Everyone knows that a baby-pink ribbon is for breast cancer awareness. But what about a baby-blue ribbon? Did you know it’s for prostate awareness?
Men’s health tends to take a back seat in our society. But men are just like women – when they put off doctor visits and health screenings, their whole families can suffer. That can mean preventable health care costs, chronic health problems, and even death. So in honor of Men’s Health Month, we’ve compiled five life- and money-saving health screenings for you or the men in your life…
1. Lipid screening
The Centers for Disease Control rank heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States, and the Mayo Clinic considers it the No. 1 threat to men in particular.
One of the best ways to prevent it is to monitor your lipid profile, a blood test that measures your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides. The worst part of the test? You have to fast the night before.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults over age 20 have their lipids tested once every five years. Adults over age 45 or with certain heart disease risk factors should be tested more often. If you don’t know when you were last tested, simply call your doctor and ask.
2. Prostate cancer screening
This screening can involve a blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific antigens (PSA). But it can also involve the dreaded rectal exam, which is quick but not pleasant.
Medical experts disagree about the benefits and frequency of these tests, but the American Cancer Society recommends that men talk to their doctor so they can make an informed decision starting at age 50, or if they have certain risk factors, age 45. (African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer are at a greater risk.)
3. Colorectal cancer screening
Men’s Health magazine calls colonoscopies The Health Test You Should Never Skip:
“Colorectal cancer trails only lung cancer and prostate cancer when it comes to killing American men. The good news is that this disease is frequently curable when discovered in its earliest stages.”
There are five ways to test for colorectal cancer. None make good meal-time conversation – they range from saving a stool sample so it can be tested for traces of blood (called a “fecal occult blood test”) to others that involve sticking things into your rectum. The most well-known of these is a colonoscopy, which involves a thin probe with a camera on the end.
The American Cancer Society suggests that adults be screened for colorectal cancer every five or 10 years starting at age 50 – or earlier if they have certain risk factors.
4. Hypertension (high blood pressure) screening
The don’t call it the silent killer for nothing. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and stroke – the fourth-leading cause of death.
But if detected early, hypertension is easily controlled with diet, exercise, or medication. The National Institutes of Health recommend that adults over age 18 check their blood pressure regularly. If you don’t see your doctor regularly, find a local pharmacy with a reliable, free blood-pressure machine and keep a log. Just make sure to consult your doctor if your blood pressure tops 120/80 – you may have hypertension or pre-hypertension.
5. Skin cancer screening
Men’s Health magazine calls this screening, which involves a dermatologist examining your skin for concerning spots, The 3-Minute Health Check Every Man Must Have. How often you should get screened depends on factors like how much time you spend outside and whether you have a history of skin cancer. But if you’ve never been screened, it’s time.
See a board-certified dermatologist (see The Right Way to Pick a Doctor) or check whether the American Academy of Dermatology offers its free skin cancer screenings in your area.
Karla Bowsher runs our deals page and covers consumer, retail, and health issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].
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