Six vital health checks every man should have

There are six essential tests that every man should take in order to ensure they are healthy and not at risk of developing cancer and other types of serious illnesses, finds Sean Binedell.

Earlier this year actor Samuel Jackson highlighted the common problem that men don’t talk about their health as much as they should. The Pulp Fiction star urged men to talk more about cancer and other diseases that affect them. In the British paper, the Daily Mail, he was quoted as saying: “We’ll talk about our injuries but we won’t talk about our illnesses, so I think it’s time we do that.”

Jackson said he was motivated to speak out after he learnt that friends had secretly coped with cancer without telling anybody. He said: “When they started talking about it, I realised most guys don’t talk to other guys about what their medical conditions are – especially cancer conditions.”

And Jackson is right to be concerned. A recent survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians reveals that 55 percent of U.S. men haven’t seen their medical doctor in the past year.  In South Africa, we have the same problem. Movember.com, a website dedicated to highlighting the plight of men suffering from testicular cancer and mental health problems, points out that men don’t get checked out for the following reasons: fear it will lead to a hospital visit, embarrassment, not enough time in their schedules and apathy.

But men shouldn’t ignore their health problems. According to Movember, men are 40% more likely to die from cancer than women in South Africa. But the good news is that 40% of cancers can be prevented.

Important checkups

We are always bombarded with attractive adverts and TV/celebrity doctors telling us to subject our bodies to all types of check-ups in order to ensure we are healthy. However, men need to consider which check-ups are necessary and which are part of a marketing tool used by the health profession to charge ridiculous fees in order to meet quotas.

According to leading health professionals, men are highly susceptible to the following types of illnesses and require regular checks in order to prevent them from developing:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Colon cancer
  3. Testicular cancer
  4. High blood pressure
  5. High cholesterol

 

“Men should not be lulled into a false sense of invincibility commonly found in the attitude in society today. Visiting a doctor is sometimes seen as a weakness, but in reality should be a common ritual in order to prevent health problems later in one’s life,” says Dr Andrew Du Toit.

 

Dr Du Toit’s top checks for men include:

  1. Prostate cancer test – If you are aged between 40 and 60 years you are highly susceptible to this type of cancer. However, it is treatable if caught early.
  2. A lipid panel test measures the amount of fat in your blood. “Typical measures include total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (the “bad” cholesterol), and triglyceride levels,” says Dr Du Toit.
  3. Blood Pressure test: According to medical scheme Discovery’s website the older you get the higher your chance of developing high blood pressure so it’s important to do this test regularly.
  4. Fasting blood sugar test – Du Toit says men should typically have regular fasting blood sugar test if they are at risk of diabetes. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, obesity and family history.
  5. Full body examination – This is to help prevent skin cancer, testicular cancer and to spot malignant moles early.
  6. Sexually active males should regularly get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Eye examinations – it is important to have an eye examination every one to two years, particularly if you’re at a high risk for glaucoma. You should also have your eye pressure checked annually.

What will your medical aid cover?

You should find out if your medical scheme covers the cost of your medical tests. Your medical aid could cover your standard blood sugar tests, STI exams, cholesterol and prostate screening under the pathology section of their agreement and incentivise screenings by adding reward points to your account after every completed test. It is important to enquire with your medical aid scheme in order to determine the extent of your coverage, as some blood tests fall out of a standard agreement and require additional coverage.

 

By Sean Binedell