By Marc Feingold, MD
As a doctor, it’s much easier for me to prevent something from happening than treat it once it does. In other words, to help ensure a man is healthy at 75 years of age, I need to prevent disease at age 50.
Men, in particular, are often reluctant to go to the doctor for preventive care. I understand that you may be nervous or scared that I’ll find something bad or you’ll hear a lecture about things like smoking or weight loss, but we really do have your best interests at heart. Early detection is important for many conditions, and the options for how to treat them diminish as the disease progresses.
There are two types of prevention:
Primary prevention: Taking steps to ward off a condition before it occurs
Secondary prevention: Detecting a condition before a patient notices any symptoms
For example, by controlling your blood pressure (primary prevention), you’re taking steps to avoid having a heart attack, or getting a vaccine to avoid getting sickness. Having a cancer screening test like a colonoscopy (secondary prevention) can find cancers early, when the chances of survival are highest.
The following are screening exams for both primary and secondary prevention. These recommendations are just that – recommendations. Talk to your primary care physician for guidance for the most applicable exams for your specific level of health, age, and risk factors, including family history.
Physical Exam: If you are over age 50, you should have a physical exam once a year. Conducted when you are feeling well, a yearly exam is an opportunity to speak with your doctor about any concerns that you may have.
Blood Pressure Screening: Men over age 40 without any risk factors for high blood pressure should have a blood pressure screening once a year.
Cholesterol Screening: Men over age 40 without any risk factors for high cholesterol should have a cholesterol screening once a year.
Blood Glucose Test: If you have risk factors for diabetes, you should have your blood sugar checked once a year, especially if you are between the ages of 40 and 70 and obese with high blood pressure.
Flu Shot: Aim to get a flu shot every year.
Shingles Vaccine: If you’re over age 60, talk to your doctor about the SHINGRIX vaccine.
Tetanus Shot: Aim to get a tetanus shot every 10 years, not just when you are injured by a rusty object. Bonus: it’ll also protect against whooping cough.
Pneumonia Vaccine: Men should begin a two-part pneumonia vaccine with Prevnar 13 at age 65, followed by Pneumovax 23 one year later. If you’re a smoker or have asthma, you should get Pneumovax 23 at any age.
Dental Exam: Look to see the dentist at least once a year (preferably twice) for an exam and cleaning. Good dental hygiene can play a significant role in your overall health and wellness.
Prostate Cancer Screening: Most guidelines suggest getting a digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test around age 50 until age 75. This is definitely a subject to discuss with your doctor about what’s right for you.
Colon Cancer Screening: Stool cards or colonoscopies are recommended at age 50, or earlier if a first-degree relative has been diagnosed with the disease.
Hepatitis C Test: If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you should have a one-time screening test.
Eye Exam: If you are experiencing vision issues, visit an eye doctor for guidance.
Lung Cancer Screening: Ask your doctor about getting a low-dose CT scan of your chest if:
You are a smoker over age 55 and have smoked more than 30 pack years (calculated as one pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years),
Currently smoke, or
Have quit smoking in the last 15 years
Osteoporosis Screening: Men who have risk factors for developing osteoporosis, are underweight, have had a fracture, or take chronic long-term steroids (common treatments for conditions like COPD and arthritis) should talk to their doctors about getting screened.
Skin Cancer Screening: If you notice something unusual on your skin, get it checked by a dermatologist. Once you have identified a dermatological issue, look to be screened once a year thereafter.
For a full list of preventive services recommended for your age and gender, visit healthfinder.gov/myhealthfinder/ or speak with your physician.
Dr. Marc Feingold is a board-certified family medicine physician on staff at CentraState Medical Center and can be reached by calling 866-CENTRA7.