If you’re male, you probably felt like Superman until you hit your late 30s.
That’s when health issues first started nagging at you. Or when you first heard your friends complain about an achy knee or back.
But as you got older, your health concerns began to shift.
“Men in their 50s are more concerned about heart disease or ED (erectile dysfunction). Men in their 60s worry more about prostate cancer and their risk for dementia,” says preventive medicine expert Raul Seballos, MD. “They see some of the health issues their father or brother(s) are going through and wonder what steps they can take to potentially avoid them.”
Here are the health problems Dr. Seballos hears about most from male patients, along with tips for screening and prevention:
“The debate about prostate cancer screening is ongoing,” says Dr. Seballos. “While one out of six men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime, most men will not die from it.”
Discuss the risk and benefits of screening with your primary care physician. You should consider screening if you have a father or brother who developed prostate cancer early or if you’re African-American, since you are at greater risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer screening includes a simple blood test for PSA (prostate-specific antigen), generally starting at age 50. “Having a high PSA level does not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer as there other causes for a higher-than-expected PSA level, such as benign prostate hypertrophy, benign prostate infections or inflammation,” he notes.
“If you’re having urinary symptoms such as a slower stream, incomplete emptying of the bladder, urgency, or urinary frequency, seek an evaluation from your physician.”
If heart disease runs in your family or if your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are high, your doctor will recommend medications to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor whether a daily aspirin might help, too.
Your doctor will keep tabs on your cholesterol and blood pressure, and can order a cardiac stress test if concerns about heart disease arise.
ED is very common, especially for men who have diabetes or have had their prostate removed. Because men with ED are 1.6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, it’s important to discuss your cardiovascular risk factors with your doctor before asking for an ED medication.
“Men are also concerned about their testosterone levels,” says Dr. Seballos. “If you are having symptoms of low testosterone levels, discuss them with your physician, and perhaps get a fasting and morning testosterone blood test.”
As your metabolism slows down, it’s more important than ever to right-size your meals and eat smaller portions of healthier food. Exercise also becomes increasingly critical for maintaining flexibility and mobility.
Keeping your waistline trim by eating well and exercising will help you avoid weight-related problems like type 2 diabetes and arthritis.
Nearly 79 million Americans have prediabetes (elevated blood sugar), the precursor to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, vision loss and loss of limb.
If you have prediabetes, studies prove that eating a healthier diet and increasing your activity level can restore your blood sugar to normal and stave off diabetes. Besides controlling your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, it’s critical to quit smoking to reduce your diabetes risk.
It’s important to learn the signs of a warning stroke (transient ischemic attack, or TIA). They are: weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg(s), confusion, difficulty with speech or comprehension, vision loss, dizziness, or problems with walking, balance or coordination.
If you or someone you know develops any of these problems, call 911. Immediate treatment in the emergency department with clot-busting medication can save lives and prevent disability.
“Remember, what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain,” says Dr. Seballos.
Regular doctor visits and timely screenings will help you maintain your health and vigor through the years.