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That one doctor visit is packed with good health protection. You’ll get a physical exam and:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says two of the top causes of death in men are heart disease and cancer. Regular doctor visits and recommended screenings can help protect you against those and other risks. Screenings help catch problems early, when they can be more successfully treated. Learn more about the screenings you may need at different ages.
Men tend to pay less attention to their health and visit the doctor less often than women, says Harvard Medical School. Many of the major health risks that men face can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and regular checkups.
Without a regular exam, you’ll miss out on vital tests like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Those tests can help protect your heart.
Not getting screenings also means men are less likely to find out if they have heart damage called myocardial scars, caused from a silent heart attack. One study found that most people who had myocardial scarring didn’t know it. And men were five times more likely to have the scarring than women.
Silent heart attacks make up 45 percent of heart attacks. These heart attacks are mistaken for less serious problems, raising the chance of dying.
The cancers that most often affect men are skin, prostate, colon and lung cancers. Doing what you can to prevent them — or find them early when they are easier to treat — can help you lead a longer, healthier life.
Skin CancerSkin cancer is the most common kind of cancer. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are common and are often easily treatable. Melanoma is a more dangerous type of skin cancer that is likely to grow and spread. Successful treatment is more likely if skin cancer is caught early. Protect your skin and keep an eye on any changes. Your annual exam is a good time to report any new spots or changes in moles that concern you.
Prostate CancerProstate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in American men. But when to get screened for it isn’t an easy decision. If you’re between the ages of 55 and 69, talk to your doctor during your annual exam about what prostate cancer screening choice is right for you.
Colon CancerCancers of the colon and rectum are called colorectal cancer. Most start as a growth, or polyp, on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some change into cancer over time, but not all polyps become cancer. Screening can catch this cancer early when it’s most easily treated. In fact, screening may even prevent colon cancer because it finds polyps before they’re cancerous. Screening is recommended if you’re between 45 and 75 years old. You can talk to your doctor about how often to get screened during your annual exam.
Lung CancerLung cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in men. Smoking causes most lung cancers, but nonsmokers can also develop it. Lung cancer screening can have risks. So lung cancer screening is recommended only for adults who are at high risk for developing the disease because of their smoking history and age. If you smoke now or used to and are over 50, talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening.
Screening is important, but prevention is better. To lower your risk for heart disease, all kinds of cancer and other health issues:
Calling your doctor for that annual exam means you can cover the health care that matters most all at once. It doesn’t take much time or a lot of effort. But the payoff is big.
Blood pressure and blood sugar should be tested at home many more times a year than at an annual checkup. Home tests can alert you to changes in your health before you are aware of an emerging problem. They can warn you and your doctor that further testing is needed and help start treatment early. Early treatment is simpler, less expensive in time and effort for you, and nearly always more effective.
Very few primary care physicians will test HbA1C unless you have a family history of diabetes, your BMI is over 30 or you have lost weight suddenly. Knowing that your fasting blood glucose level is consistently under 100 mg/dL, is one of the only ways of knowing that you don't have emerging diabetes, and the early you know, the sooner that yo can do things to minimize its effect on your life. Basic house brand finger stick meters and strips are inexpensive OTC at most pharmacy chains, and are inexpensive.
An annual test in a medical office only checks resting pressure, and slightly high pressures are often discounted as "white coat syndrome". It's equally important to know how BP changes during heavy exercise and how quickly it returns to resting pressure. Doctors can only determine this with a stress test. A stress test may done when starting Medicare, or when you have a characteristic that raises your risk of heart disease. Wrist cuff BP meters are accurate and inexpensive. Sports watches are available that are less accurate but can show relative changes during the day. Some can monitor continuously and automatically during workouts or sleep.
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