Check your body, man - men's capacity to turn the average cold into ‘manflu' is well known, ditto his talent for swearing blind that a self-induced hangover is an innocent headache, as well as his morbid fear that even a tweaked muscle may permanently end his ‘sporting' career - i.e.: chasing a football around the park on a Saturday afternoon with his mates.
But, strangely, this species is also notoriously unwilling to check out the mysterious, but genuine, aches and pains that may be early warning signals of real health problems. Although there are signs that health is moving up men's agenda of priorities - vying with crucial issues like sex, sports, cars and money - they can still be “doctor dodgers”.
“Many men tend to rely on the optimistic theory that if they don't get something checked out it will probably go away, or clear up of its own accord. “They also tend to operate a mental ‘profit and loss' account with their health. So if they do lots of ‘bad' things like drinking too much, smoking, or indulging themselves they then think that going to the gym for a few heavy sessions will level things out and there'll be no damage done.”
Many men worry about getting a “graphic cancer” like testicular, but, in reality they may be more at risk from a stroke - a quarter of strokes happen to those under the age of 55. Monitoring their own health - like regularly examining themselves for signs of testicular cancer - and having regular medical check ups are both sensible precautions.
But undergoing tests to see whether they're suffering from common conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure could not only help safeguard their health, but even save their lives. Here's a complete guide to the tests every man should have, for each key age group.
YOUR HEALTH MOT
Check out the tests relevant to your age group.
Twenties and thirties:
Testing frequency: Monthly.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of the disease in men between 20 and 39, says Cancer Research UK. It also has one of the highest survival rates provided you spot it soon enough, and since pain is only an occasional symptom, you need to do self-examinations regularly. Look for swelling, and use your thumbs and index fingers to feel for lumps, which are usually the size of a pea. It helps if you perform the test after a warm shower when your scrotum is relaxed.
Testing frequency: Yearly.
An audit by the Health and Social Care Information Centre found a quarter of people who have diabetes haven't been diagnosed. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found exercising for 30 minutes a day and losing 5% of your body weight through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fibre can reduce your diabetes risk by 58%.
Testing frequency: Every five years.
Fifty per cent of heart attacks occur in people with normal levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). So if you have a history of heart problems, or high blood pressure, you might benefit from two complicated-sounding blood tests. They both look for signals of imminent chest-clutching - a High Sensitivity CRP test checks for heart-attack predicting proteins, while the Homocysteine test goes after plaque, cholesterol and calcium in your arteries.
Testing frequency: Once a year.
You can pick up a home blood pressure meter from £20 at high street shops such as Boots or Argos. A reading below 90/60mmHg is considered low blood pressure so you want yours to be somewhere between this and 120/80. Anything over 140/90 is real cause for concern but if you fall in that middle zone (between 120/80 and 139/89) take note: you have ‘prehypertension' which means you're likely to develop high blood pressure. Simple measures like cutting out salt can combat that, but you need to know if there's a problem.
Testing frequency: Once at age 40, then as necessary, depending on results.
According to the Stroke Association, someone in the UK suffers a stroke every five minutes. A non-invasive 10-minute test could show if you're at risk, providing two views of the arteries in your neck, which reveal artery plaque damage and show how that is affecting blood flow to your brain.
Testing frequency: Once a year.
Old man's illness? Maybe, but if you get screened early, your chances of living to BE an old man will increase dramatically. While two thirds of all prostate cancer cases are discovered in men 65 and older, a new study from Johns Hopkins University in the UK argues that 40 is a more appropriate age to begin testing. Researchers found that the earlier you establish a baseline PSA reading (a measure of prostate cancer markers), the better you can keep tabs on your risk, and the more likely your doctor is to pick up on a problem early.
Fifties and over:
Testing frequency: Once every 5 to 10 years, or as necessary.
Studies show that half of Britain's men over 50 have never been screened for colon cancer, which is pretty slack, considering it's the third biggest killer in that group. There's good reason to catch it early: the survival rate is 93% if the cancer is treated before it spreads beyond the colon's walls. “The colonoscopy is the gold standard,” says GP, Dr Osman Bhatti. Admittedly, someone reaching far inside your colon isn't most people's idea of fun, but if it's going to save your life, then it's worth it.
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