Have No Fear: The Men’s Health Cheat Sheet is Here

Attention all men: Have you had your annual checkup? Be honest. When was your last preventive health screening?

If these questions have you stumped, it’s time to make an appointment. Stats show men (47%) have a greater percentage of high blood pressure than women (43%). It’s a serious condition that’s often linked to heart disease—the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.

The second biggest threat to men’s health is cancer. Like heart disease, it can be a silent but deadly killer. The most common forms affect the skin, prostate, lungs, colon and rectum. It’s normal to be scared or even intimidated by these illnesses. But remember: The best defense is a good offense. And this is a game you can’t afford to lose.

The Ugly Truth

Men are less likely to visit the doctor for anything other than emergency treatment. If it’s not an immediate threat, they’re not budging. That means missing out on routine screenings that could potentially save their lives. It’s one of many reasons’ women are consistently projected to live longer than their male counterparts. The latest data puts the average lifespan at 81.1 years for women and 76.1 years for men.

So, how do men close the gap? First, you should schedule some facetime with your primary care physician. Second, you should research suggested screenings and then discuss them with your doctor. Most are dependent on age, family history, and current health status.

Here’s a rundown of what you may need, how often, and where to get it.
Recommended Health Screenings

  • Blood Pressure: Most doctors measure blood pressure as part of your annual physical. If not, it should be checked once per year if blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm hg.
  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol should be screened every four to six years. If you have a family history of heart disease, obesity, or diabetes, your doctor may check it more often.
  • Diabetes: Men 45 and older should be screened every three years. You may start earlier if you exhibit risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, or have a family history of diabetes.
  • Colorectal Cancer: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends getting a colonoscopy every ten years or flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, plus FOBT every 3 years, or FOBT every year.
  • Lung Cancer: Annual lung cancer screenings are suggested for high-risk patients. That includes men between the ages of 55 and 80, who have the equivalent of a 30-year pack-a-day smoking history, are a current smoker or have quit within the last 15 years.
  • Prostate Cancer: Healthy men should start inquiring about prostate screenings at age 50. Those at high-risk should begin anywhere between 40 and 45. The frequency will depend on the results of your initial PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test.
  • STDs: The CDC recommends adults and adolescents age 13 to 64 be tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. Sexually active men should get tested annually for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc.
  • Skin Cancer: Conduct monthly self-exams and take note of any suspicious moles, blemishes, or freckles. Share the information with your doctor and make an informed decision on how to move forward. Here is a detailed guide to self-exams and the importance of early detection.

Where to Go for Care

  • Primary Care Physician: Your PCP is the point person for all your health care needs. Most, if not all, these screenings can be performed in-office.
  • Pharmacy Clinics: These are convenient options for those seeking non-emergency care. They are walk-in facilities that are low-cost, and typically open evenings and weekends.
  • Urgent Care Centers: Most facilities have access to their own lab and X-ray equipment. They can run most major blood tests, including STDs and cholesterol. Because services may vary, call ahead to confirm what screenings are available to you.
  • Virtual Health Care Visits: Although it’s ideal to first try to seek care with your primary care physician, using Blue Cross Online Visits is a smart choice when your PCP can’t see you right away. Each doctor providing online care is U.S. board-certified and specially trained to provide virtual care. They can help with colds and flu, eye irritation, mild allergy symptoms, and more. You can even access a visit summary to share with your primary care physician after you’re seen.

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Photo credit: kate_sept2004

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