We get it: staying on top of annual physicals can feel like a pain. Men are especially notorious for putting off key annual physicals that shed important insight into overall health. A handful of simple medical exams for men can detect serious illnesses early and help ensure a long, healthy life.
Fact: men are 50% more likely to die of heart disease than women. That’s why it is especially important for men to have their blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate measured annually. These tests can foresee heart problems down the road and allow men to make the lifestyle changes necessary to correct the problems.
In addition to heart problems, men are more likely to develop certain cancers later in life. But if you make it a point to schedule certain medical exams, doctors can usually catch these forms of cancer during the more treatable stages.
Embrace the annual physical from your family physician!
Wellness Exams and Health Screenings for Men
1. Blood Pressure
Normal blood pressure is generally considered less than 120/80 mm. When medical providers test for blood pressure, they use an inflatable arm cuff monitor. These arm cuffs measure both the pressure of your contracting heart to pump blood (systolic) and the pressure between beats as your heart relaxes (diastolic).
High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – can lead to a host of problems because it means your heart is working harder than it should. With additional stress put on the heart, the likelihood of heart attack and stroke increases substantially.
Make sure to have your blood pressure tested at least once a year!
2. Heart Rate, Respiration Rate, Temperature, and Body Mass Index Tests
Okay, so the next few tests are just as important for women as they are for men – but that doesn’t make them any less important! These key annual wellness exams can help detect the onset of heart problems. Here’s a quick overview:
- Heart Rate: A stethoscope is typically used to determine your heartbeat. Between 60-100 is considered normal.
- Respiration Rate: A provider will simply count the number of breaths per minute. Typically, 12-16 breaths a minute is considered normal, whereas 20+ breaths might indicate heart or lung problems.
- Temperature: A thermometer is used to measure temperature. 98.6 is standard, but can be slightly higher or lower.
- Weight or Body Mass Index (BMI): Taking your height, weight, and build into consideration, providers will determine whether or not you are at a healthy weight with the BMI scale. However, BMI is not 100% foolproof as a person with more muscle mass may have a high BMI. If your BMI is above 30, this is considered obese.
3. Blood Glucose Testing
According to new research, men 40 and older who are overweight or obese should have their blood sugar levels tested regularly. This is due to the increased risk of heart disease associated with obesity, poor diet, and the like. Abnormal blood sugar can indicate a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, as this test result means your body is failing to break down and utilize sugar as it should.
A provider can test blood sugar levels with one of three commonly available tests:
- This is a blood test that allows providers to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The test measures the percentage of hemoglobin that is coated with sugar - or put simply - coated with sugar. Between 5.7-6.5% is considered abnormal.
- The FGT is a blood test taken after several hours of fasting that helps providers diagnose and screen for diabetes and pre-diabetes. Between 100-125 mg/dL is considered abnormal.
4. Cholesterol Screen for Men
Starting at around 20 years old, it’s considered a recommended screening for men to have their cholesterol levels examined every 5 years. There are two kinds of cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoproteins) and LDL (low-density lipoproteins). HDL is actually the good kind whereas LDL is the bad kind of cholesterol.
Cholesterol can be examined via a blood test. A healthy cholesterol measures under 200 mg/dL. Certain factors like diabetes, smoking, and a 30+ body mass index means a person should have their cholesterol tested more often than once every 5 years. Also, if a person has a family history of high cholesterol, they should be tested more frequently.
5. Testicular Cancer Screening
During your annual healthcare visit, be sure to have a testicular cancer screening. Although self-exams are very helpful in catching cancer, it’s important to be examined by a medical professional. Men of any age can develop testicular cancer, although half of all cases are men between 20-34.
Most doctors also recommend a monthly self-exam. When you’re in a warm shower, a man can feel his testicles for lumps. Typically, these lumps are painless. In addition, significant swelling in one testicle may also indicate the onset of testicular cancer.
6. Prostate Cancer Screening
The only way to know for sure if a person has prostate cancer is through a biopsy. However, there are two tests that allow providers to identify if the person is at high risk for prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that men discuss prostate cancer screenings with providers at around age 50. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should begin that conversation around age 40.
There are two main tests that can be run for prostate cancer. Once again, these tests are a risk assessment and not a means of diagnosing prostate cancer. If the test is positive, a provider will typically order a biopsy – which involves the extraction of sample cells or tissues from the body, especially from a visibly affected area.
- PSA Test: This is a blood test that checks for prostate antigen levels in this blood. A healthy level is considered under 4 NG/ML of blood.
- In this exam, a provider inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for bumps and any other irregularities.
7. Colorectal Cancer Screening
Some recommend colorectal cancer screenings after age 50, some recommend getting screenings done beginning at age 40. A colonoscopy is painless and only takes 15-20 mins the screening helps to detect colon cancer and oftentimes will catch colon cancer in an early, treatable stage. Colon cancer is treatable in 90% of cases if caught early, so the potential benefits outweigh the uncomfortable situation men find themselves in if they think about it.
How does it work? Medical professionals send a tiny camera (called a flexible sigmoidoscope) through your colon via the anus to observe for ulcers, polyps, tumors, and bleeding. This is called a sigmoidoscopy. Although this particular health screening might not exactly sound like an appealing procedure, it’s much better than learning about colon cancer before it advances.
8. Skin Cancer Screening
By age 65, men are more than twice as likely to develop melanoma as women. We recommend an annual examination by a dermatologist to screen for skin cancer. Also, be conscious of your own skin and perform a self-exam once a month for moles that have changed in appearance or look abnormal. Look for changes in symmetry, border, color, diameter, and anything else.
9. STD Screening & Preventive Care
If you are a sexually active male, regardless of sexual orientation, getting tested for STDs is likely the first and one of the most important health screenings you can get. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens and those under 25 are especially at risk for contracting STDs but anyone who is sexually active is at risk. What many people don’t know is that you’re not limited to specialty clinics for STD testing – in fact, you can just walk into most urgent care centers for STD testing at any time. Your privacy is always a top priority at GoHealth Urgent Care centers!
Typically you can find a 10-panel screening test for the most common STDs, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) type 1 & type 2 antibody/antigen (4th gen), herpes type 1 & type 2, hepatitis A, hepatitis B & hepatitis C, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Also, be sure to ask about HIV RNA Early Detection!
Annual Physical Exams for Men... Do NOT Write Them Off!
Prevention is key to healthy aging. All it takes to catch the onset of a serious illness is an annual health screening and wellness exam. It's also important to learn how antibiotic resistance happens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year at least 2 million people in the U.S. get an antibiotic-resistant infection. And for most of the above medical exams for men, you can be checked for most heart-related screenings on the same trip to your provider.
Don’t feel like scheduling a trip to the doctor to get your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other vitals read? Visit your local GoHealth Urgent Care center with or without an appointment.
GoHealth Urgent Care partners with these regional healthcare providers:
- Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in New York
- Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in San Francisco
- Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care in Portland & Vancouver
- Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care in Connecticut
- Mercy-GoHealth Urgent Care in Arkansas, Springfield, St. Louis & Oklahoma
- Novant Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in North Carolina
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant