The importance of health checkups for men

July 20, 2014


Men, when was the last time you went to the doctor?

Even if you feel healthy, you should at least get your blood pressure checked and consult with your doctor to make sure you’re getting enough exercise and eating healthy foods, according to Don Smith, M.D., a general surgeon on the Austin campus of Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin. 

Don’t have a primary care provider? Get one.

“You can establish a rapport with a primary care provider so when you get sick you already have someone who knows you and your family history,” says Dr. Smith. “You feel more comfortable talking to someone you know when you have problems or symptoms.”

Get your blood work done

If you’re age 50 or older, having a blood panel done every year or two is important to get a baseline for your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It’s especially wise if you have a family history of prostate cancer or heart disease. 

Be proactive with exams

Prostate exams can catch cancerous polyps years ahead of time. “It’s a truly preventive procedure,” says Dr. Smith. “Get one done when you’re 50, and every 10 years afterwards, depending on the findings.”

Do you have hypertension, or feel depressed or angry? You could have sleep apnea — a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts — one of the most under diagnosed conditions in men.

“Listen to family members’ concerns about your health, and heed their advice to at least get an opinion on whether or not you have health problems,” Dr. Smith says.

Sleep Apnea 

Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, moodiness and changes in your well-being. 
It’s not an overweight person’s condition — it could be your anatomy, a deviated septum, or a central nervous system disorder. Sleep apnea can block your airways as you sleep in certain positions. “With help, such as a CPAP machine or sleeping techniques, lives can be greatly improved,” says Dr. Smith. 

Colon Cancer

Get a colonoscopy — an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the colon or rectum — when you’re 50, or 10 years earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer. “Family members are dependent on you and look up to you,” says Dr. Smith. “Getting a colonoscopy will help you live a longer, healthier life so you can do activities with your family. So:
‘Have you had your colonoscopy today?’”

Prostate health

The symptoms
As men get older, prostates tend to enlarge. An enlarged prostate and frequent urination could be symptoms of prostate cancer.

The tools
Two main tools guide the surveillance of prostate health: 

  • Blood draw for PSA (prostate-specific antigen — a substance produced by the prostate gland)
  • Digital rectal exam, to gauge size and texture of the prostate

Vaccines — what to get, and when?

  • Tetanus every 10 years: The Tdap version covers pertussis (whooping cough) as well, which is important if you take care of young children. 
  • Pneumococcal (for pneumonias): Once at age 65 or older.
  • Zoster (shingles vaccination): After age 60.
  • Hepatitis B (three-shot series): For diabetics under 60 years old.
  • Influenza (flu vaccine): Annually, unless you have an egg allergy. The best time is between Halloween and the new year.

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