Men have a lower life expectancy than women. Live a longer, healthier, happier life by going for regular health checks.
Around the globe, the month of November has been dedicated to men’s health and to commemorate this, November has been unofficially renamed, Movember. When it comes to the state of health for men, the Movember Organisation reveals that, 12.1 percent of men who are 18 and above, have fair health at best and many suffer from poor health.
Closer to home, the World Health Organisation published data in 2011 that shows the life expectancy of Malaysian men is 71.7 whereas for Malaysian women, it’s 76.4. That’s a difference of almost five years!
As a man, health checks may not seem like the most important task on your list. You’re busy building a career, looking after a growing family or simply enjoying your life so why bother? The truth is, health checks are absolutely critical. Many potentially life-threatening health issues can be brought to light before they become serious, if you go in for regular health checks.
So, when was the last time you went for a health check? Do you know what your numbers are when it comes to your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels? Urban Health takes you through the decades to discover the different types of health checks you should go for.
It is important to know the exact health checks you should go for, at different times in your life. When you’re in your twenties, you may not be required to undergo the same list of health checks as a man in his fifties.
Your 20s and 30s
Blood pressure check
Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. You can do this at any clinic and most pharmacies in Malaysia. The results of the check will reveal two numbers which are the systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) numbers. The former measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats and the latter measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is at rest, between beats. A normal and healthy blood pressure reading is more than 120/80 and less than 140/90. If your blood pressure reading is worrying, your doctor might advise you to have more frequent checks.
Your cholesterol levels can be checked with a simple blood test called a lipid profile. A cholesterol reading will be able to tell you the amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in your blood. An unhealthy cholesterol level is linked to heart diseases. The ideal total cholesterol reading should be less than 180mg/dL. Your doctor might suggest treatment options or ways to reduce unhealthy levels of cholesterol if it is found to be high.
If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is more than 25, you are overweight and your doctor may suggest a diabetes screening. As with cholesterol, you will need to have a blood test to measure your blood glucose levels. Diabetes is labelled as the ‘mother of all diseases’. Get yourself tested if you are overweight or have a family history of diabetes.
When you’re in your twenties and thirties, you’re advised to go for an eye exam every two years. You are unlikely to have eye diseases such as glaucoma, at this stage of life. However, eye diseases do affect a small percentage of men your age. Make a trip to an ophthalmologist for regular eye health screening or if you experience any problems with your vision.
Visit a dentist every six months for a routine dental checkup and cleaning. Did you know that poor oral health is linked to heart disease? A study published on WebMD, which was conducted by researchers from Northwestern University, found that people with poor oral health, have higher chances of a heart attack.
Screening for infectious diseases
Depending on your lifestyle, you may need to undergo screenings for infectious diseases. This can include infections such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), syphilis and Chlamydia.
Your 40s, 50s and Beyond
Blood pressure check
Have your blood pressure checked annually if your blood pressure is normal. If your blood pressure is higher or lower than normal, your doctor might advise you to purchase a blood pressure monitor so you can conduct regular checks at home. Medication may also be prescribed to manage your blood pressure.
If you eat a lot of fatty food, you may be at risk of suffering from high cholesterol. There are no symptoms of high cholesterol. The only way to find out if your cholesterol level is normal, is to get yourself tested. So, be sure to get tested regularly as uncontrolled levels of high cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and angina (plaque buildup in your arteries which can affect your body’s oxygen supply)
If you have a family history of heart disease your doctor will suggest that you undergo a test called electrocardiogram (ECG). ECG is a diagnostic tool that is used to assess your heart health. If you are healthy, you should get your heart checked every five years. However, if you have an existing medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease, you may need to undergo more frequent heart health checks based on your doctor’s advice.
If you are over the age of 45, you should get yourself screened for diabetes every three years. However, if you are overweight, ask your doctor if you should be screened for this disease more frequently.
Colon cancer screening
If you have a family history of colon cancer or have several risk factors such as polyps and inflammatory bowel disease, your doctor will recommend a colon cancer screening even if you are under the age of 50. If you have no family history, your doctor may recommend a colon cancer screening when you turn 50. A colon cancer screening usually involves a stool test and a colonoscopy.
As you get older, you are at a higher risk of having eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Make a trip to your ophthalmologist for an annual eye examination. However, if you have sudden blurry vision or see ’floaters’ which are spots in front of your eyes that affect your vision, you should make an immediate visit to an ophthalmologist to get your eyes checked.
If you have been on steroids for a long time, if you smoke and if you have a family history of osteoporosis, you should be screened. A Bone Densitometry (DEXA) scan calculates your bone density and your doctor will be able to tell if you are at risk for this disease.
If you are above 50, go for a prostate examination. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, go for an examination at 45. This is because having a family history of prostate cancer puts you at a much higher risk.
Lung cancer is number one on the list of cancers affecting Malaysians. A lung cancer screening is recommended for men aged above 50. Based on the results, your doctor will tell you about your risks of contracting lung cancer, taking into account other key aspects such as your lifestyle and family history. He will also let you know about the ideal time for your next screening. If you are a smoker and/or have a family history of lung cancer, it is best to go for a screening around the age of 45.
Going for regular health checks even when you’re feeling healthy, will give you valuable information about your health. With the right health screenings at the right time, you have a much better chance of successfully protecting yourself against deadly diseases.
Testicular cancers can be detected at a very early stage. Conducting a regular self-examination can help you detect abnormalities in your testicles. Here’s how you can conduct a testicular self-examination:
- Hold your penis out of the way and check one testicle at a time
- With both hands, hold a testicle between your thumbs and fingers
- Then, gently roll it between your fingers
- Feel for hard lumps or bumps. You should also look out for changes in size, shape and texture of your testicles
It is best to conduct a testicular self-examination every month. Try to do it in the shower, as this is when the skin on your scrotum is relaxed, which is when it is loose and soft. When the muscles of your scrotum are tense, the skin tends to be wrinkled, making it more difficult for you to identify any abnormalities during a testicular self-examination.
Did you know?
If you are married, you may want to thank your wife for persuading you to make that trip to the doctor’s office. A Harvard study found that married men are healthier than bachelors, widowers or men who are divorced.