When it comes to cars, you know when to change the oil, rotate the tires, and have the front end aligned. But you may not be as diligent about caring for your body as you are about your car.
The body needs routine maintenance, no matter how many miles you have on it. Some men never get that care, and end up breaking down on the road, so to speak. For many that's because they have no dealership to remind them when they're due for service.
"People bounce around from doctor to doctor and no one is really working with them on an ongoing basis," says Rick Kellerman, MD, president-elect of the American Family Physicians, who practices in Wichita, Kan.
"I think the No. 1 thing is probably establishing a relationship with a physician that you know, and that you trust, and that you can communicate with," he tells WebMD.
In addition to having a primary doctor, wouldn't it be nice to have a basic maintenance schedule for your health? Well, here you go.
Keep in mind that the following schedule is meant for generally healthy men. Recommendations may differ for men who have -- or once had -- significant medical problems, or have other factors that might increase risks.
- Fill up with good fuel.
The National Institutes of Health encourages men to eat 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Like your car, your body needs quality fuel to keep it running smoothly. Fruits and vegetables should make up a large part of your diet. Fatty foods, which leave deposits in your arteries like dirty gasoline leaves deposits in your engine, should make up only a small part of it.
- Rev your motor.
Ideally, you should exercise every day. The CDC and the American College of Sports Medicine jointly recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (for example, a brisk walk that increases your heart rate and breathing) on most days of the week.
- Clean your grille.
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day. Good oral hygiene prevents tooth decay and gum disease, which can be painful, unattractive, and expensive to treat.
- Protect yourself.
Use condoms. Condoms are used for birth control and to help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
- Testicular self-exam
A conscientious car owner examines belts and hoses every month. They should also check their testicles that often.
is simple and quick. Gently roll each testicle between your thumb and fingers, feeling for any abnormal lumps. If you do feel a lump, talk to your doctor without delay.
- Skin self-exam
Rust spots on your vehicle's exterior should be fixed before they spread. Likewise, you should keep a close watch on your skin for moles that could be cancerous. Take a moment once a month to examine your whole body, using a mirror to see your back. A suspicious mole is one that is asymmetrical, has an irregular border, uneven color, is larger than a pencil eraser, or seems to be changing in size, shape, or color.
At Six Months
- Dental checkup
In addition to brushing and flossing, visit the dentist every six months for a cleaning and complete checkup.
- Get a flu shot.
You don't have to worry about your car catching something in a crowded parking lot. People, however, are prone to infectious diseases like influenza. Every year 5%-20% of the U.S. population comes down with the flu. The composition of the flu vaccine changes each year, so being vaccinated once is not enough. Get your shot in the fall, before the flu season peaks.
The specter of bird flu has been frightening people lately but don't take typical influenza too lightly. "People get extremely sick," Kellerman says. "I've had patients, even younger patients, die of influenza."
- Check blood pressure.
Keeping your blood pressure in the normal range is at least as important as keeping the correct air pressure in your tires. "Everybody ought to know their blood pressure," Kellerman says. Men over age 50 or those who have a family history of high blood pressure should have it checked at least every year.
- Colon cancer screening
Most routine colon cancer screening begins at the age of 50. On a yearly basis, doctors may provide special take-home tests to check for hidden blood in the stool.
- Prostate cancer screening
At the age of 50 most men may start screening for prostate cancer every year. Screening may begin at a younger age for those with higher risk, such as being African-American or having a family history of prostate cancer.
The two types of tests are prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, and the digital rectal exam.
Screening can catch prostate cancer early, but studies on whether early detection saves lives have shown mixed results. "The downside is that we may find a false positive," Kellerman says. That could mean having surgery that you don't actually need. "Sit down with your physician and discuss it," Kellerman says.
- Full physical exam
A routine yearly physical is a good time to touch base with your primary care provider about your health and preventive screening. It is also the time to give updates on your medical history and receive a thorough all-over exam.
At 5 Years
- Get a cholesterol test.
For many men aged 20 and up, having a cholesterol test every five years is sufficient. If your cholesterol is found to be borderline or if you have heart disease or certain other medical conditions, then you would need to have it monitored more frequently.
- Have a sigmoidoscopy.
A sigmoidoscopy test may be done every five years. This is an option for colon cancer screening in conjunction with the stool tests that are done yearly.
This test looks for cancer and polyps in the lower part of the colon that could turn cancerous. A suspect polyp or cancer may be biopsied, and a colonoscopy would be done to further evaluate the entire colon.
At 10 Years
At the age of 50 years, another option for routine colon cancer screening is a colonoscopy. This test may also be ordered if either the sigmoidoscopy is abnormal or there is blood found in stool tests. It is similar to a sigmoidoscopy except that it travels farther inside so that the doctor can visualize the entire colon. A colonoscopy is an examination with a camera threaded through your, ahem, tailpipe. If normal, then it can be repeated in 10 years. Otherwise it may be necessary to repeat the procedure earlier. Biopsies can be taken and polyps can be removed during the procedure.
People with increased risk for colon cancer may begin having colonoscopy screening much earlier -- even in childhood.
- Tetanus time
Have a tetanus vaccine booster every 10 years, especially if you're the kind of guy who gets a lot of cuts and scrapes.