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Kristen Nichols HeitmanThis is a guest post by Kristen Nichols Heitman, MPH, an epidemiologist in the Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the National Center for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She received a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology from Georgia State University.

Although Men’s Health Month may be over, we can still focus on ways to improve the health of the men in our lives all year round by encouraging them to seek regular and early healthcare. Compared to women, men are less likely to see their primary care provider for an annual checkup or to seek medical care when sick. This needs to change! To help, I’ve put together a list of five screenings men should have at least once a year.

1. Cholesterol

A blood test is the only way to screen for high cholesterol, which does not present any signs or symptoms. When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can build up on your artery walls, which puts you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. People with high cholesterol have about twice the risk of heart disease as people with lower levels. Lowering your cholesterol can reduce your risk of having a heart attack, needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty, and dying of heart disease. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking will help you prevent high cholesterol and reduce your levels.

2. Blood pressure

Often referred to as “the silent killer,” high blood pressure, or hypertension, has no warning signs or symptoms and many people do not know they have it. This is why it’s important for men of all ages to regularly measure their blood pressure to screen for high levels. High blood pressure can increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. You can check your blood pressure at a doctor’s office, a pharmacy or even at home. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication to help control it and prevent major health consequences. Maintaining a healthy body weight, staying physically active, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation and eating a low-sodium diet can help prevent or control high blood pressure.

3. Diabetes

Blood tests are the gold standard for measuring glucose levels to screen for diabetes. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing complications. If you are overweight, have high blood pressure, or have a family history of diabetes, you may be at increased risk of developing diabetes. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened for diabetes. Diabetes is treated with lifestyle changes, oral medication and insulin. Diabetes may be prevented by maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising moderately – 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

4. Colon cancer screening

Each year, 71,000 men are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, which is one of the most preventable cancers. When adults are regularly screened, colorectal disease can be prevented through the detection and removal of precancerous polyps. Regular screening can also detect cancer at an early stage when treatment is most effective and the costs are significantly less. Recently, the American Cancer Society changed their recommendations for screening by decreasing the age from 50 to 45 to screen earlier for colon cancer screening. People with an increased risk for colon cancer may need to start screening before age 45, be screened more often, and/or get specific tests.

Two common test options for colon cancer screening are:

  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), also known as a stool test (once a year)—uses chemicals or antibodies to detect blood in the stool. BioIQ offers this non-invasive test, which can be conducted at home.
  • Colonoscopy (once every ten years) – doctor uses a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers.

5. Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Some types are more common or deadly than others. Basal and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer and they make up more than 98% of all cases. They can be treated and rarely result in death—less than 0.1 percent of patient deaths are caused by basal and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancers. Research has shown that most skin cancers are detected by patients rather than by doctors. Learning how to perform a skin cancer self-exam monthly and when to notify your doctor about a suspicious mole or spot can decrease your risks of having significant problems with skin cancer. Skin checks with a dermatologist only take about 15 minutes and should be part of a regular annual health screening routine.

The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions.

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