At the age of 18, boys have already begun the process to adulthood. While health screenings and regular checkups may be the last thing on the mind of an 18-year-old, as he ages, those screenings will play an important part in his health. Before sending your son out into the big world, make sure he understands the importance of keeping a regular health screening schedule throughout his life.
Men should start performing self-exams around 18 years old. Self exams should include both the testes and breasts. Both touch and visual self-examinations are important as lumps require physical palpation and skin lesions can often only be seen visually.
Routine physical exams should be performed every year starting at 18 years old. The yearly exam typically ranges in complexity and may include lab testing, blood pressure screening, BMI measurement and weight measurement. As men age, other tests like cholesterol and diabetes screens are typically added to the annual exam.
The big three cancers for men are skin, colon, and prostate. During the yearly exam, talk with your physician about any blotches, discolorations or changes in the skin that may be of concern. Around your 50th birthday, you should start fecal testing for colon cancer and prostate cancer screenings – including digital exams at your annual checkup.
Our eyes tend to lose strength with age, if only in terms of short distance vision (like reading). It is important to have annual eye exams to track any physical changes that may occur with age. It is common for aging men to be prescribed reading glasses even if they’ve never needed glasses before.
Dental health is about much more than a pretty smile. There are clinical studies linking poor oral health to heart problems. Having a dental checkup every year reduces the chance of poor dental health and problems that may affect heart health.
Just as the eyes tend to fade with time, so do the ears for some men. Hearing screens can detect hearing problems early so men don’t have to spend half their lives asking the people around them to speak louder. There are hearing aid devices available today that are so tiny they are not visible to the naked eye.
Your heart is the center of your health. Regular heart screenings, including an electrocardiogram, should start no later than age 30. At 30, a baseline is taken and that baseline is used to read tests that occur in the future. Changes in the electrocardiogram could mean the beginning of a heart problem, so early detection is key. Other cardiovascular screening, like blood pressure testing, typically starts at age 18 during the yearly exam.
Men need regular prostate checkups starting in their 40s or 50s. The actual age when your doctor will start your prostate checkups will depend on your health and family history. If you are in good health and there is no family history of prostate problems, checkups are more likely to start close to 50. If you have a family history of prostate problems or you are experiencing prostate problems, checkups will likely start sooner.
Colon cancer is on the rise. A yearly fecal exam and colonoscopy can help detect any abnormalities early. Talk to your physician about the best time to start colon screening. Typically, colon screening does not begin until you are in your late 40s or early 50s, but that is just a general suggestion based on normal health.
Before your annual exam and possibly at other times during your life, you’ll need to undergo blood testing. Your needs will be different from other men, but common blood tests include:
- HIV screening
- Cholesterol testing
Regular health screenings are important to living a long, healthy life. Sometimes, health screenings can detect a problem early on, before treatment is necessary. This allows you to work with your doctor to change lifestyle habits to improve health and well-being. In other cases, early detection can mean the difference between life and death.