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Health Checkups for Dad

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You know how you're supposed to check the oil every 3,000 miles on that car of yours? And how you need to periodically flush the radiator and the transmission? Well, sometimes men are better at routine maintenance on their cars than they are on their own bodies.

This checklist is designed to be a maintenance schedule for your body. It lets you know, based on your age, how frequently you should check into the various operating systems of your own male body.

Physical Examination. You should periodically have a review with your doctor about your current health status and a general discussion about where your health is headed. From age 20-40, you should have such an exam every three years; from age 40-50, you should have one every two years; and after age 50, you should see your doctor annually.

Blood Pressure. Checking out your blood pressure for signs of hypertension should be done every year. Many pharmacies and department stores have a self-check station. A blood pressure reading of over 120/80 is a sign you should talk to your doctor. Current medical studies suggest the need for early or pre-hypertensive treatment.

Blood Tests and Urinalysis. These tests should be done in the same frequency as your physical exam. In these tests, your doctor will be looking for cholesterol, diabetes, kidney problems or thyroid dysfunction.

Electrocadiogram. The EKG test should be done at age 30 to establish your basline rates, then every 4 years between 40 and 50 and every three years after age 50. This tests screens for any abnormalities of the heart muscle.

Tetanus Shot. If you're like me, you recall that tetanus shots are no fun. But if you live any kind of active lifestyle, you should have a booster every ten years no matter what your age.

Rectal Exam. Now, I know there are few things more unpleasant that this one. But it is still the most reliable way to identify hemorrhoids, lower rectal injuries and colon and prostate cancer. Current recommendations suggest a rectal exam by your doctor annually, regardless of age.

PSA Blood Test. The Prostate Specific Antigen test measures that quantity of PSA produced by your prostate. The level of PSA rises when you have an infection, an enlargement or a cancer in your prostate. If you are over 50, you should have this test annually. If you are in a high risk category (African American men or those with a family history of prostate cancer), you should start these annual tests at age 40 or earlier.

Hemoccult. This test screens for blood in your stool, which can be an early indication of polyps or cancer in the colon. This test should be done annually if you are over age 40.

Colorectal Scope. OK-there is something worse than a digital rectal exam, and this is it. In this procedure, a flexible scope checks out your rectum, your sigmoid and your colon for cancer or polyps. Over age 50, you should have a scope every 3 years.

Chest X-Ray. If you are or were a smoker, you should have a chest x-ray about age 40 and periodically as recommended by your doctor after that.

Testosterone Screening. If you have symptoms like low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fatigue or depression, you may want to ask your doctor about a testosterone screening. This is done with a blood test supplemented by a questionnaire.

Self-Exams. Without going to the doctor, you can look yourself for changes in your body and its function. You should check your skin for changing moles or early skin cancer. You should check your testicles for any lumps that might indicate cancer. You should look in your mouth with a flashlight to see if there are any cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions. Once a month for each of these tests is a good idea.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases. If you are sexually active and at risk for an STD, you should be checked periodically. Playing it safe by remaining monogamous or using a condom is the better option.

Taking a few precautions now and investing a little time and money in preventive maintenance on your body will pay big dividends later and increase the chances of enjoying your grandchildren.

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