Special Report

24 Medical Tests Every Man Should Have and When

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6. Body fat percentage
> When to get tested: Every few months

Body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, is the standard doctors use to diagnose obesity or if a person is overweight. BMI, however, has limitations. It does not distinguish fat from muscle and does not take into account how much of the weight is actually fat. Too much body fat can increase the risk of health issues such as high cholesterol, heart disease, and even depression. Excessive abdominal fat may increase the risk of type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease.

Men store more fat around the stomach, which is more dangerous than storing it on the hips and thighs as women generally do. Visceral fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, and sleep apnea.

A more comprehensive body fat calculator takes into account age, gender, weight, height, as well as skinfold measurements of the thighs, triceps, and suprailium (above the upper bone of the hip). The healthy range for men is between 2% and 24%, depending on age and level of physical activity.

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7. Blood pressure
> When to get tested: At least every two years after 18

Health organizations released new guidelines in 2017 about normal blood pressure, lowering the hypertension diagnosis level to 130/80 from the previous threshold of 150/80 for older than 65 and 140/90 for younger than 65. Following the change, between 70% and 79% of men were now classified as having hypertension. High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because symptoms don’t show up until vital organs are already damaged.

When left untreated, the condition can damage the heart and lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the death rate from hypertension-related causes has increased by 11% in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.

People can check their blood pressure regularly with home blood pressure monitors. Otherwise, the recommendation is for people with no history of hypertension to get their blood pressure checked at least every two years or every year if their blood pressure is borderline high.

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8. Colonoscopy
> When to get tested: At least every 10 years after 50

Men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 should get a colonoscopy, which is used to screen for colorectal cancer, at least every 10 years, according to the National Institutes of Health. The American Cancer Society recommends that people start regular screening at age 45. Men are at a slightly higher risk than women of developing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis among both men and women (excluding skin cancer) as well as the third leading cancer-related cause of death in the U.S. Lifestyle factors that increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer include being overweight or obese, being physically inactive, eating a diet high in red and processed meats, smoking, and excessive drinking.

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9. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test
> When to get tested: Every year after 50

The National Institutes of Health recommends that men over the age of 50 begin screening for prostate cancer, the second most common cancer among men in the country after skin cancer. The recommendation for African American men and those with a family history of the disease is to start at 45.

The routine screening test is called the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate. High PSA level may indicate cancer, but it can also mean enlarged prostate. There is still a debate about the harm versus benefits of the PSA tests as they may detect minor cancers and result in unnecessary treatments.

About 12% of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their life, according to the National Cancer Institute. Prostate cancer is estimated to make up about 10.6% of all new cancer cases and 5.5% of all cancer-related deaths in 2020.

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10. Depression
> When to get tested: If symptoms last more than 2 weeks

While women are more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression, men are about four times more likely to commit suicide than women, according to the CDC. About 9% of American men experience feelings of depression or anxiety every day, according to a National Health Interview Survey published in 2015. Nearly a third of men in the country have suffered from depression at some point in their life, according to a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among people of both sexes between 10 and 34 years old in 2017.

Depression screening typically involves questionnaires, such as the Patient Health Questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale for medical patients, the Geriatric Depression Scale in older adults. The new guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that all people age 18 and older be screened for depression.