Scott Benson, M.D.
Historically, men have been hesitant to seek medical attention when something seems wrong with their health. Additionally, men aren't as likely as women to have preventive screenings and checkups with their health care provider. This is a problem because early detection of a medical issue is the best way to improve effectiveness of condition treatment and management.
In addition, early COVID-19 research has found that more men are dying from COVID-19 than women, in part because men are more likely to have underlying health conditions. Delaying or avoiding a checkup or screening during the COVID-19 pandemic — or beyond — could lead to a treatable situation turning deadly.
So men, reconsider your reservations about the doctor's office and talk to your health care team about these potentially lifesaving screenings:
Regular physical exams
Men older than 50 should have a yearly physical exam, and men younger than 50 should have a physical exam every three to five years. Even if you're feeling healthy, a regular checkup with your provider is a good way to validate your health or identify a problem in its early stages.
Another thing to think about: Health isn't only physical. Talk to your provider about your mental and emotional health. If you're struggling in those areas, effective help is available.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm
For men between 65 and 75 who've smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends a one-time abdominal aortic aneurysm screening ultrasound. According to Mayo Clinic, an abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. Because the aorta is the body's main supplier of blood, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding. Men over 60 with family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm should consider regular screening.
A blood pressure reading is a good indication to many aspects of your health. High blood pressure can lead to many physical problems, especially those associated with the heart. You should have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. However, talk to your health care provider about having it checked more frequently if you have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing high blood pressure.
Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol may pose serious risks to your health and well-being. Starting at age 18, men at average risk for heart disease should have a cholesterol screening every five years. If you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart attacks, smoke, eat a poor diet, are overweight, have diabetes, are physically inactive or older than 45, you may need more frequent testing.
If you're older than 45 or have a body mass index above 25, no matter your age, the American Diabetes Association recommends you be screened for diabetes. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes symptoms can happen slowly and may not be noticeable, so staying aware of your blood sugar levels and risk of developing diabetes is important.
Colon cancer screening should begin at age 50 or 10 years prior to the diagnosis of colon cancer in an immediate relative. For example, get screened at age 36 if your mother was diagnosed at age 46. A colonoscopy is a traditional, effective procedure to identify colon cancer or precancerous polyps. A more recent noninvasive option available is a take-home test to screen for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about which option is best for you.
Many organizations advise men to be screened for prostate cancer starting at age 50. However, the subject is somewhat controversial, so the best course of action is to discuss what's best for you with your health care team.
Do yourself and your family a favor by protecting your health during and after COVID-19 with regular appointments and screenings.