Lets face it, getting old sucks. In my 20’s, I could party all night long and still function at work the next morning on 2 hours of sleep. But now that I’m in my mid-40’s, I need a solid 8 hours of sleep, or else I’m a zombie. Not to mention the random aches and pains that come out of nowhere, like “sleeping wrong” and waking up with a stiff neck.
That said, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you stay in tip-top shape, even as you move into your 40’s and beyond, including eating right, exercising regularly, and making sure that you get enough sleep. But you also need to watch out for those silent killers, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, and others.
As such, it’s imperative that you visit your doctor every year for a physical, and talk with them about getting any necessary health screening tests to head off any potential complications or diseases before they’re too far gone. Yeah, as guys, we don’t like going to the doctor. But these tests could honestly be the difference between life and death!
Here are some essential screening tests that you should ask your doctor about:
Did you know that prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer for men (after skin cancer), and that 1 in 6 men in the US will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his life? What’s more, prostate cancer is often accompanied by zero symptoms. It tends to be a slow-growing cancer, but there are also aggressive, fast-growing types of prostate cancer.
The good news is that prostate cancer is typically treatable, though early detection is key. As such, if you have a higher risk for prostate cancer, such as being African American or having a first-degree relative (father, brother or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer, you should talk with your doctor about getting a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE).
One of the first things a doctor will do during a routine visit is check your blood pressure. But if you haven’t seen a doctor in awhile, you might not know if your blood pressure has risen or not. Gone untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure, or even an aneurysm. The risk for high blood pressure increases with age, and it’s also related to weight and lifestyle.
Given that high blood pressure runs in my family, I invested in a blood pressure monitor and check my blood pressure regularly. Most pharmacies also have a machine where you can check your blood pressure for free. You’re looking for a reading of 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. If it’s high, work with your doctor to manage it.
High cholesterol affects over 3 million people in the U.S. per year, and gone untreated can lead to heart attacks and heart disease, as a high level of LDL cholesterol in the blood can limit how easily your blood flows through your body. So it’s important for men 35 years or older to have their cholesterol tested as part of a routine blood test.
Thankfully, lifestyle changes and medications can reduce this “bad” cholesterol and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Yeah, you might have to cut back on fried chicken or greasy burgers if you’ve got high cholesterol. But trust me, it’s better than the alternative.
One-third of Americans with diabetes don’t even know they have it. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness from damage to the blood vessels of the retina, nerve damage, and impotence. Luckily, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy body weight and sticking to a good diet can help keep the disease at bay.
If the disease runs in your family, you’re overweight, or you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor about getting tested.
Black Panther star actor Chadwick Boseman recently died of colon cancer at just 43 years old, shining a light on this deadly cancer that’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in the U.S. That’s why it’s very important to get screened regular. If you have a strong family history of colon cancer or polyps, you may want to get screened early on.
Otherwise, most men should be screened for colorectal cancer between the ages of 50-75, and your physician can decide which test is right for you (eg. sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan, barium enema). I had a colonoscopy done before, and while the prep wasn’t all that fun, the procedure itself was a breeze.
As you can see, these screening tests can alert you to any impending issues, allowing you to head them off at the pass, whether through changes in your diet, exercise, or medication.
So what are you waiting for, pick up the phone and schedule a physical with your doctor if it’s been awhile since your last checkup. While nobody likes going to the doctor, it could be the difference between life and death. Stay on top of your health, and you can enjoy life well into your golden years.