Men should have regular health checks. See your doctor for regular medical check-ups to help you stay healthy and to pick up early warning signs of disease or illness. Cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes and some cancers can often be picked up in their early stages, when treatment may be more successful.
When you have a health check, your doctor will talk to you about your medical history, your family’s history of disease and your lifestyle. Your diet, your weight, how much you exercise and whether or not you smoke will also be discussed.
If you have ‘high risk’ factors, for example a family history of a disease, it may be more likely that you will develop a particular disease. Regular check-ups may help your doctor pick up early warning signs. Other early warning signs of disease include high blood pressure.
Health care at home
Health checks and staying well should be part of your regular routine. This will help you stay healthy and pick up potential problems early. Things you can do at home include:
- Skin checks – you should check your skin every three months for unusual moles or freckles. See your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Men at high risk need regular examination by their doctor or dermatologist.
- Dental care – you can reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss if you clean your teeth regularly, eat a low sugar diet and visit the dentist at least once a year.
- Testicle checks – from puberty onwards you should check regularly for unusual thickenings or lumps in the testicles. See your doctor if you are concerned.
Heart health checks
Health checks for heart disease may include:
- Blood pressure – have your blood pressure checked every two years if your blood pressure is normal and there is no family history of high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is on the high side or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack, it’s best to have it checked more frequently. Be advised by your doctor.
- Blood tests – these check cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides. High levels may indicate an increased risk of various health problems including heart disease. If you’re over 45, you should have these blood tests once every five years. If you’re at high risk of cardiovascular disease and have a family history, you should be tested every year from age 40.
- Obesity tests – being overweight is a significant risk factor in many health conditions including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist measurement every two years.
Tests for diabetes include the fasting blood sugar level test. This involves measuring the amount of glucose in the blood after you haven’t eaten for a while. Depending on your risk level, you will need to be tested annually or once every three years. Men at higher risk of type 2 diabetes include:
- Those over 45 years who are obese or have high blood pressure
- Those who have had angina, a heart attack or stroke
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men aged over 35 years
- Pacific Islander men
- Those with a family history of diabetes, who should be checked every year after they turn 40.
There are still some disagreements among experts on some elements of prostate cancer screening, so discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. If you’re over 50, an annual digital prostate examination may be recommended. This means the doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into your anus to feel for changes to the prostate gland.
The prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test is not recommended as a screening test for the general population. A positive PSA blood test must be confirmed with the digital test and other tests including a biopsy of the prostate.
If you have a family history of any type of cancer, including prostate cancer, you may need to have a PSA and digital test regularly after you turn 40. Ask your doctor for advice.
The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) uses chemicals to check a stool sample for blood. If you’re over 50 you should have this test once every two years or after you turn 40 if you have a family history.
Men at high risk of bowel cancer may need a colonoscopy every five years. During this test, the doctor inserts a slender instrument called a colonoscope through the anus to visually check the rectum and large bowel for any abnormalities.
Eyesight tends to deteriorate with age. It’s recommended that:
- Men aged between 50 and 65 years should have a general eye examination every five years.
- Men aged over 65 years should have an eye examination once a year.
- Every man over 40 years should have regular eye examinations. One condition that an optometrist can test for is glaucoma. This is a serious eye condition characterised by high fluid pressure within the eyeball. Men at increased risk should be tested for glaucoma at an earlier age. Risk factors include family history, diabetes, prior eye injury, high blood pressure or use of steroids.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes thinning of the bones. Osteoporosis can affect men as well as women. Advancing age is a significant risk factor. A bone density test helps to determine the health of your bones. Bone density testing is most often used when people have:
- Osteoporosis or concerns about osteoporosis
- A vertebral (spinal) deformity
- Osteopaenia (decreased bone density)
- A previous fracture.
You may need other regular tests not listed here depending on your personal or family medical history. Ask your doctor for further information.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Eye specialist
Things to remember
- Men should see their doctor for regular medical check-ups.
- Screening tests help doctors to detect many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers in their early stages.
- A man at high risk of a particular disease should be regularly tested regardless of his age.