A Guide to Men's Health Screenings
Sometimes making checkup appointments and seeing the eye doctor doesn’t feel all that important. Health screenings get pushed to the next year or worse, are simply never thought about. However, getting screenings is one the most essential things a man can do for his health. If you don’t know about a problem, you can’t make it better and you can possibly lose the window of opportunity to improve or even save your life. So, break out the date book and get ready to schedule some screenings.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when the force of blood pumping through your arteries is abnormally high. This can cause a wide-range of problems, including aneurysms, kidney failure and vision issues. Developing high blood pressure is very common, affecting one in three Americans. The risk becomes higher as we age, increasing when men hit 45. Being African-American, obese or having a family history of high blood pressure also means you could be more at risk.
To prevent high blood pressure you should maintain a healthy weight through eating right and exercising. Since little or no symptoms may appear with high blood pressure, it’s important to get screened by a physician. Then you can discuss your numbers and how to achieve a healthy level.
There are a couple of different kinds of cholesterol, and too much of one kind can block your arteries. Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is the kind of cholesterol that blocks arteries. LDL levels should be kept down. If they rise above high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), then you have high cholesterol. Having high LDL levels can mean a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease.
You can have high cholesterol at a young age, so you should get screened starting at age 20. Getting your cholesterol checked consists of a blood test. From the results, a physician will be able to help you figure out your LDL, HDL and blood fat levels.
Type 2 Diabetes
It is terribly important to get screened for type two diabetes because 1) symptoms can go unnoticed for years, causing one-third of Americans with diabetes to be unaware of their condition and 2) diagnosing and treating diabetes can have a profoundly positive impact on your health.
After age 45, you should get tested for type two diabetes at least every three years. Tests could include the glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test, random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test or oral glucose tolerance test. You should get screened earlier if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, have high cholesterol or have a family history of diabetes. Treatment could be as simple as exercise and a healthy diet, so don’t wait to be tested.
HIV and STIs
Sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, can be present and show no symptoms. It’s important to get tested, especially to avoid unknowingly infecting another person. If you’ve have unprotected sex, have a new partner or are worried about infection for any other reason, it’s a good idea to get tested.
Not all routine exams or physicals include STI tests. Talk to your physician about getting tested, especially for common STIs like HIV, herpes, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. These tests can be as simple as a mouth swab, urine sample or blood sample. Don’t be embarrassed - your physicians want to make sure you are healthy!
Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure that damages the optic nerve, leading to partial or complete vision loss. It affects most people after age 40 and tends to be inherited. Early signs of developing this condition can be as slight as losing some peripheral vision, which is why getting a full eye exam every one to two years is essential.
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, affecting one out of every five Americans. The group most likely to develop melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is white men. Melanoma is responsible for the majority of deaths caused by skin cancer, where men are twice as more likely to die from it than women.
Men are more likely to develop skin cancer because they typically spend more time in the sun. They also do not take as many precautions as women when they are exposed to UV rays, such as applying sunscreen or wearing protective clothing.
Check your skin often for irregularly-shaped, dark spots. Play close attention to the face, back and shoulder regions. If you find any concerning marks, make an appointment with a physician. Additionally, have your physician check your skin since it can be hard to easily see your whole body.
Prostates grow larger for all men as they age, with most seeing problem-causing symptoms, from urinary issues to prostate cancer. You should get screened for prostate cancer starting at age 55. Consider getting checked earlier if your brother or father had prostate cancer or if you are African-American.
Screenings usually involve a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a blood test that measures prostate-specific antigens. Based on these results, your physician might recommend a biopsy.
If you’re experiencing problematic urinary changes, have a family history of prostate cancer, are African American or if you’re over the age of 55, talk to your primary care physician about those issues.
Colorectal cancer it a term that describes cancer that forms in either the colon (large intestine) or the rectum (last six inches of intestine). This cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. Men have a one in twenty-two chance of developing it over their lifetime.
Small growths, called polyps, can grow and eventually turn cancerous. To detect and remove these polyps, tests such as a colonoscopy is performed. Colonoscopies and other tests are recommended starting at age 45. Colorectal cancer is usually preventable, so get screened!
Although testicular cancer is relatively rare, it is the most common cancer for American males aged fifteen to thirty-five. Symptoms can include a lump in either testicle, ache in the groin, enlargement or tenderness of breasts and/or the feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
All men should have a testicular exam as part of their routine physicals. Talk to your physician if you have a family history of testicular cancer or an undescended testicle. You should also perform self-exams, feeling for hard lumps, smooth bumps or changes in the size or shape of the testes.
Just like your car needs annual maintenance and your house needs yearly inspections, your body needs to be checked too. Make appointments to get screened for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, STIs and any cancers that might be of concern given your age or family history. Taking measures to check in with your health can only benefit you. An early detection and treatments are well worth the waiting room visit.
To discuss which screenings are right for you, or to schedule a screening, call 254-618-1020 to make an appointment with one of Seton Harker Height’s Family Medicine Physicians. To make an appointment with urologist Dr. Morris, call 254-618-4230.