Men tend not to go to the doctor for routine exams as often as women do, but it’s vital for them to catch potential health issues quickly. Poor health and health costs are the number one concern in retirement planning. And unfortunately, as people get older, there are more chances for health issues to crop up!
Men need regular health screenings as they get older
Many of the diseases and conditions that can result in a reduced life expectancy don’t have any symptoms. The only way you’ll know if you have them is to get screened. For example, there are no symptoms for high blood pressure. But if left unchecked, it’s a known precursor for cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, when you’re able to catch conditions early, you can treat or even eliminate them. If you wait until lung cancer has metastasized to other areas of your body, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to treat. However, if you catch it while the abnormal growths are still small and localized, you may be able to eliminate it completely.
Men under age 50 health screening checklist
- High blood pressure
If you’re usually at a healthy blood pressure (at or below 120/80), you’ll only need this screening every two years. Otherwise, your doctor will probably recommend it every year.
If you don’t have risk factors or a family history of high cholesterol, put this on your calendar for every five years. If you do, you might need it done more often.
If you’re age 40 or over and you’re overweight or obese, you need to take a diabetic screening. Your doctor may also recommend it if you’re at risk for either heart disease or type II diabetes; if you control your blood pressure with medication; or if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80.
- Hepatitis B for men in an at-risk group
Men who have non-monogamous, unprotected sex or are medical workers exposed to blood are at higher risk for contracting the infection. Your doctor will recommend how often you need to be tested.
- Hepatitis C for men in an at-risk group
The population at increased risk for hepatitis C are those who had blood transfusions or organ transplants before June 1992, are a medical worker who’s ever been stuck with a needle, or ever injected drugs. Your doctor will recommend a testing schedule.
Unprotected sex with someone whose sexual/health history you don’t know? Get tested!
Health checkups for men 50+
Just as the recommended screenings for women seem to multiply past the magical age of 50, men also have some additional tests they didn’t necessarily require at a younger age.
- Colorectal screening
The schedule for getting these tests starts at age 50. Depending on which one you take, you may be able to go longer without repeating the test as long as the results are healthy. If you take a fecal occult or fecal immunochemical test, you’ll need to have it done annually. Repeat stool DNA every three years, and flexible sigmoidoscopy or virtual colonoscopy every five years. When you choose a colonoscopy, you may not need another for five to ten years.
Colorectal tests are essential because they can catch precancerous cells in your colon or rectum, which might otherwise cause cancer. Removing the polyps can prevent cancer when you detect them early enough.
How to choose among your options? Here are the pros and cons of each method.
Fecal tests can be done in the privacy of your own home, as you’ll need to collect stool samples and send them to the lab. You may need to change your diet and medications before you take the test. They’re prone to false-positive results (where there is nothing wrong, but the test comes back positive anyway.)
Stool DNA, like the other fecal tests, doesn’t require sedation or a complete colon cleanse before the test. You don’t need to change food or medications before the screening, either. When you send your stool sample to the lab, they will check for DNA changes that might indicate abnormalities and also for blood. This type of test is not as sensitive as the colonoscopy for finding abnormal growths.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy uses a thin tube with a camera on its end into the rectum, where the lower colon (known as the sigmoid colon) and rectum are in view. Most people don’t need sedation, and the colon cleanse isn’t as thorough as that required for the colonoscopy. It won’t catch anything wrong in the upper colon, and you may need to change diet and medications before the test.
A colonoscopy is performed by inserting a flexible tube with a tiny camera in it into the rectum. This type of screening is more sensitive than the others, allowing your doctor to view all of your rectum and colon. It also permits small growths to be removed at the time of the screening.
However, it won’t catch everything, particularly very small abnormal growths. You’ll need to change your diet and possibly medications before the test because your colon has to be completely clean. You’ll be sedated for the test.
A virtual colonoscopy is similar but without sedation or the scope. Instead, carbon dioxide is pumped into your colon via a small tube placed in your rectum. You’ll still need a completely clean colon for this test.
- Lung cancer (ages 55+)
Your risk for lung cancer is measured by pack-year. You should get the test if you smoked for 30-pack years: that’s one pack a day for 30 years, two packs a day for 15 years, three packs a day for five years, etc., and you’re still smoking, or you quit within the last 15 years.
- Height & weight
Measuring your height can be done every ten years, but weight annually to ensure that your body-mass index (BMI) isn’t too high.
Enjoy a healthy retirement 65 and beyond
Depending on you medical history, you may need specific doctor recommended tests. General health screenings that you should keep on your calendar include:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm for men who smoked
You need this test once. Though you may be wondering what this type of aneurysm is! It’s an enlargement of your aorta, and it’s dangerous because if it ruptures, you might die from the internal bleeding. Some aneurysms of this type stay small, others get very large, and they may or may not rupture.
The most significant risk factor is from smoking, which makes it more likely that you’ll have one, which also increases the risk of rupture. Smoking weakens the walls of your aorta, which is the major blood vessel in your body.
- Colorectal screening – you can discuss it with your doctor if you still need to do it. You might not need this test anymore.
You may have noticed that there’s no prostate-specific antigen test listed. Doctors no longer recommend for men to get these screeners regularly.
Enjoy good financial health
We’re not the experts on medical tests, but we’re here to help with your financial health.
Our advisors at Platt Wealth Management are here to help you use your money in a way that not only enhances your life but the lives of others around you. Take control of your future education and give us a call at (619) 255-9554 or email us here for a review of your finances.