Many men do not take their health seriously and will avoid the doctor’s office at all costs. But this tendency, even when there are no symptoms indicating any problems, puts a man’s health at risk.
If that sounds like you, it’s important to change your approach to your health. Without good health, it is not possible to enjoy life’s pleasures.
A little planning can help you stay fit and healthy, and regular health checkups are a must.
Regular screenings and checkups help you stay healthy by allowing your doctor to pick up early warning signs of disease or illness.
For instance, being diagnosed in the early stages of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many cancers makes successful treatment possible.
With age, we are all more prone to illness. So, when you reach age 40, be serious about your health and make checkups and screenings part of your regular routine.
Here are 10 health screening tests or checkups that men should be sure to get after turning 40.
1. Skin Cancer Checks
Men, especially those with lighter skin and those who work outside, are at a higher risk of getting skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest kind.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 76,665 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin in 2014, including 45,402 men and 31,263 women. That same year, two out of three people who died from it were men (1).
The American Cancer Society recommends that you become aware of all moles and spots on your skin, and report any changes to a doctor right away (2).
You should check your moles and spots every three months using the “ABCDE rule,” which involves looking for the following characteristics: asymmetry, border irregularity, color that is not uniform, diameter greater than 6 mm, and evolving size, shape or color. If any of these characteristics appear or changes occur, it should be checked by a doctor.
Also, ask your doctor to check your skin, head to toe, during your yearly physical as part of regular preventive care.
2. Prostate Cancer Screening
Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. In fact, prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death due to cancer.
In 2014, 172,258 men in the U.S. were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 28,343 men died from it that year, according to the CDC (3).
Prostate cancer screenings make it possible to detect the cancer in its early stages, before symptoms are present. The American Cancer Society recommends that men above 50 years of age with one or more risk factors for prostate cancer get routine screenings (4).
Men whose father or brother has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, African-American men and men with a high testosterone level are more likely to suffer from prostate cancer.
Depending upon the risk factors, your doctor may screen for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A digital rectal exam may also be done as a part of screening.
3. Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, and it is the third most common cancer in men and women in the U.S.
The CDC reports that in 2014, 139,992 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 73,396 men and 66,596 women (5).
The CDC recommends colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 50 for both women and men.
Since the disease usually starts with growths called polyps in the colon, some screening exams are designed to find them before they turn into cancer. Some of the screening tests for colorectal cancer include a colonoscopy, a flexible sigmoidoscopy and fecal tests.
4. Blood Pressure Test
It is important to keep tabs on your blood pressure, as people can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it.
According to the American Heart Association, a higher percentage of men than women under age 45 have high blood pressure. From ages 45 to 64, the percentage of men and women is similar. After that, a much higher percentage of women than men have high blood pressure (6).
After reaching age 40, have your blood pressure checked once a year. If the top number (systolic number) is between 120 and 139 or the bottom number (diastolic number) is between 80 and 89 mm Hg, then continue to have it checked every year as it could indicate Prehypertension.
If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor will probably want to check it more frequently. To keep high blood pressure under control, medication may be required to manage it and ward off heart disease, kidney disease and strokes.
5. Cholesterol Levels Test
High cholesterol puts men at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes and peripheral artery disease. The World Health Organization reports that one-third of ischemic heart disease globally is attributable to high cholesterol (7).
High cholesterol usually does not cause symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels often.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol and other traditional risk factors checked every four to six years (8).
You may need your cholesterol and other risk factors assessed more often if you are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
6. Blood Sugar Test
In diabetes, sugar levels in the blood go up, which can lead to health complications if left uncontrolled. Diabetes raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and can cause problems with your eyes, skin, kidneys and nervous system. Diabetes can also cause urological problems in men.
Everyone should have their blood sugar level tested every year, or every three years (depending on your risk factors for diabetes) after age 40.
Risk factors include a family history of diabetes, prediabetes (slightly elevated blood glucose levels), overweight or obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, and some ethnic backgrounds.
Tests for diabetes include a fasting blood sugar level test, which measures the amount of glucose in your blood after you haven’t eaten for a while. Those with diabetes should get three annual medical tests comprising HbA1c blood test, dilated eye exam, and foot exam.
7. Bone Density Test
Osteoporosis is an important and often overlooked problem in men, according to a 2010 study published in American Family Physician. Although the lifetime risk of a hip fracture is lower in men than women, men are twice as likely to die after a hip fracture (9).
Experts recommend that men who have risk factors for osteoporosis should get a bone density test every couple of years after age 40. Risk factors include a family history of osteoporosis, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and drinking too much.
A bone density scan (DEXA) is a kind of X-ray that measures how strong your bones are and can help determine your risk of a fracture. By having this test, your doctor can find and treat serious bone loss, called osteoporosis, to prevent fractures and disability.
8. Dental Checkups
Everyone should visit the dentist at least once a year for a dental exam and a professional cleaning. This simple exam allows your dentist to identify signs of tooth decay, gingivitis, and other health problems.
The American Dental Association says that checking for signs of oral cancer is part of a regular dental checkup. Your dentist can examine your oral tissues easily by looking at your lips and inside your mouth, which is important for early detection of oral cancer (10).
It has been found that men ignore dental health checkups. According to a 1999 report by the American Dental Association, four factors are associated with infrequent dental checkups: being male, having low income, not having a usual place for care and being anxious about receiving dental care (11).
You should go to the dentist once or twice every year for an exam and cleaning. Your dentist will evaluate if you have a need for more frequent visits.
9. Eye Exam
By 2020, 43 million Americans will be at risk for significant vision loss or blindness from age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmologists.
This represents an increase of more than 50 percent over the current number of Americans with these diseases (12).
Eyesight tends to deteriorate with age. The American Academy of Ophthalmologists recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease should get a baseline comprehensive eye evaluation at age 40.
Individuals without risk factors aged 40 to 54 should be examined by an ophthalmologist every two to four years (13).
People who are at high risk of developing ocular abnormalities related to systemic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, or who have a family history of eye disease require periodic comprehensive eye exams to prevent or minimize visual loss.
If you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you should have your eyes tested every year.
10. Electrocardiogram (ECG)
An ECG is a non-invasive, safe and painless test that detects cardiac abnormalities by measuring the electrical activity generated by the heart as it contracts. It provides information about your heart rate and rhythm, and shows if you have high blood pressure (hypertension) or a previous heart attack (myocardial infarction).
While an ECG is not recommended for all, you should have an ECG if you have risk factors for an enlarged heart like high blood pressure or symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat or heavy heartbeats.
You should get an ECG test every two to five years, depending on your health and medical history.
- Skin Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/statistics/index.htm. Published June 07, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Wish Dad a Healthy Father’s Day. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/4-cancer-screening-tests-for-men.html. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Prostate Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/statistics/index.htm. Published May 23, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- American Cancer Society Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Early Detection. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/early-detection/acs-recommendations.html. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Colorectal (Colon) Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics/index.htm. Published January 23, 2018. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- High Blood Pressure: Statistical Fact Sheet, 2013 Update. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_319587.pdf. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Raised cholesterol. WHO. http://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/cholesterol_text/en/. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- How To Get Your Cholesterol Tested. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/HowToGetYourCholesterolTested/How-To-Get-Your-Cholesterol-Tested_UCM_305595_Article.jsp#.Wpp2ZLPhW1s. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Osteoporosis in Men. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0901/p503.html. Published September 01, 2010. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Detecting oral cancer early. American Dental Association. https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/Dental_Patient_0510.pdf. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Determining Dental Checkup Frequency. The Journal of the American Dental Association. http://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(15)60297-5/pdf. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Get a Baseline Eye Exam at Age 40. American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/baseline-eye-exam-age-40. Published April 12, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2018.
- Frequency of Ocular Examinations – 2015. American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/clinical-statement/frequency-of-ocular-examinations. Published October 30, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2018.