Exactly What to Talk to Your Doc About, When

Best Health Checks in Your 20s

Introduce yourself to an MD

You’re healthy and young. Who needs a doctor? You do. You need someone to be familiar with you and your medical history, says urologist Matt Coward, M.D., director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at UNC Fertility in Raleigh. When things go wrong, a physician who knows you (not just the random doctor you get at urgent care) can better determine whether your symptoms in a crisis are signs of something bigger. This doctor should also take your baseline numbers—blood pressure, lipids, fasting blood sugar—to measure against in the future. Get them rechecked every three to five years.

Discuss the health of your sex life

Check that you’ve received the HPV vaccine. (It may not be too late to get the vaccine now.) According to the CDC, almost everyone who doesn’t get vaccinated becomes infected with the symptomless STI at some point, which could raise the risk of genital warts and even some cancers. While you’re on the topic, ask for an “STI panel,” which includes tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and sometimes HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, and herpes. Ideally, get a new panel of tests with every new partner, or at least get them annually.

Best Health Checks in Your 30s

Find out how your heart is now

“Because of stress, lifestyle, lack of sleep, obesity, sedentary behavior—even favoring weightlifting over aerobic exercise—so many younger men have elevated blood pressure,” says Martin Miner, M.D., codirector of the Men’s Health Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence. Untreated, it can damage your heart, arteries, kidneys, eyes, and erection—so confirm that your numbers, including cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL levels, look good at every visit. Premature heart attacks can hit by age 45, so you need to act on any skewed numbers right now.

Consider a fertility check

If you have problems ejaculating, issues with your erection, or disproportionate testicle sizes, ask for a semen analysis—even if you’re still a ways off from having kids. “We can often prevent male infertility [by reducing stress, treating depression, and quitting smoking] before it’s actually set in stone,” urologist Matt Coward, M.D., says.

Best Health Checks in Your 40s

Get your blood sugar measured

You should be keeping good track of your heart-health numbers. But also make sure you get a blood-glucose test, since some evidence indicates that about a third of people over 45 are prediabetic—even if they’re at a healthy weight.

Get a colonoscopy—now

Used to be you could put it off till age 50, but the first screen should now be at 45—or earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, according to new American Cancer Society guidelines.

Check your mood

Primary-care docs are now tasked with inquiring about your mental health, but it’s not their first language. If your doctor asks the unhelpful “Any depression?” question, ask how you would know. In men, depression often looks more like anger, aggression, drinking too much, loneliness, and a lackluster feeling about life, says Edward M. Adams, Psy.D., president of the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinities. Don’t gloss over this: Suicide rates are highest among people between 45 and 54 years old.

Get weird skin marks investigated

Forty is when sun damage starts to add up, says Dr. Miner, so ask about any weird-looking marks that you notice, and see a dermatologist for a full-body skin check. Melanoma—the least common but most deadly skin cancer—is more likely to hit men by age 50 than women, largely because men haven’t been as good about prevention.

Best Health Checks in Your 50s

Tell your doc if you notice anything new

In addition to getting monitored regularly (including a second colonoscopy and blood-glucose tests every three to five years), flag any changes in your body—acute aches and pains, worsening vision. Small signs may mark bigger problems that are common in your 50s, like arthritis or age-related macular degeneration.

Figure out what to do about a prostate cancer screening test

The PSA blood test is the only way to catch prostate cancer right now, but the test is far from perfect—it misses some cancers and “catches” others that aren’t really there. But considering it’s the second-deadliest cancer in men, ask your doctor if you need the test starting at 50 (earlier if you are African American or have a family history), says Dr. Coward.

Bring up any penis problems

Bring up urinary symptoms—a weak stream, getting up multiple times a night to pee, even incontinence—as they’re common markers of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, a treatable enlargement of the prostate that affects around 50 percent of men between 51 and 60. Also mention if you’re having fewer, softer erections. Erectile issues are often an early sign of heart disease but could also be a red flag for treatable problems like lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, depression, and anxiety, says Dr. Miner.

Take a renewed look at your heart

Considering that heart-attack risk climbs after 45 and peaks at 65, get your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar measured. Don’t be surprised if these numbers are suddenly not as stellar as you thought they were: Guidelines for treating hypertension and lipids are now much more aggressive than they were just a few years ago.

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