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The Man Tune Up: Well Man Exams

Ryan Davis, DO, ACMC-Willmar, Family Medicine

Take it like a man. Tough it out. It seems men—yes, sometimes even doctors like me—have taken these sayings too far when it comes to their well man exams.

Men rarely see the doctor unless they are sick or in pain. In fact, every year men make 150 million fewer trips to the doctors than women. For a healthy male this may not seem like such a big deal, but it can be. The longer men wait to go to the doctor, the longer symptoms may go undiagnosed. At times, those problems could become more serious and require advanced treatment.

So what does this mean for you? Do you need to rush to the doctor's office every time you feel a cold coming on? Should you schedule an annual exam? The short answer? It depends.

Recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Academy of Family Physicians indicate that what happens at health exams and how often they occur should be "tailored to the age, health risks and preferences of each patient."

Great. Now what? Healthy men should follow these general guidelines.

Men 18-39 Years Old

  • Every year: Dental exam
  • Every two to three years: Blood pressure check, height and weight measurement and a brief physical
  • Every five years: A cholesterol check

Men 40-65 Years Old

  • Every year: Physical exam for cancer (skin, thyroid, lymph nodes, prostate and rectum) and dental exam
  • Every one to two years: Blood pressure check stool sample for blood, vision and glaucoma check and height and weight measurement
  • Every three to five years: Cholesterol check, blood sugar check, and tests for colon cancer

Men 65 and Older

  • Every year: Height and weight measurement, blood pressure check, physical exam for cancer (skin, thyroid, lymph nodes, prostate and rectum), stool sample check for blood and a dental exam
  • Every one to three years: Thyroid hormone check, blood count, cholesterol check, blood sugar check, hearing check, vision and glaucoma check, and lab tests or urine sample.
  • Every three to five years: Tests for colon cancer

Your personal and family medical history play an important role in how often and when you might need to see a doctor. If you have ongoing health problems, you may need to see your healthcare provider more often. For healthy men who may not need an annual checkup, you should be on the lookout for certain things like blood pressure, cholesterol, colorectal cancer and getting the necessary immunizations as you age. If you're concerned about any symptoms you may be having, make an appointment with your doctor—don't wait until next year's wellness visit.

In addition to well men exams, there are other things you can do to keep yourself as healthy as possible. You should try to maintain your weight at a healthy level, eat nutritious and balanced meals, and get regular exercise. And no matter what your age or health status, I recommend that you establish a good relationship with your healthcare provider. Find a provider you can get to know and trust and someone who knows your medical history. It is easier for a doctor to treat you if they are familiar with you and your medical history.

Instead of toughing it out or taking it like a man, I challenge you to be the kind of man who doesn't wait for your significant other to drag you to see your healthcare provider. Schedule your well man exam today.