Prioritizing Men’s Well-Being

A Black male doctor chats to an elderly Black male patient.

As we observe Men’s Health Month, it’s crucial to highlight the importance of preventive health care, especially for senior men. Men are 50% less like to seek medical attention, even though they have a higher risk for chronic illness (like heart disease and lung cancer), are more likely to engage in risky behaviors (such as smoking), and have a shorter lifespan than women worldwide.

Preventive screenings are key to early detection and treatment of diseases. If men want a good quality of life as they age, they need to make their health a priority. Here are five essential health screenings that senior men should consider and their loved ones should encourage:

1. Cardiovascular health. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death among men in the United States. Starting at age 50, men should get blood pressure screenings annually. Cholesterol profiles are also recommended every five years beginning at age 35, or more frequently if risk factors are present. These simple tests can be lifesavers, finding risk factors early enough that they can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications.

2. Cancer. About 450,000 men are diagnosed with one of three cancers annually; all can be screened for.

Prostate: Starting at age 50, or earlier for those with a family history, men should discuss prostate screening with their healthcare provider. The decision to start screening should be based on a discussion with the provider about the risks and benefits.

Colorectal: Men should begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50, although those with a family history of the disease may need to start earlier. Various screening options are available, including colonoscopy every 10 years or annual fecal occult blood tests.

Testicular: This is of the most curable cancers, with about 8% of all cases occurring in men over 55. The most common way to check for testicular cancer is to self-screen at home at least monthly. Report any changes  to a doctor.

3. Bone health. Osteoporosis is often overlooked in men, yet it poses a significant risk, especially in the senior years. Men account for 1 in 4 of all fractures in people 50 or older. Medications, chronic conditions, smoking, and excessive alcohol drinking can increase the risk. Men over the age of 70, or younger men with risk factors, should have a bone density test to assess their risk of fractures.

4. Diabetes. With over 16 million men over 65 currently diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated 4 million more undiagnosed, diabetes continues to rise. And, it can lead to more complicated medical conditions and less quality of life. Men should consider a fasting blood sugar test every three years starting at age 45. Early detection allows for the management of blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medication to prevent complications.

5. Mental and cognitive health. Mental health is a critical part of overall well-being; more than 6 million men suffer from depression yearly. Depression is not a normal part of aging, so it’s important for men to discuss emotional well-being with their healthcare provider. Additionally, about 8% of men 70 and over have dementia; cognitive screenings can help identify early signs of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, which is particularly important for those experiencing memory issues.

While these screenings are essential, equally important is cultivating an environment where health discussions for men are normalized. All men and their loved ones should actively engage in discussions about health throughout the year. After all, even the strongest among us need a little help now and then.

Categories: Aging Well, Senior Health