Importance of Regular Health Screenings for Young Men
You're a male in the prime of your life. You feel great, and the last thing on your mind is making sure you schedule regular doctor appointments. But, for men aged 18 to 39, it's more important than you think.
"This is the age group that, in general, does not think about going to the doctor because, largely, they are healthy, symptom-free and feel bullet-proof," says Scott Massa MD , an internist with Physician Associates of Good Sam - Delhi . "And, part of this thinking is because a large portion of men in this group are healthy."
I Feel Fine: Do I Need a Screening?
Even if you feel healthy, it is important to schedule regular health screenings with your doctor. The purpose of these visits is to:
- Screen for diseases
- Assess risk of future medical problems
- Help develop a healthy lifestyle
- Update vaccinations (flu shot annually and tetanus every 10 years)
- Maintain a relationship with a doctor in case of an illness
Once a male turns 18, a physical is recommended every year and will include:
1. Head-to-toe exam to establish a baseline
Think of this like a sports physical. It's nothing invasive; it's just a way for a doctor to get information about your body, such as height, weight, and BMI. This is also an opportunity for your doctor to ask questions and discuss your health and lifestyle to make sure there isn't something specific to take a look at.
Here are some of the lifestyle issues you might be asked about during a check-up:
- Appropriate weight
- Level of physical activity/exercise patterns
- Tobacco/drug use
- Alcohol consumption
- Seat belt use
2. A blood pressure check for hypertension
The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure, or are at risk for it, is to have it checked regularly. It's best to have your blood pressure checked every two years, and to look out for opportunities to have it checked at a station in the gym, at work, or school.
3. A cholesterol screening
Men over 35 in particular should start having their cholesterol screened every five years. If you have risk factors for heart disease it's best to start getting screened in your 20s. The key thing to keep in mind here is that to determine whether those risk factors even exist, you have to make some visits to a doctor throughout your young adult life.
A prostate exam will not be performed for men in this age group as it is not necessary until a later age.
Building Men's Health Awareness:
While these screenings are recommended for men aged 18 to 39, Dr. Massa explains we need to build men's health awareness in this group. "There is a low awareness for health with these men, and we recognize that many do not think about their health [when they are] in this age range," Dr. Massa explains.
Stress and Well-Being:
Stress can play a large role in the well-being of men, and every age range has its own stresses and challenges. For a 20-year-old, college might be overwhelming. Next, marriage and family, and later in this group their job could add stress. There's a reason stress is known as the silent killer.
"Typically we bring up stress in a physical," Dr. Massa says. "I think stress is a big issue and the circumstances change over time."
By maintaining regular visits to you doctor and establishing baselines early on, you are setting yourself up for better physical and mental health throughout adulthood.