Looking at men’s health
Concerning Your Health
By Dr. Thomas Thorson
Why should a man in perfectly good health see a doctor?
First of all, if you haven’t seen a doctor for several years, you may not be accurate on your assumption that you are in “perfectly good health.” Men are generally more reluctant than women to make an appointment with their doctor but the biggest threats to good health for men can often be prevented. It’s like changing oil or tuning up your car. You do those things to extend the vehicle’s reliability and life span. If it’s good for cars to get tune-ups, why not make an appointment for an annual physical exam? You should have a thorough initial examination between ages 18 and 22 and schedule one every five years until beginning annual exams at age 40.
What is the most likely health threat for men?
Heart disease is number one. There are several healthy lifestyle choices you can make that will diminish your risks. Most importantly, don’t use or give up tobacco products. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol and including physical activity in your daily routine also are important for heart health. It’s important to find out if you have conditions such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol because, left untreated, they can lead to heart disease. Your doctor can help you find the best solutions for quitting smoking, controlling weight, managing stress and other positive steps that will decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.
What cancers are men likely to develop?
One-half of all men and one-third of all women in the U.S. will develop some type of cancer at some point in their lives. Lung cancer is more common in men and the most deadly. Men are also more likely than women to develop colorectal cancer, the second most common cause of death, and prostate and skin cancers. However, there are many factors that come into play in the development of cancer, including lifestyle choices, genetics and stress.
What can I do to avoid getting cancer?
Not using tobacco products is the single most important thing you can do to avoid not only various types of cancers, but also heart-related diseases and other chronic diseases. A healthy diet and regular physical exercise increase your body’s ability to resist cancers. Avoiding excessive sun exposure helps decrease your odds of developing skin cancer. Also, do monthly skin self-exams and look for changes in shape, color and size in any moles, bumps or marks on your body.
What preventative tests do men need?
Diseases are almost always easier to treat when caught early, before advanced symptoms appear. What’s more, treatment outcomes are better when disease is caught early. That said, plan to complete the following health screenings when your doctor recommends them. The American Urological Association recommends a first-time PSA test (for prostate) at age 40. The American Cancer Society recommends beginning colorectal screenings at age 50 for average-risk adults and that all men have a testicular exam at their annual physical. ACS and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend an annual skin exam by a medical doctor. Your doctor will take into consideration your age, personal and family history and risk factors to determine what screenings are advisable for you and at what age you should begin.
Thomas Thorson, MD, is a board certified family medicine physician at Sanford East Mandan Clinic. A graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine at Grand Forks, Dr. Thorson completed his residency at the University of North Dakota Center for Family Medicine in Bismarck. He has special medical interests in occupational medicine, mental health, chronic disease management and preventative care.