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Men’s Health Month: Prevention and screenings you need

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Research shows that working-aged men are less likely to visit the doctor regularly than working-aged women. In fact, one study found that 55% of men had not seen a doctor in the last year, even though more than 40% had a chronic health condition. Research also shows that men are more likely than women to smoke, drink alcohol and live less healthy lifestyles.

All of this added up means that many men have higher health risks than they may think. But the good news is that, with proper routine care, many health conditions are preventable.

The importance of screenings

Many diseases can affect anyone: heart disease, cancer, diabetes or even depression. Men also need to be aware of the unique conditions that can affect them, such as prostate cancer.

Routine screenings can detect many of these conditions before you experience symptoms. When we find and diagnose a condition early, it’s often easier to treat.

What screenings do I need?

The screenings you need vary based on your age, risk factors and overall health. The best way to stay on top of your screening schedule is to visit a primary care provider yearly. Most insurance plans cover the cost of an annual exam where you catch up on routine screenings, discuss your health with your provider and receive personalized recommendations for health improvement.

At any age, your provider may recommend:

  • Mental health screening: If you have depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, you may be so used to living inside your head that you don’t realize something is wrong. Your healthcare provider can ask you specific questions to identify mental health conditions and provide recommendations to help you feel your best.
  • Vaccinations: Some vaccines you need each year, such as your flu shot. Others are needed less frequently, such as getting a tetanus booster every 10 years. Your provider can help you make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date.
  • Blood pressure check: Your provider typically checks your blood pressure at your annual exam. If you have higher risks for heart disease or if you have high blood pressure, you may need it checked more often.

If you are older than 50, your provider may also recommend:

  • Cholesterol test: After age 50, you typically need a cholesterol check every five years. Depending on your risk factors, your provider may recommend screening earlier or more often.
  • Colon cancer screening: By your 50th birthday, you should start screenings for colorectal cancer. The gold-standard screening guideline is to get a colonoscopy at least every 10 years. You may get a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years or a fecal occult blood test each year. Speak with your healthcare provider about your overall risks to determine which option is right for you.
  • Prostate cancer screening: After age 55, you should begin talking to your doctor about screenings for prostate cancer. Depending on your risks, you may need a digital rectal exam (DRE) or a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. These tests are not right for everyone, so it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider.

Your provider may also make recommendations based on your personal risk factors. For example, if you have high blood pressure, you may need a diabetes screening. If you have a history of smoking, you may need tests that check for specific conditions, such as an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Your healthcare provider can give you instructions about the tests you need.

Improving your overall health

Although it may not be your favorite activity, it’s important to prioritize seeing your doctor regularly—even if you feel healthy. You can also work to improve your overall health by adopting healthy habits such as:

  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting your alcohol consumption
  • Managing your stress with healthy tools, such as meditation, talk therapy or journaling
  • Sleeping at least seven to eight hours a night
  • Quitting smoking

One of the biggest threats to men’s health is putting off seeing a doctor. Make your health a priority. Find a provider near you today.