PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Men: When Was Your Last Checkup?

Posted on Jun 5, 2011

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention statistics, U.S. men on average live six years less than women and are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and injuries. They are also less likely than women to have health insurance or seek preventive care.

June is Men’s Health Month, which means that now is a perfect time to talk about the important medical tests every man should have.

The belief that men will only grudgingly schedule a doctor’s appointment when something is perceptibly wrong is not just a stereotype. Studies have shown that men really are less likely to see a doctor for routine physical exams than women.

The problem with the wait-until-you-feel-ill approach to seeing a doctor is that there are a variety of diseases affecting men that have no or few symptoms in their early stages, when they are easier to treat. When men skip routine preventive care and testing, they are putting themselves at risk for more serious health problems in the future.

The number one test every man should get is a full physical exam. During a physical exam, your doctor will screen you for underlying health conditions you may be unaware you have and assess your risk of developing certain medical problems in the future. You will have your blood pressure checked, and depending on your age and other health risk factors, your doctor may collect blood and urine for additional testing.

Other important tests include:

  • monitoring your cholesterol level
  • screening for sexually transmitted diseases
  • assessing your kidney and thyroid function
  • checking for diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Depending on your individual risk factors, your doctor may also order certain screening tests for cancer. Cancer is a good example of a disease that typically is most treatable in its early stage before a patient feels ill. A physical exam will include checking for cancer risk factors, such as a family history of cancer or a smoking habit. Make sure to ask your doctor to show you how to perform your own testicular, skin, oral and breast self exams at home between check ups.

Your doctor will check for coronary heart disease (the cause of heart attacks) risk factors such as high blood pressure (hypertension), age, smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol,  stress,  alcohol use,  a poor diet,  a sedentary lifestyle and genetic factors (your family history). If you have high blood pressure and your doctor thinks you may be at risk of developing heart disease, he or she will likely order a cardiac health assessment test such as an electrocardiogram (EKG).

Kourosh Yamouti, M.D.This blog post is contributed by Kourosh Yamouti, M.D., a board-certified internal medicine physician who sees patients at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s West Valley Center in San Jose.