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HomeYour HealthManaging Your HealthHealthy LivingMen’s health checks: What, why and whenMen’s health checks: What, why and when

Published on June 1, 2023
Authored by Pfizer Medical Team

Men's health often takes a backseat due to various reasons, including societal expectations, busy schedules, and a reluctance to seek medical assistance. However, overlooking regular health checks can have consequences. The significance of health checks for men cannot be stressed enough, as they serve as a proactive measure to identify potential health issues, prevent serious conditions, and ultimately ensure a healthier life. In this article, we will dive into 2 important areas:

1. Why men should prioritise regular health checks and the positive impact they can have on overall well-being
2. The types of recommended health checks for men – what, why, and when 

Why should men prioritise regular health checks?

Early Detection of Health Issues:

Regular health checks provide an opportunity for early detection of potential health problems.1 Some diseases, including cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and certain cancers, can develop silently without obvious symptoms in the early stages of disease progression. By undergoing routine screenings, such as blood pressure measurements, cholesterol tests, and prostate examinations, men can detect potential problems before they become more serious or advanced.1 Early intervention and treatment can improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications, enabling men to maintain their quality of life.
 

Prevention and Risk Assessment:

Health checks not only detect existing health issues but can also help in preventing future problems. Regular visits to a medical clinic allow men to assess their overall health and identify potential risk factors associated with their lifestyle, family history, and age.1 With this information and in partnership with their health professional, they can make informed decisions about adopting healthier habits, such as improving their diet, increasing physical activity, managing stress levels, and avoiding harmful behaviours like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. Such preventive measures can effectively reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions and promote better long-term health outcomes. 2
 

Mental Health Awareness:

Health checks extend beyond physical well-being; they encompass mental health as well. Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders, are prevalent among men but often go unnoticed and untreated.3 Regular check-ups provide an opportunity for men to discuss their mental health concerns with healthcare professionals who can offer appropriate guidance, support, and necessary referrals to specialists if required.
 

Monitoring Lifestyle-Related Conditions:

Regular health checks help monitor lifestyle-related conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels and enables healthcare professionals to prescribe diet and lifestyle changes, and/or treatment when needed.1 Through screenings and discussions with medical professionals, men can gain valuable insights into healthy weight management, dietary adjustments, exercise routines, and stress management techniques.
 

Building a Strong Doctor-Patient Relationship:

By prioritising health checks, men can establish a strong doctor-patient relationship, which plays a pivotal role in their overall health journey. Regular check-ups create an opportunity for open and honest communication, allowing men to discuss any concerns, ask questions, and seek professional advice tailored to their specific needs. Trusting relationships with healthcare providers promote better compliance with recommended treatments, improve health literacy, and enhance overall health outcomes.

What are some types of health checks men should talk to their doctor about and when to take action?

1. Blood Pressure Measurement

Blood pressure is a vital indicator of cardiovascular health and can provide valuable information about the functioning of the heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often referred to as a "silent killer" because people don't feel any symptoms, until their blood pressure rises to a very high level. When left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to severe conditions such as heart disease and stroke.4 By regularly monitoring of blood pressure levels, individuals can detect abnormalities early on and take appropriate measures to manage or prevent the development of these serious health issues. 


When should I have my blood pressure measured and how often? 

In Australia, it is recommended that men have their blood pressure measured at least every 2 years, starting from the age of 18.5 More frequent monitoring may be necessary if there are additional risk factors or a family history of high blood pressure. Learn more about how to monitor your blood pressure by clicking here.

2. Cholesterol Testing

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood that is essential for various bodily functions. However, when levels of certain types of cholesterol, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, become elevated, it can build up in the arteries, forming plaques. Plaque build up causes the inside of the arteries to narrow over time and reduce blood flow.6 This increases the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

By undergoing cholesterol tests, individuals can monitor their cholesterol levels and identify potential abnormalities early on. This allows for timely intervention through lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, or medications, if necessary, to manage cholesterol levels and prevent the progression of cardiovascular diseases.6 Additionally, cholesterol testing is crucial for individuals with a family history of high cholesterol, those with existing heart conditions, and those with risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure. 
 

When should I take a cholesterol test and how often? 

In Australia, it is recommended that men have their cholesterol levels checked every 5 years, starting from the age of 45 in adults with no risk factors for heart disease.6 However, individuals with risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease may require more frequent testing – talk to your doctor for more information. 

3. Blood glucose testing

Blood glucose, or blood sugar, refers to the amount of glucose or sugar present in the bloodstream, which serves as the primary source of energy for the body's cells. Abnormal blood glucose levels can indicate the presence of type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.7 Monitoring blood glucose levels through regular testing helps individuals with type 2 diabetes to manage their condition effectively by making necessary adjustments to their diet, regular physical activity, and weight management in addition to taking prescribed anti-diabetic medications.8 For healthy individuals, blood glucose testing can provide valuable information about their risk of developing type 2 diabetes down the road. 

Blood glucose testing is crucial for individuals with a family history of type 2 diabetes, those who are overweight or obese, and those with other risk factors such as high blood pressure.7 By undergoing regular blood glucose tests, individuals can stay on top of their health, take appropriate measures to manage their blood glucose levels, and reduce the risk of developing the conditions and diabetes-related complications such as heart disease, kidney problems, and nerve damage.9
 

When should I take a blood glucose test and how often? 

In Australia, it is recommended that men consider screening for type 2 diabetes every 3 years from the age of 40.10 However, earlier, and more frequent screening may be recommended for men with risk factors such as, those with high blood pressure or those with a family history.

4. Prostate Health Checks

The prostate is a small gland located below the bladder and plays a vital role in the reproductive system. Prostate health checks typically involve screenings such as a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.11 These tests help detect potential abnormalities or signs of prostate conditions, such as prostate cancer. Men at high risk of prostate cancer, include men with a family history of prostate cancer, or those who had an elevated PSA result in their previous test.12 For those who are at high risk, early detection of prostate cancer is particularly important, as it allows for early intervention and improved chances of successful treatment outcomes.11
 

When should I get a prostate health check and how often? 

It is recommended that men discuss the potential benefits and limitations of prostate cancer screening with their doctor. Shared decision-making based on individual circumstances is crucial in determining the appropriate screening strategy. If a prostate check is suggested, following the Australian guidelines, a test should be done every 2 years, starting from the age of 50.12

5. Bowel Cancer Screening

Regular bowel cancer screening can help identify precancerous polyps or detect cancer at an early stage. Some screening methods can include faecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or colonoscopy. 13 These screenings can detect blood in the stool or abnormal growths in the colon or rectum that may indicate the presence of cancer or pre-cancerous conditions. By undergoing bowel cancer screening, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of developing advanced-stage bowel cancer. Did you know that 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully if found early - bowel cancer screening is crucial for early detection and prevention.13 Importantly, the risk of bowel cancer increases with age.14 Regular screenings can save lives by identifying bowel cancer in its early stages or preventing its development altogether through the removal of precancerous polyps.13
 

When should I take a bowel cancer test and how often? 

In Australia, it is recommended that men consider regular bowel cancer screenings from the age of 50+ or earlier if they are at higher risk of bowel cancer (e.g. family history).13 Even if there is no family history, it is still a good idea to screen for bowel cancer in people aged 50-74 which can help find any signs of changes in the colon and detect cancer early.15 For many people, screening for bowel cancer is a simple, at-home test – The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program offers free tests in the mail for people aged 50-74 years.15 

6. Mental Health Check-in

A mental health check-in, also known as a mental health screen or assessment, is a process that helps identify potential signs, symptoms, or risk factors associated with mental health conditions. It is typically a brief questionnaire or interview conducted by a healthcare professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or GP.16 These screenings can cover various areas, including mood, anxiety, stress levels, sleep patterns, and overall mental health functioning. The results of a mental health screening can guide healthcare providers in making informed decisions about diagnosis, treatment options, and appropriate referrals to mental health specialists if needed.16 It is important to note that mental health screenings are not diagnostic tools but serve as an initial step in assessing an individual's mental health and providing appropriate care and support.
 

When should I get a mental health check-in and how often? 

In Australia, regular mental health assessments are recommended for individuals of all ages. Regular check-ins provide an opportunity to discuss mental health concerns and seek appropriate support if needed. 

Summary:

The importance of health checks for men cannot be understated. Regular health checks are crucial for men to maintain optimal well-being and prevent potential health issues. By following the recommended screenings based on Australian guidelines, men can detect conditions early, receive timely interventions, and improve their overall health. It is essential to consult with your doctor to personalise the screening schedule based on your circumstances and risk factors. By prioritising preventive care, you can take control of your health and maintain, or even enhance your quality of life. Remember, your health is your most valuable asset, so invest in it by scheduling regular health checks.
 

References

  1. Better Health Channel, Regular Health Checks. 2023; Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/regular-health-checks. Accessed 3 June 2023.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How can you prevent chronic diseases. 2023; Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/prevent/index.htm. Accessed 3 June 2023.
  3. Better Health Channel, Anxiety and Depression in Men. 2023; Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/anxiety-and-depression-in-men. Accessed 3 June 2023.
  4. Heart Foundation, Blood pressure and your heart. 2023; Available from: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/Bundles/Your-heart/Blood-pressure-and-your-heart. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  5. Health Direct, High blood pressure (hypertension). 2023; Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/high-blood-pressure-hypertension. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  6. Pathology Tests Explained, LDL cholesterol. 2023; Available from: https://pathologytestsexplained.org.au/learning/test-index/ldl. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  7. Medline Plus, Blood glucose test. 2023. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/blood-glucose-test/. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  8. Better Health Channel, Diabetes and healthy eating. 2023; Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/diabetes-and-healthy-eating. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  9. Better Health Channel, Diabetes - long-term effects. 2023; Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/diabetes-long-term-effects. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  10. Screening for Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. 2023. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK574060/. Accessed 3 June 2023.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, What is Screening for Prostate Cancer? 2023; Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/screening.htm. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  12. Better Health Channel, Prostate cancer testing. 2023; Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/prostate-cancer-testing. Accessed 4 June 2023. 
  13. Cancer Council, A guide to: Bowel cancer screening. 2023; Available from: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/early-detection-and-screening/bowel-cancer-screening. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  14. Bowel Cancer Australia, Bowel Cancer Facts. 2023; Available from: https://www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/facts. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  15. Better Health Channel, Bowel Cancer Screening. 2023. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/bowel-cancer-screening. Accessed 30 May 2023.
  16. Beyond Blue, Mental health check-in. 2023; Available from: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/mental-health/mental-health-check-in-k10. Accessed 30 May 2023.

External Resources

-Better Health Channel – Health checks for men
-Health direct – Essential screening tests for men
-Cancer Council – Get Checked – Men
-Mental Health - Beyond Blue

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