The stats around men’s health are sobering. Men die an average of 4.5 years earlier than women — and for largely preventable reasons, according to Movember, a nonprofit dedicated to changing the face of men’s health. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 13.2% of men and 18 older are in fair or poor health.
Despite all that, several studies show that men are less likely than women to seek medical care. To help raise awareness and inspire positive change, we mark Men’s Health Month each June. It’s designed to encourage men and boys to take proactive steps to improve their health. That starts with staying on top of routine care.
“Annual wellness visits are vital to maintaining good health and can help prevent serious health conditions,” says Dr. Scott Hetzel, an internal medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Berlin. “These medical checkups are opportunities to take a comprehensive look at a person’s health, identify any potential health issues, and help an individual make lifestyle changes that can prevent serious illness or injury.”
According to the CDC, the leading causes of death for men in the United States are heart disease, cancer, COVID-19, accidents and stroke.
“Some of these are largely preventable or treatable conditions, which means making time for your health — regular checkups, screenings and lifestyle adjustments — is important,” Dr. Hetzel says.
Other top health concerns for men include diabetes, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and depression.
“Making lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and managing stress can go a long way in preventing these conditions, especially heart disease,” Dr. Hetzel says. “Our care teams are here to help men understand the importance of focusing on their health.”
The Wellness Visit
During a wellness visit, your provider will check your vital signs, review your medical history and perform a physical exam. Practitioners also will make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations, ask questions about alcohol and tobacco use, screen for some conditions, and offer healthy lifestyle tips.
Providers also may recommend additional screenings, which can detect health problems early, when they are most treatable. Common wellness visit screenings include:
- Blood pressure: High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Get your blood pressure checked at least once every two years, or more often if you have risk factors such as a high-stress lifestyle.
- Cholesterol: High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Men over the age of 35 should have their cholesterol checked at least once every five years, or more often if they have risk factors such as a high-fat diet.
- Mental health: Depression, anxiety and mood disorders are common mental health issues for men, especially following the pandemic. It’s often more difficult for men than women to admit they’re struggling with mental health issues. Providers want to remind men that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
During a wellness visit, your primary care provider may also recommend cancer screenings, including:
- Skin cancer: This is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Men are at a higher risk for the disease. Recent statistics show 60% of all melanoma deaths occurred white men over the age of 50. A screening can help detect abnormal growths or changes in moles that could signal skin cancer.
- Prostate cancer: This is the most common cancer among men. Talk with your physician about whether the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is right for you and at what age you should begin screening. It could be as early as 40 or as late as 50, based on family history or other risk factors.
- Colorectal cancer: This is the fourth-most common cancer in men. Rates of the disease are increasing among younger men. Most men who are at an average risk for colon cancer should begin regular screenings at age 45. A colonoscopy can detect precancerous polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer, which doctors can treat more effectively. Other non-invasive options are available for men who are considered low-risk.
- Lung cancer: Smoking remains the leading cause of lung cancer. For men who are at high risk of developing the disease, particularly those who have smoked more than 30 years, doctors can use a new low-dose CT scan to detect lung cancers early.
Men should also do monthly self-exams to detect any changes or abnormalities in their testicles, especially if they are between the ages of 15 and 35. Contact your health care provider if you notice any changes or lumps.
Dr. Hetzel hopes men feel empowered to take a proactive approach to their health.
“Many of the most common diseases can be controlled or mitigated if caught early, and many are asymptomatic in their early stages,” he says. “By scheduling a wellness visit and staying on top of screenings, you can catch potential health problems early and take action before they become serious.”