June is Men’s Health Month!
Going to the doctor isn’t exactly a picture of summer fun, especially when there’s nothing “wrong.” But visiting your general physician only when you’re sick is a mistake that could lead to bigger health issues. June is Men’s Health Month, so we’re shining a spotlight on five health exams every man should get this year. Making an appointment for a routine health exam and lab work allows your doctor to discover any warning signs of underlying health issues.
A cholesterol reading – conducted through a blood test – measures HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and LDL (the bad”). It also measures the triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood. These elements form your total cholesterol reading. Unlike other health issues, high cholesterol doesn’t necessarily have obvious symptoms. High cholesterol means your arteries contain an unhealthy amount of plaque, which puts you at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Cholesterol test levels (milligrams per deciliter):
- Borderline—200 to 239 (mg/dl)
- High – 240 (mg/dL)
- Normal—199 (mg/dL or below)
Your general physician may recommend changes to your diet, exercise or medication if your reading is too high. If your cholesterol is normal, you likely won’t need another test for five years.
Blood Pressure Reading
Blood pressure has a new definition: 130/80 milligrams of mercury (mm Hg) or higher. This test is vital because there are no symptoms, and if high blood pressure is left untreated, you’re at an increased risk for a stroke or heart attack.
This is one of the simpler test performed by your general physician, only requiring a cuff that tightens around your arm so the doctor can listen to your heartbeat while there’s pressure on your arteries. It takes less than a minute and is pretty painless.
Eating healthy, regular exercise and medication (when needed) are ways to keep your blood pressure in check. It’s a good idea to have your blood pressure checked during each routine health exam, and every three to six months if you have a high reading.
Skin Cancer Screening
Skin cancer affects 1 in 5 Americans, and while there’s no recommendation of how often you should be tested, an annual routine health exam with your dermatologist will help spot questionable growths early on. Your general physician can help you determine if you’re at an increased risk for skin cancer.
Testicular Cancer Exam
Your general physician will explain that most cancers aren’t a major threat to men until their mid-40s and 50s, but testicular cancer is different. Half of testicular cancers occur in men ages 20 to 34. While no guidelines exist on how often men should get screened for this cancer, most doctors recommend getting screened during your routine health exam each year. It’s a painless test. Your doctor will feel your testicles for signs of tenderness, swelling, or lumps.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you get tested for human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, each year. Even if you don’t share needles or you’re in a monogamous relationship, it’s worth getting tested. Some general physician offices will take a blood test, while others swab the inside of your mouth.
Let June serve as a reminder to the importance of men’s health. Take the time to schedule these routine health exams and tests to preserve your good health.