The Top 5 Health Tests Every Man Should Have - Ascension Wisconsin

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Published on July 13, 2012

The Top 5 Health Tests Every Man Should Have

A 2012 Men's Health magazine report concluded that one-third of men in the U.S. would not go to the doctor, even if they were experiencing signs of major health problems, such as shortness of breath or chest pain. On average, men die 10 years younger than women, but there are really important health tests you can take to avert risk factors.

Get an Annual Exam

According to Dr. Mushir Hassan, an Internist with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group - Internal Medicine in Brookfield, the top thing men (and women) can do to help catch and address chronic health issues early are to get an exam by their primary care doctor. 

Just as you would have your car maintained to avoid a mechanical issue, an annual “tune-up” gives your doctor a chance to assess your risks and perform general screening tests to help catch things like diabetes, hypertension and other health issues before they become advanced. 

You may want to schedule your exam on your birthday or birthday week, so the exam is an “automatic” recurrence on your calendar. 

5 Tests to Talk with Your Doctor About

Some key tests to keep in mind and to talk to your doctor about include:

  1. Check Your Heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for young men, other than auto accidents and being shot. If you test early, you can catch heart disease long before you develop it. Tests to talk to your doctor about include:
    • Check your blood pressure. Blood pressure is the most important risk factor and one that's easiest to control. Normal blood pressure is 115 over 70. If it's more than 130 over 80 that's a red flag.
    • Determine your cholesterol levels. The fasting blood test for blood fats and blood sugar helps find your levels for the good cholesterol (HDL), the bad cholesterol ( LDL) and triglycerides. A fasting sugar is also a screen for diabetes.
    • Take the tape measure test. You might balk, but this is a true indicator of your heart risk. If you are 40 inches or more around your waist, it's a red flag for heart disease. It is also likely an indicator of the need for more regular physical activity.
  2. Testicular Exam. Men between ages 15 and 40 years should have a testicular exam. Your doctor can also help you learn how to do a self-exam. As we ask women to do monthly breast exams, so should men do regular testicular self-exams. This is a rare cancer but one that has over a 90 percent cure rate if caught early.
  3. PSA Test and Rectal Exam. Beginning at age 50, men should start talking to their doctor about screening for prostate cancer. That includes a rectal exam and a blood test called the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA). Start testing can begin  earlier if you have a family history of prostate cancer or you are of African-American descent. Discuss with your doctor the risks/benefits and current thinking of how a PSA figures into your personal health profile.
  4. Colonoscopy. Starting at age 50, men should consider getting a colonoscopy to test for polyps and other signs of colon and rectal cancers, and for many that means a test every ten years.  A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that patients who received colonoscopies and were tracked for as long as 20 years had a reduced death rate from colon cancer by more than 50 percent.

    Simply stated, this study supports what doctors have been saying all along: colonoscopies can save lives. Still, only about 6 in 10 adults are up to date on getting screened for colorectal cancer, according to federal estimates. That means 40% of the population who needs a colonoscopy or other colon cancer screening is not up to date. Colon cancer generally is a slow growing cancer, and risks include:
    • Age – anyone over 50 should consider getting screened.
    • Family History – a brother, a mother, a grandparent, anyone else in your family who has had colon cancer or polyps found in their colon
    • Ethnicity – studies find that more people who are African American or of Eastern European descent have a greater risk in developing colon cancer.
    • Diet – especially those with high red or processed meats.
    • Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
    • Have a personal history of polyps in the colon
  5. Skin Exam. Skin cancer is preventable with vigilant use of sunscreen. It is recommended that men have a head-to-toe skin exam by their health care provider to watch for early signs of skin cancer. Some physicians advocate seeing a dermatologist once every 2-3 years for a full skin exam, especially those who spend summer outdoors, such as golfers, boaters, sunbathers, and gardeners.

How to Find a Primary Care Doctor

Search for a doctor online or call Wheaton Direct at 1-888-9-WHEATON  (1-888-994-3286) Monday - Friday, 9 am - 4 pm.

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The Top 5 Health Tests Every Man Should Have