Men’s Health Tune-Up Schedule: Medical Tests
Not one for annual checkups? OK, but you still need these medical tests and exams.
Develop a strong relationship with your doctor continued...
Kellerman says that patients who establish strong relationships with their doctors are more likely to receive appropriate medication when they need it. They are also less likely to be subjected to needless and costly medical test. Weida adds they’re also more likely to call or make an appointment when they do have a problem.
The most important consideration when choosing a primary care physician, Kellerman says, is how well you communicate with him or her. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor, choose a new one. Another important consideration is how accessible the doctor is. If you have an acute problem, will the doctor be able to see you that day?
Be on the lookout for specific health conditions
Though an annual checkup may not be required, men do need to be on the lookout for certain conditions as they age. The following list of “musts” and “maybes” distinguishes the medical tests that virtually all men should have from those that depend more on personal and family history.
To create the list, we used recommendations from the evidence-based guidelines of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. We also asked for recommendations from physicians consulted by WebMD. Your own doctor may recommend more -- or fewer – tests, depending on your medical history.
Must-have medical tests
The following is a list of tests that every man should have performed routinely:
- Blood Pressure. High blood pressure can cause serious organ damage or death. But screening for it is easy and reliable. The task force recommends screening all adults for high blood pressure, and a blood pressure check is part of most routine doctor’s visits. In some cases, however, the stress of visiting a doctor may cause your blood pressure to go up. James King, MD, a family physician in Tennessee, recommends also getting tested at a drugstore or using a home testing kit to get a more reliable reading.
- Cholesterol. The task force recommends cholesterol screening for all men 35 and up. It also recommends screening for men 20 and up if they have other risk factors for heart disease. Examples might be diabetes or a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol. After that, the task force suggests cholesterol checks every 5 years or more often if your cholesterol is borderline high. How long must this go on? Cholesterol levels are less likely to increase after age 65. So screening may be less necessary after that age.
- Colorectal cancer. Colon cancer kills more than 56,000 people every year. But the CDC says that nearly 60% of those deaths could be prevented if everyone was screened properly and treated appropriately. The task force strongly recommends screening of all men (and women)age 50 and up for colorectal cancer. People at higher risk may need to be screened at a younger age. This includes people who have a close relative who had colorectal polyps or cancer or who have inflammatory bowel disease. There are several techniques for screening. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages for individual patients. The ideal interval between screenings depends on the test. But CDC data from 2005 suggest that nearly 42 million Americans over 50 have not yet been screened appropriately. “The best [test] is the one that is done,” Kellerman says.
- Immunizations. Immunity can fade over time, and vaccine recommendations change over the years. For men over 50, a tetanus booster is recommended every 10 years. Flu shots are suggested every year for this age group. And a pneumococcal vaccine is recommended once at age 65.