When it comes to your lifespan, the last thing you want is to cut it short by skipping simple health tests. Yet men and women don't appear to have the same opinion on this. In fact, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, women were 24 percent more likely than men to have visited a doctor during the past year [source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality].
Perhaps you're wondering what the big deal is? Maybe these women are wasting their time? But statistics show that women tend to have about 10 extra years on their projected lifespan than men, which tells us they're doing something right [source: Becker, Hecker].
So if you are a man seeking to snag those extra years back, the first thing you can do is borrow from a woman's to-do list. Visit the doctor, and get those much-needed health tests. Read on to learn about five tests that can alert you to precautions you need to take -- or send you back on your merry way with peace of mind.
BMI and Waist Circumference
Putting aside vanity or any preconceived notions of what a person should or shouldn't look like, maintaining a healthy weight is a lifesaver. In fact, keeping your weight in check helps lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke [source: Mayo Clinic]. Even if you don't care about any other reasons to maintain a healthy weight, this should do it for you.
So how do you determine if you are a healthy weight? Have your BMI -- body mass index -- and waist circumference measured. BMI is an indicator of your body fat achieved through a calculation using your weight and height. Different BMIs indicate whether you're underweight, normal, overweight or obese. You can run the calculation online at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Web site.
In addition to BMI, Cathy Becker and Raquel Hecker for ABC News suggest pulling out a tape measure and letting your waist circumference give you an idea if the weight you are carrying around your middle is an issue. A measurement of more than 40 inches could indicate increased risk for heart disease [source: Becker, Hecker].
Your cholesterol level is a real-life example of "good cop vs. bad cop." Good cholesterol -- known as HDL -- can help keep down your risk of heart attack and stroke, while bad cholesterol -- known as LDL -- can contribute to heart disease. Lifestyle choices, such as proper nutrition and regular exercise can help you pump up your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and lower your LDL (the low-density variety) [source: American Heart Association].
So what's the best way to know if you need to examine your lifestyle choices or take precautions against high levels of LDL? Get your cholesterol tested. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality advises all men 35 and older to have their cholesterol checked. That said, the agency alerts men who have other health issues to get checked at age 20 and above. Examples of these issues include tobacco use, high blood pressure, diabetes, history of heart disease or a male family member who had a heart attack before 50 or a female family member who had a heart attack before 60. Consult with your doctor on how frequently you need to get tested [source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality].
If you are the competitive type and like a good challenge between friends, the one thing you don't want to score high on is your blood pressure. A blood pressure measurement tells you how much force is put on your arteries' walls when your heart sends blood pumping through your body. A high score, also known as hypertension, can lead to a variety of health care challenges. In fact, the National Center for Biotechnology Information cites the following examples of possible complications of high blood pressure:
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart attack
- Vision loss
- Brain damage
- Blood vessel damage
Just how often should you have your blood pressure checked? The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends having it checked starting at 18 and then every two years thereafter [source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality].
In 2007, there were 142,672 people with a diagnosis of colorectal cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's a lot of people. In fact, the CDC goes on to say that it's the second deadliest cancer for the nation. However, perhaps the most difficult statistic to take is that if regular screenings became the societal norm, we could save up to 60 percent of those cancer patients [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].
So who should be screened? According to Richard Sine for WebMD, if you are older than 50, it's time to talk to your doctor about being screened for colorectal cancer. In addition, Sine says that you may need to consider being screened earlier if you are at increased risk for the disease. Increased risks include having inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of cancer or growths in the rectum or colon (also known as colorectal polyps) [source: Sine].
Unfortunately, one of the leading threats to men is themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide ranks as a major risk to a man's health and well-being. One of the main risk factors that places it on this list is depression [source: Mayo Clinic].
Where we are often looking for a concrete source of an ailment -- say, obesity or tobacco use -- sometimes, the most difficult challenges are those we can't actually see on the surface. However, depression and mental health issues are authentic concerns. The good news is that they are also treatable.
Speak with your doctor about an evaluation for depression if you think you have any symptoms of this illness. Examples from the National Institute of Mental Health include:
- Always feeling anxious or sad
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Having suicidal thoughts
- Lacking energy
- Having emotions related to guilt, helplessness, hopelessness
Ready to schedule that checkup now? There's lots more information on the next page.
HowStuffWorks looks at a study linking time spent with childhood friends with improved outcomes in men's health.
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "Healthy Men." (Feb. 14, 2011) http://www.ahrq.gov/healthymen/
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "Men: Stay Healthy at 50+." May 2008. (Feb. 11, 2011) http://www.ahrq.gov/ppip/men50.htm
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "Men: Stay Healthy at Any Age." Sept. 2010. (Feb. 11, 2011) http://www.ahrq.gov/ppip/healthymen.htm
- American Heart Association. "About Cholesterol." (Feb. 21, 2011) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/About-Cholesterol_UCM_001220_Article.jsp
- Becker, Cathy and Hecker, Raquel. "Top Five Crucial Medical Tests for Men." ABC News. July 15, 2009. (Feb. 14, 2011)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Colorectal (Colon) Cancer." (Feb. 23, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/index.htm
- Davis, Bets, MFA. "Testosterone." WebMD. May 29, 2008. (Feb. 14, 2011) http://men.webmd.com/testosterone-15738
- FamilyDoctor.org. "Preventive Services for Healthy Living." Feb. 2010. (Feb. 14, 2011) http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/healthy-living/preventive-services-for-healthy-living.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Men's health. Preventing the top 7 threats." Feb. 5, 2011. (Feb. 14, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mens-health/MC00013
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Hypertension." July 29, 2010. (Feb. 22, 2011)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001502
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. "Calculate Your Body Mass Index." (Feb. 20, 2011)http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
- National Institute of Mental Health. "Symptoms of Depression and Mania." Jan. 21, 2009. (Feb. 23, 2011)http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/symptoms-of-depression-and-mania.shtml
- Sine, Richard. "Men's Health Tune-Up Schedule: Medical Tests." WebMD. March 24, 2008. (Feb. 14, 2011) http://men.webmd.com/guide/mens-health-tuneup-schedule-medical-tests
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Screening Tests and Immunizations Guidelines for Men." March 18, 2010. (Feb. 20, 2011)http://www.womenshealth.gov/prevention/men/men.pdf