age 50, you should be screened if you have a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps. Screening may also be considered if you have risk factors such as a history of inflammatory bowel disease or polyps. If you are between ages 50 and 75, you should be screened for colorectal cancer. There are several screening tests available, including colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy.
Prostate cancer screening: Feldfogel recommends men talk with their doctor about the best age to start screening for prostate cancer.
Eye exam: Have an eye exam every two to four years from ages 40 to 54 and every one to three years from ages 55 to 64.
Immunizations: Men should get a flu shot every year and should have a tetanus-diphtheria booster vaccination every 10 years. The new shingles vaccine is also recommended for those age 50 and older. If you’re over 65, you should receive the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine.
In addition to having regular screenings, an annual doctor’s visit is a time to discuss lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. “It’s important to maintain a healthy weight, to reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes,” said Feldfogel. “Switching to a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can reduce you health risks at any age. But it can be hard to convince a man that it’s not too late to change their lifestyle in middle age.”
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