Preventative health care focuses on treating potential health issues before they are a problem. It is very important, as many medical conditions are capable of causing serious damage if you wait too long to treat them. Preventative health care largely relies on different types of screenings to detect any potential medical issues.
Even if a medical condition is unavoidable, by detecting it early, your doctors will have an easier time coming up with a treatment plan, which may ultimately save your life.
The majority of recommended preventative health care screenings are guaranteed to be part of health insurance plans due to provisions in the Affordable Care Act. For many men, the largest challenges associated with preventative health care is being aware of and making time for all the necessary screenings. A lot of men make the mistake of putting off their screenings because they feel fine. There are many medical conditions that do not show symptoms until it is too late. However, these conditions may be completely avoidable if they are caught through early detection. Most screenings can be done in a physician’s office, with only a few preventative screenings requiring imaging, which can only be performed in a radiology department.
Preventive health care for women and men share a few recommended screenings, but each gender has its own unique screenings as well. More information regarding the recommended screenings for preventative health care for men is covered below.
Annual Physical Examination
One of the most important parts of preventative health care is receiving an annual physical exam. Anyone 18 years of age or older is encouraged to get one physical exam at least every two to three years. However, this may change depending on recommendations from a physician. An annual physical exam focuses on three specific areas, which includes:
- Screening for any potential diseases or medical conditions.
- Discussing lifestyle habits to better assess risk for future medical problems.
- Staying up to date with vaccinations.
Overall, an annual physical examination gives your physician a chance to spot any potential issues, which may require additional screenings. Based on the results of your physical examination, your doctor may recommend more frequent examinations. Other times, your physician may recommend lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, to prevent potential health issues but will not require you to undergo any additional examinations. An annual physical exam is a great first step into preventative health care, but it is far from the only examination you will need.
For example, during a physical examination, your doctor may ask questions about your vision and hearing. He or she may even look over your eyes and ears if you report any issues. However, doctors do not perform any extensive hearing or vision tests during the examination. If the doctor notices something is wrong with your hearing or vision, then he or she will recommend you undergo an actual eye examination or hearing test. You can essentially think of the physical examination as setting up the baseline for what preventative health care measures you will need to take. This is a very important step, as patients all have very different medical needs based on their medical history as well as their lifestyle choices. Your physician uses all the information he or she learns from an annual physical examination to make important recommendations that will shape the rest of your preventative health care plan.
Prostate cancer accounts for an estimated one-fourth of all cancer cases in men. Typically, you do not have to get screened for prostate cancer until you are 50 years of age. However, there are a few factors that may lead to your physician recommending an earlier screening. For example, if someone in your family had prostate cancer before 65 years of age, then your physician may recommend getting tested at 45 years of age instead of waiting until 50 years of age. Physicians may also recommend a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test in addition to the traditional prostate cancer screening.
As you get older, the odds of developing prostate cancer increases. How often you should be screened after your first test varies depending on your medical history and lifestyle. Many cases of prostate cancer occur in men older than 65 years of age, so you are strongly encouraged to at least get another screening right before your 65th birthday.
The second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States comes from colorectal cancer. Both men and women are encouraged to have a colonoscopy to screen got colorectal cancer at 50 years of age, just like with prostate cancer.
The last type of cancer you may be recommended to be screened for is lung cancer. Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer and often has the highest fatality rate. When and how often you need to be screened for lung cancer largely depends on lifestyle choices. For example, patients with a long history of smoking will undergo earlier and much more frequent screenings. Smokers should consider tobacco cessation measures sooner rather than later.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Screenings
Both high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are a common medical concern for men and women. High blood pressure is a precursor to many serious medical events, such as strokes and heart attacks. High blood pressure does not have any visible symptoms, which makes it even more important to regularly receive a blood pressure test. Physicians will perform a blood pressure test as part of your annual physical. Depending on the results and your medical history, your physician may recommend additional screenings before your next physical.
High cholesterol can cause many of the same problems as high blood pressure. From 20 years of age to 35 years of age, men who are at risk for heart disease should schedule annual cholesterol screenings. If your physician does not believe you are at risk for heart disease, then you can wait until 35 years of age to begin your annual cholesterol screenings.
Another important screening for men is to detect diabetes. Diabetes leads to many long-term health complications, which can affect nearly every part of the body. However, it is possible to delay or even prevent diabetes if it is caught through early detection. One of the ways your physician can determine whether you are at risk of diabetes is from the results of your blood pressure tests.