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Men's Health: Be Your Best at Any Age
Whether you're in your 20s, your 50s or beyond, every man needs periodic check-ups. But beyond a yearly meet-and-greet with your primary care provider, what do men need to know about their health as they age?
A couple of things are important: establishing care with a healthcare provider you trust and gathering as comprehensive a family medical history as possible. If conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, prostate or colon cancer, or high cholesterol run in your family, discuss them with your provider. Knowing if you are at greater risk for certain diseases will allow you to address them earlier in life by making lifestyle changes or getting necessary screenings and medical intervention.
As men enter their 20s, graduate from college and become financially independent, they may experience significant lifestyle changes. This is the age many men get more sedentary jobs and start to have families. If you adopt healthy lifestyle practices during these years, you can look forward to a healthy life down the road. It's important for men to shoot for at least 20 minutes of exercise, five times a week, to avoid weight gain, to not drink too much and to quit smoking. Starting to get regular physical exams is also important. Think of them like tune-ups for your car. If you have one regularly, you will be able to catch something before it becomes a big problem later on. For men in their 20s, this is also a time when parents and grandparents may start to get preventable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, etc. These are important clues for you and your doctor in terms of where you might need early prevention.
If you are in your 30s, chances are you may be living life as though you were still in your 20s. Similar to men in their 20s, most men in their 30s may not be willing to see a physician regularly unless prompted by a loved one. If you haven't already, it's important at this age to establish a relationship with a primary care provider if you haven't already. Aside from annual physicals, men in their 30s don't typically need routine screenings, but it is important to continue to avoid excesses of alcohol, drugs and food. Screenings for sexually-transmitted diseases should also be a standard if you think you are at risk. A healthy diet and fitness regimen continues to be fundamental. If you are overweight, commit to losing the weight in your 30s before aging makes it more difficult to control.
Forty is a milestone year â€” a milestone decade to be exact. Metabolisms slow. Hair may thin and vision may begin to change. Many men in their 40s begin to have more concerns about weight, cholesterol and risk of cancer and heart disease. Men should begin a few screening tests at this age, including a baseline lipid profile that measures cholesterol, vision screening and, depending on your risk, continued screening tests for STDs. Your primary care provider can also review your immunization history and recommend updates where necessary. Maintaining an open dialogue with your primary care provider is crucial, even if there are problems that make you feel embarrassed. Some problems, such as erectile dysfunction and inability to urinate, can be an indicator of other issues that need to be explored further. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Your healthcare provider can't help you address problems if they don't know about them.
Your 50s & Beyond
There's no need to resign yourself to getting old. Preventive care and a healthy lifestyle means that fifty â€” and beyond â€” isn't really old anymore. As in your 40s, screening tests continue to be a central factor in staying healthy. Three tests are especially important for men at this age, no matter what's in your family history. These include routine colon cancer screenings starting at 50, as well as screenings for cholesterol and diabetes. Other screening tests, such as ones involving the prostate, are more dependent on individual risk factors and family history, and should be discussed with your provider.
Drs. Bowers, Kraft and Uppal are board-certified in internal medicine and Dr. Lacambra is board-certified in family medicine. All are members of the Northwest Hospital & Medical Center medical staff.