In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising, seeing your doctor regularly for recommended screening tests is a good way to stay healthy. Regular medical checkups are an important preventive health measure. During your periodic checkup, your doctor can detect any medical problems in the early stages so they can be treated promptly. Your doctor uses numerous medical tests and screen- ings to check for any health problems. Before deciding which tests to order, your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical examination (see page 86) and will take a medical history, which is a record of every factor that might affect your health. To complete the medical history, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your personal habits, your family health history (see page 80), any medical problems you had in the past, and any symptoms you might be experiencing at present. When answering your doctor’s questions, it is important to provide as much information as you can without holding back any relevant facts. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions if you don’t understand some- thing he or she has said.
The most common tests performed in men over 40 include the PSA (prostate- speciﬁc antigen) test for prostate cancer, the fecal occult blood test for colon cancer, and a series of tests that screen for the presence of heart disease or your risk of having it. Such tests may include measuring your blood pressure and the levels of cholesterol in your blood; an electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical activity in your heart; and a stress test, which evaluates the heart’s response to physical exercise. If you have a family history of a certain disease that has a strong hereditary component, such as diabetes (see page 365), you also may undergo a screening for that disorder. For example, in the case of dia- betes, the doctor would perform a test known as a glucose tolerance test (see page 367).
As you get older, you probably will need more tests during your regular checkups because common disorders such as heart disease and cancer occur more frequently in older people. Use this section of the book to learn about the various tests and screenings your doctor might order so you can become better informed.
Your doctor will recommend that you have a physical examination and certain screening
tests periodically, depending on your age and health history. The following material indicates the most common tests ordered for men.
To check for any vision problems such as near- or farsightedness or eye muscle disorders and to look for any early signs of disease.
Those at risk: Men who have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of glaucoma.
To check for tooth decay, gum disease, and early signs of oral cancer.
Those at risk: Men who smoke or chew tobacco; men with poor oral hygiene.
Blood Pressure Measurement
To detect high blood pressure early, before it leads to stroke, heart failure, or kidney failure.
Those at risk: Men with a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, or stroke; men who are overweight or have diabetes; men who smoke or use tobacco products.
To measure the blood levels of cholesterol, which helps evaluate the risk of heart disease.
Those at risk: Men with a family history of heart disease; men who have diabetes; men who smoke or use tobacco products.
Colon and Rectum Examination
To look for signs of cancer of the colon, rectum, and prostate. Includes rectal examination per- formed by hand by a doctor, fecal occult blood test that checks for blood in the stool, sigmoidoscopy (see page 284), and possibly a PSA (prostate- speciﬁc antigen) test.
Those at risk: Men with a family history of colon or rectal cancer; men who have intestinal polyps or ulcerative colitis; men over age 50. African American men have an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Comprehensive Physical Examination
To regularly assess your current health status and to maintain an ongoing relationship with your doctor. Be sure to see your doctor as often as he or she recommends.
Tests in Men Younger Than 30 Years