Man to Man
July 8, 2019
By: Mike Burns, NP
Most men tend to wait until they are not feeling well to be seen by their primary care provider (PCP). This is certainly true of a lot of our male patients. Detecting symptoms of certain health conditions early, when they are more easily treatable, is a critical factor in helping men stay healthy, and avoiding the serious issues that can arise if a disease remains untreated. That’s why getting all your doctor-recommended health care screenings in a timely fashion is the kind of to-do list that male patients should not ignore.
Below are ten important health screenings that no male should avoid. These screenings are age-dependent and include the appropriate timing for each:
Male patients 35 or older should get their cholesterol checked regularly. Men who use tobacco, who are overweight or obese, who have a relative who has had a heart attack before the age of 50 should start getting their cholesterol checked at least yearly. Male patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of heart disease should get their cholesterol checked starting at the age of 18-20. There are several measures of cholesterol, and all are important in determining heart disease risk.
2. Blood Pressure
Every male patient should have his blood pressure checked regularly, and men with other cardiovascular risk factors should check their blood pressure more frequently. This can be performed at work with the first responders or at the Cook Clinic. High blood pressure is the biggest risk for heart disease and a significant risk for other serious health conditions.
3. Colon Cancer
All male patients should get screened for colorectal (colon and rectal) cancer by age 50. Men with a family history of colorectal cancer should get a colonoscopy even sooner, typically 10 years sooner than the age at what their family member was diagnosed. There are several different tests that can help detect colon cancer, but colonoscopy continues to be the gold standard. Cologuard is also available now and is done at home with no preparation needed and no sedation required. A positive Cologuard result would need to be followed up by a colonoscopy. A negative result means there are no risks for colon cancer and a 3 year follow up is recommended.
Male patients should not ignore their mental health. Millions of men suffer from depression each year, and many of these men are under-diagnosed and under-treated. Set up an appointment with your provider at the Cook Clinic to get screened for depression if you have experienced any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:
-Significant change in appetite or sleeping patterns
-Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities
-Feeling hopeless, worthless, restless, irritable, sad or anxious
-Decreased energy, motivation
-Inappropriate feelings of guilt
-Difficulty concentrating or thinking
If you’re having recurring thoughts of death or suicide, seek treatment immediately. Also, know that at the Cook Clinic we have our own licensed therapist, Matt Lucas, who will see patients for any number of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
Male patients who have high blood pressure or take medication to control their high blood pressure should get screened for diabetes (high blood sugar). Anyone experiencing symptoms of persistent thirst, frequent urination, unexpected weight loss, increased hunger, and tingling in the hands or feet should also talk to their provider about getting tested. The preferred screening for diabetes is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over the last three months. This is called an HgA1c. Testing is done in the Clinic and only takes several minutes to get results.
6. Hepatitis C Virus
Male patients between 1945 and 1965 should get a blood test for Hepatitis C. If you were born to a mother with the virus, if you need dialysis for kidney failure, if you received a blood transfusion before 1992, if you received blood clotting factors before 1987, or if you’re ever injected drugs, you should get tested. Hepatitis C is the number one cause of liver cancer in the U.S. It is now very treatable and curable (depending on the genome) with well tolerated oral medications.
All male patients 65 or younger, regardless of perceived risks, should get screened for HIV. Male patients over 65 should talk to their provider about getting screened.
Using a BMI calculator to determine your Body Mass Index (BMI) is a reliable, but not conclusive, indicator of whether you’re at a healthy weight. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, a BMI above 25 is overweight, and a BMI greater than 30 is obese. Cook offers multiple options for the obese and super morbidly obese. This includes being introduced to our staff dietician/nutritionist, Kayla King. If surgery is something that may be indicated, an appointment with Kayla will get the ball rolling. Obesity typically runs hand in hand with things like hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease and a host of other significant health issues.
9. Prostate Cancer
Recommendations regarding prostate cancer screening seem to currently be in flux, particularly regarding PSA screening, with opinions varying widely among health care professionals. Talk to your provider about the benefits and risks of screening to determine what is best for you.
10. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)
Male patients between the ages of 65 and 75 who smoked tobacco at any time in their life should get screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An imaging test, such as a CT scan, ultrasound or MRI can help determine the presence, size, and extent of an aortic aneurysm. Most aneurysms only need to be followed with yearly imaging. However, AAA’s larger than 5 cm may need to be surgically corrected. The major risk of an AAA is a rupture, typically resulting in death.