The beginning of a New Year has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. “Many men will commit to a fitness plan and to leading a healthier lifestyle,” said Dr. Muhammad Gul, Medical Director of Quabbin Adult Medicine. “But many won’t do what could be the most important part of this healthy plan; have a physical examination with their primary care provider.”
Many men often avoid visiting the doctor; they will religiously schedule maintenance on their car or truck, but not for themselves!
“No matter what your age, yearly physicals are important,” notes Dr. Gul. “While it’s true that doctors spend much of their time treating people who are already ill, many are focusing on preventing their patients’ health problems before they start. Having a physical examination and getting to know your primary care physician is important because it can not only help to identify problems early when they are quite treatable, but you will be more likely to talk comfortably to a doctor that you know and have a good relationship with,” said Dr. Gul.
“Although it may seem like “no big deal” at the time, ignoring annual physicals can be detrimental to your health,” said Dr. Gul, who suggests these important routine tests for men as part of their annual physical exam:
Blood Pressure-Heart disease is the number one health concern for men. Annual physicals include a blood pressure check to determine if you have hypertension. Hypertension or high blood pressure is easily treated, but it often has no symptoms, so your blood pressure can be dangerously high and you may not feel a thing.
Cholesterol Test-Your blood lipid levels, also known as a blood cholesterol test include a Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL and Triglyceride test. If you have high cholesterol, your physician will work closely with you to help you lower your cholesterol. Remember, heart disease is the number one killer of men.
Diabetes Screening- All men who are overweight and who have any other risk factors for diabetes, such as family history, high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure should be screened for pre-diabetes and diabetes. This test is very important for those men who also have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, because diabetes significantly raises their risk of having a heart attack.
Prostate Health- Your doctor will pay close attention to your prostate health. He will recommend a blood test known as a PSA test. He will also do an exam to check for hardening, enlargement, and lumps in the prostate gland that might indicate prostate cancer.
Colonoscopy- Starting at age 50, most doctors recommend a colonoscopy, a test in which a camera scans your colon for cancerous polyps. It is recommended you get tested earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if polyps are found. When caught early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable, but nearly half of all colorectal cancer cases are not caught until they have progressed to advanced stages.
Electrocardiogram-Also called an EKG or ECG, is a simple, painless test that records the heart's electrical activity. An EKG may be done as part of a routine health exam. The test can screen for early heart disease that has no symptoms. Your doctor is more likely to look for early heart disease if your mother, father, brother, or sister had heart disease-especially early in life.
Weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) Test- Your doctor will weigh you and check your BMI. A sudden, unexpected change in weight can be a sign of a medical problem. If you are overweight, or obese, your doctor will discuss a diet and exercise plan that is safe for you. If you are overweight or obese and have high cholesterol and hypertension, you have a triple threat for developing heart disease.
Immunizations- Your need for immunizations does not end when you reach adulthood. Depending on your age and health, you need to be immunized against tetanus and diphtheria. You may also need protection against influenza (flu), hepatitis, measles, rubella, chickenpox, or streptococcal (pneumococcal) pneumonia. Your doctor will consider your medical and immunization history when deciding which shots you need.
While you are at your annual physical, your doctor will also ask about smoking, and alcohol consumption, as well as how you are feeling emotionally. Your doctor will also talk to you about skin health and skin cancer.
“Many of the health problems that a man may face are things that can be changed, or prevented,” said Dr. Gul. “Men may have different medical questions and concerns at different ages, but what they need across their lifetime is a good primary care doctor who cares about them as a whole person.”