Men’s Health: Guidelines for Every Age

Laura Mitchell's picture
By Laura Mitchell on November 28, 2016

Did you and the men in your family schedule an appointment with your health care provider during “Movember”? Men’s Health Month is drawing to a close, but awareness—and action—regarding men’s health is important year-round.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that men are only half as likely as women to see a doctor over a two-year period, even though they tend to die earlier than women and they are much more likely to die of common, often treatable conditions like heart disease and cancer.

“Men are wired to say ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” says Mark Greenawald, M.D., a Family Medicine physician who is vice chair in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Carilion Clinic and a professor of family medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

"That state of mind is often detrimental when it comes to health care," he said. "Often, waiting for something to 'break,' such as a heart attack or stroke, can be too late to prevent some permanent damage."

In contrast to that way of thinking, the National Institutes of Health recommends age-specific health screenings for men throughout their lives.

Ages 18-39

Younger men are less likely than any other group to see a health care provider at all, aside from accidents and injuries. That makes diagnosis and treatment more challenging when they do experience illness. For men ages 18-39, the NIH recommends annual visits even if you are feeling healthy.

Screening guidelines for this age group include:

  • Blood pressure—every two years unless you have health conditions that warrant more frequent checks
  • Cholesterol—every five years beginning at age 20 if you have risk factors; age 35 if you do not
  • Diabetes—if you are overweight or have high blood pressure
  • Immunizations—tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine after age 19, and a booster every 10 years; annual flu shot; human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine series; and varicella series if you have not had it or the chicken pox
  • Infectious diseases—depending on your lifestyle; these include sexually transmitted diseases

    Your clinician may also ask about depression, diet and exercise, alcohol and tobacco use, drug use and safety habits, such as your use of seat belts.

    Ages 40-64

    The effects of lifestyle choices become more apparent during middle age and NIH-recommended screenings for men ages 40-64 tend to include lifestyle-related assessments of future medical problems.

    In addition to the screening guidelines for younger men, the NIH recommends the following for this age group: 

    • Heart attack prevention—depending on their risks, some men who do not have blood-clotting problems begin taking aspirin to prevent heart attack
    • Colon cancer—beginning at age 50 after discussing with your physician the multiple screening methods available
    • Immunizations—a flu shot every year and a shingles/herpes zoster vaccination after age 60
    • Osteoporosis—depending on risk factors, your provider may recommend screening
    • Prostate canceryour provider will discuss the risks and benefits of prostate screening with you at age 50 (45 for high-risk and African-American men)
    • Lung cancerannually beginning at age 55 for long-term smokers or those who have quit within the past 15 years

    Ages 65+

    One of the most important results of regular health checkups is the ongoing relationship that develops with a provider. As you age, any health problems you may have become more complicated. A health care professional who knows you now is your strongest resource should you require the care of clinical specialists and subspecialists in the future.

    In addition to the screening guidelines for younger men, the NIH recommends the following for this age group:

    • Abdominal aortic aneurysm—beginning at age 65 for current or former smokers
    • Heart attack prevention—some men who do not have blood-clotting problems begin taking aspirin to prevent heart attack
    • Immunizations—at age 65, discuss the pneumococcal vaccine with your physician
    • Osteoporosis—beginning at age 70, your provider may recommend bone mineral density testing
    • Prostate canceryour provider will discuss the risks and benefits of prostate screening with you

    As the risk for falls increases with age, your provider may ask about tripping hazards in your home and about your memory.

    It is important to note that these guidelines are not all-inclusive. At each visit, your exam and discussion will include questions and recommendations specific to you, and your provider may recommend additional tests based on his or her assessment and your needs.

    You should discuss any symptoms, concerns or questions that you have about your physical or mental health with your provider. Dr. Greenawald recommends bringing a list of questions with you to your visit to ensure that nothing is forgotten.

    "Also, using MyChart to communicate questions with your physician between visits can ensure that you don’t either neglect warning signs or worry unnecessarily about a symptom you are experiencing," he said.