Annual Well-Check Visit Plays Vital Role In A Man’s Quality Of Life

Many health risks men face can be prevented, treated with early diagnosis

DAYTON, Ohio (May 13, 2013) – Women have historically been known to outlive men, but research has proven that men are quickly closing the gap when it comes to life expectancy, according to the National Institutes of Health. Despite that trend, men still have a responsibility to make preventative care a priority in their life and an annual checkup is the best starting point.

The frequency of a well-check visit is dependent on a man’s age, family history, presence of pre-existing health conditions, and amount of medications he is currently taking. The most important thing is that every male, regardless of his health or age, receive a baseline physical so that his physician knows where to go from there, said Gene Lease, MD, a Premier HealthNet physician who practices at Vandalia Medical Center.

“It would be nice if there was a cookbook that we looked at and said, ‘You should have this every so often,’ but even though we do have recommendations, it really depends on the individual,” Dr. Lease added. “For example, I’m even going to advise testing for someone who is really healthy, but has a family history where diabetes is very prominent, and is at risk.”

An annual well-check visit aims to establish a comprehensive picture of that man’s medical history, family history and current health. The primary care doctor will spend time talking to him about past surgeries, current allergies, medications (whether prescription, over-the-counter or herbal) and social history (including alcohol, tobacco and drug use). The physical exam usually obtains basic vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate and weight. Vision and hearing may be examined depending on concerns the patient might have. And urinalysis and blood work may be ordered to check for cholesterol, anemia, white blood count, blood sugar, lipids, and to see if there have been changes in the liver and kidney function.

Other health issues may be examined depending on the man’s age or family history. “At age 50, prostate exams begin as well as colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer. Meanwhile, younger men are encouraged to do testicular self-exams as testicular cancer is more likely to show up in a younger male than one who is 50 years of age or older. An EKG or chest X-ray may be ordered for men who have a family history of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Lease said.

Physical exams continually evolve as technology and research advance our approach to medicine. Dr. Lease said issues such as sexual health have become a more common conversation with his patients as media has increased its awareness. Questions about new medication for erectile dysfunction are more prevalent. He also tries to offer HIV testing at least once in adulthood (unless risk factors would need a need for more frequent testing). Men who have a history of smoking and are between the ages of 65 and 75 can often benefit from a screening ultrasound for aortic aneurysms, since they may not be easily detected during a physical exam.

Dr. Lease said men might be less likely than women to schedule an annual exam. Annual well-checks are, in part, built into women’s expectations growing up partly because of the importance of their visit to the gynecologist. Furthermore, men may live by the adage that “if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it.”

“There are many men who assume they are healthy because they don’t feel as if anything is wrong,” Dr. Lease said. “But that may just cause a delay (in diagnosing a disease process) when there could have been some type of screening that they could have had before it became a problem.”

View frequently asked questions about men’s health.

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