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June 05, 2019

The One Thing That Will Dramatically Improve a Man’s Health 

When and Why to Get Your Next Checkup  

Joyce Knestrick, PhD, CRNP, FAANP

June is the month to celebrate men’s health. Fittingly, Father’s Day falls right smack in the middle, and families everywhere will pause to celebrate the men in their lives. At the risk of being a complete downer, however, most men need more than a golf outing or a morning to sleep in to get their health back on track.  

That’s because men, including dads who are knee deep in parenting right now, are generally not as healthy as women, and they’re unknowingly shaving years off their life. On average, men live five years less than women. In fact, 57% of people over the age of 65 are women. Fast forward to age 85, and nearly 70% are women.   

Why the discrepancy?  

There are several factors at play, but the lowest hanging fruit is a reluctance among some men to visit a primary care provider. Men are twice as likely to skip regular health checkups and three times as likely to go more than five years without a visit. Worse, 40% wait until there is something seriously wrong before making an appointment to have it checked out, and often it’s too late. Some men can’t find the time or don’t prioritize health appointments in their busy schedule. Others are worried that a visit to a provider will lead to bad news. Whatever the reason, men are more inclined to avoid primary care, and it’s having an impact on their health.  

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are making it easier for men to find a convenient primary care provider – many men have sited long wait times and difficulty making an appointment as a barrier to seeking care, and offices with NPs generally run a lot more efficiently. Still, sometimes the reluctance runs deeper. Research tells us men are almost five times more likely to talk about current events, sports or their job than anything health related, so it’s easy to see why making an appointment to discuss health concerns isn’t even on their radar.   

What many men don’t realize, however, is that avoiding checkups that screen for common and treatable health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can lead to full-blown, irreversible health catastrophes. Men are 1.5 times more likely to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, for example. It’s not male DNA that is driving this lopsided trend so much as it is a reluctance to seek early and regular care to flag for concerns while they are still treatable.  

The good news is there’s one thing all men can do to improve their health – go for a checkup. Here’s a quick guide to when and why to make your next appointment (and what you’ll be missing if you skip). Your provider will customize your visits based on your personal risk factors, but following through with a standing annual appointment will help ensure these important health markers are addressed as you age.   

Annually, in your 20s: BMI, blood pressure, testicular cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, depression and cholesterol (every five years).  

Annually, in your 30s: All the above, plus vision, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid, liver and anemia. 

Annually, in your 40s: All the above, plus prostate, diabetes (every 3 years).  

Annually, in your 50s: All the above, plus Type II diabetes, lipid disorders, risk-based cancer and colon cancer.  

Annually, in your 60s (and beyond): All the above, plus Alzheimer’s, dementia and osteoporosis. 

Of course, seeing a provider or nurse practitioner (NP) won’t automatically make you healthy, but flagging high blood pressure before it damages arteries or prediabetes before it manifests into full-blown Stage II can dramatically improve your prognosis. Everyone needs regular checkups – men are no exception. Don’t let easy problems silently ruin your good health. It’s your provider’s job to help keep you on track, but they can only help if you do your part.