Going for a routine physical may not be at the top of many men’s to-do list. But Men’s Health Month in June is a good time to make that appointment, especially for middle-aged men, according to Howard Feldfogel, DO, of Highland Medical, P.C., Clarkstown Medical Associates, and Director of the Department of Medicine at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. Men ages 40 to 64 should start getting regular health screenings, even if they feel healthy, Dr. Feldfogel says.
“Your family health history really starts to come into play in middle age,” he notes. “If you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, you should be tested for these things, too. Even if you don’t have a family history of these conditions, you should be screened.”
He recommends getting these screening tests:
Blood Pressure Screening
Have your blood pressure checked once a year. Left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to many serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
Your cholesterol should be checked every 5 years. If you have a high cholesterol level, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to be checked more often.
If you are age 45 or older, you should be screened every three years. If you are overweight, ask your provider if you should be screened at a younger age.
Colon Cancer Screening
If you are under age 50, you should be screened if you have a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps. Screening may also be considered if you have risk factors such as a history of inflammatory bowel disease or polyps. If you are between ages 50 to 75, you should be screened for colorectal cancer. There are several screening tests available, including colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Dr. Feldfogel recommends men talk with their doctor about the best age to start screening for prostate cancer.
Have an eye exam every two to four years ages 40 to 54 and every one to three years ages 55 to 64. Your provider may recommend more frequent eye exams if you have vision problems or glaucoma risk. You should have an eye exam at least every year if you have diabetes.
You should get a flu shot every year. You should have a tetanus-diphtheria booster vaccination every 10 years. The new shingles vaccine is recommended for those age 50 and older. If you’re over 65, you should receive the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. Your doctor may recommend you get a pneumonia shot if you are younger than 65 and have certain medical conditions that predispose you to pneumonia—such as diabetes, heart disease, or a suppressed immune system due to cancer treatment.
In addition to having regular screenings, your annual doctor’s visit is a time to discuss lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. “It’s important to maintain a healthy weight, to reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes,” Dr. Feldfogel says. “Switching to a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can reduce your health risks at any age. But it can be hard to convince a man that it’s not too late to change their lifestyle in middle age.”
If the man in your life is hesitating about going to see the doctor, explain that early detection can be the best treatment, Dr. Feldfogel advises. “It’s difficult for many men to recognize they’re not invincible anymore. They think, ‘This will never happen to me.’ But catching something early means we have the best shot at treating it. Having screening exams pay dividends in the long run.”