Men's Health Checklist for Every Age

·8 min read

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It can be challenging to keep track of all the tests, vaccines, and preventive health measures you need to stay on top of your health throughout life. And the coronavirus pandemic has only made it more difficult: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last September that nearly a third of U.S. adults had avoided or delayed getting routine care because of concerns about COVID-19.

Now that vaccines are widely available and case counts are lower in many places, it’s a good time to get yourself back on track. And according to the CDC, even before the pandemic, men were somewhat less likely than women to report having visited a doctor within the previous year.

Developing a relationship with your primary healthcare provider is a smart move, says John Meigs Jr., M.D., a past president of the AAFP and a family doctor in Centreville, Ala. “It’s extremely important that men—and women—have a regular source of care that they see on some kind of regular basis,” he says.

To help men safeguard their health, we’ve gathered recommendations from the CDC, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (a national, independent panel of medical experts), and the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely initiative, as well as experts in men’s and preventive healthcare.

Here are the screening tests and vaccinations men need and the smart steps they should take in their 20s and 30s, 40s and 50s, and 60s and beyond. (And here’s a similar checklist for women.)

What Men Should Do in Their 20s and 30s

Vaccinations

Screening Tests

  • Sexually transmitted disease: The CDC recommends that sexually active gay and bisexual men should get screened at least once a year for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. And all men should get tested for HIV at least once. According to the CDC, everyone between ages 13 and 64 should be tested during their lifetime. (If you have certain risk factors, you’ll need additional screenings.)

  • Blood pressure: Have it checked at least once every three to five years, or more often if you are at risk for hypertension.

  • Cholesterol: Have your cholesterol tested every four to six years. If you have heart disease or diabetes, a family history of heart disease, or other cardiac risk factors, you may need to do this more often.

  • Cancer: Some transgender men may need to receive screening for cervical cancer, but accessing quality care can be a challenge. Check the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s directory of knowledgeable and affirming providers to find one in your area or who is available via telehealth. If you need cervical cancer screening, ask your provider about options for self-collected swabbing for HPV DNA, which is less invasive than typical cervical cancer screening and which one recent study showed improved rates of cervical cancer screening among trans men.

Review With Your Doctor

  • Sexual history and condom use.

  • Diet, exercise, and sleep habits.

  • Smoking, alcohol consumption, and any other substance-use habits.

Men’s Health Tips

Early adulthood is an ideal time to develop an ongoing working relationship with a family or primary care doctor, Meigs says. That way, you’ll have someone you trust—and who is familiar with your lifestyle and health history—to talk to about any health concerns.

That’s important when it comes to diseases that may be uncomfortable to discuss or that don’t get regularly screened for, such as testicular cancer, Meigs says. In this case, for example, some men might ignore symptoms, and the USPSTF recommends against regular screening for the cancer because it is relatively rare and has a high survival rate.

Still, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men ages 15 to 34. If you discover a lump or have pain in a testicle, it’s important to tell your doctor.

And while the CDC’s baseline recommendations for yearly STD screenings are directed mainly at women and at gay and bisexual men, Ana Fadich, M.P.H., vice president of the nonprofit health education group Men’s Health Network, says all men should consider STD testing any time they change sexual partners.

Men will need to request this screening at the doctor’s office, Fadich says, because there’s no men’s health equivalent of the well-woman visit, in which STD screenings are routine.

What Men Should Do in Their 40s and 50s

Vaccinations

Screening Tests

  • Sexually transmitted disease: The CDC recommends that sexually active gay and bisexual men should get screened at least once a year for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

  • Blood pressure: Have it checked at least once every year.

  • Cholesterol: Continue blood tests for cholesterol every four to six years, depending on risk factors.

  • Type 2 diabetes: If you’re overweight or obese, have a blood test every three years.

  • Colorectal cancer: At age 45, talk to your doctor about when to begin screening for colon cancer. A colonoscopy every 10 years, a stool test every year, and a few other screening options are available. Ask your doctor which one may be best for you.

  • Prostate cancer: Regular prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests, which may detect prostate cancer, might not be necessary. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the test. If you’re concerned about prostate cancer, talk with your doctor at 55 or earlier about whether you’re at increased risk.

  • Breast and cervical cancer: Some transgender men may need to receive screening for breast and cervical cancer, but accessing quality care can be a challenge. Check the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s directory of knowledgeable and affirming providers to find one in your area or who is available via telehealth.

Review With Your Doctor

  • Sexual history and condom use.

  • Diet, exercise, and sleep habits.

  • Smoking, alcohol consumption, and any other substance-use habits.

Men’s Health Tips

During these years, your cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and weight gain, might rise, Meigs says. (For more on your cardiovascular risk, see our report here.)

And because metabolism naturally slows with age, he says, it’s especially important for men in this age group to stay active and keep up with good eating habits. That will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce heart disease risks.

When it comes to prostate cancer screening, “That requires a conversation with your doctor,” Meigs says. In May 2018, the USPSTF updated its guidelines, and experts differ on whether men should be routinely checked for signs of the cancer using a PSA test. The USPSTF does not recommend this blood test unless men request it, after first hearing about the potential benefits and risks of being tested.

Talk with your doctor about your personal risk profile for prostate cancer; people who have a family history of prostate cancer or are African American or of African descent might be at higher risk.

What Men Should Do in Their 60s and Beyond

Vaccinations

  • Flu shot, every year.

  • Tetanus booster, every 10 years.

  • Shingrix (shingles) vaccine if you haven’t already received it.

  • Pneumococcal vaccine, at 65. The CDC recommends all older adults get a dose of PPSV23 (Pneumovax). An additional pneumococcal vaccine, PVC13 (Prevnar) is also available but not necessary for all older adults; ask your doctor whether you should get it.

Screening Tests

  • Sexually transmitted disease: The CDC recommends that sexually active gay and bisexual men should get screened at least once a year for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

  • Blood pressure: Have it checked at least once every year.

  • Cholesterol: Continue blood tests for cholesterol every four to six years, depending on risk factors.

  • Type 2 diabetes: If you’re overweight or obese, have this test every three years through age 70.

  • Colorectal cancer: Continue screening through age 75.

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm: If you’ve ever smoked, the USPSTF currently recommends that you have an ultrasound to test for abdominal aortic aneurysm—an enlarged area in the aorta that can rupture if it gets too large—sometime between ages 65 and 75.

Review With Your Doctor

  • Sexual history and condom use.

  • Diet, exercise, and sleep habits.

  • Smoking, alcohol consumption, and any other substance-use habits.

Men’s Health Tips

Losing a partner or ending a relationship can return you to the singles pool—which can come with an increased risk of contracting an STD, Fadich says. That’s why it’s wise to continue using condoms during sex, even if pregnancy is no longer a risk for your partner.

It’s important to keep tabs on your brainpower and mental health as well. “At this age, folks begin to worry about getting forgetful,” Meigs says.

Staying socially involved and physically active can be good for your emotional well-being and cognition, he notes. A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that aerobic exercise and strength training, as well as tai chi, can improve brain function in people older than 50, even for those who are beginning to experience cognitive decline. (Avoid memory supplements, however.)

Try to keep up with a regular exercise routine: The CDC recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day five days a week and two days per week of strength training for older adults.

Editor's Note: This story was first published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect revisions to screening and vaccination guidelines.

Additional reporting by Chris Hendel.

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