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A Guide to Getting an Annual Physical Exam

A Guide to Getting an Annual Physical Exam

When it comes to getting  annual physical exams, men are seriously lagging. We get it, guys. You're not complainers. Unless something is bleeding or falling off, you figure you're in tip-top shape. But the truth is, we aren't getting any younger. Whether you're a 22-year-old, fresh-out-the-gate young buck, or a 65-year-old gentleman cooling it in the breeze down in Fort Lauderdale, the fact is, stuff happens. We get sick. Things go wrong. Just because you're not doubling over in pain doesn't mean you're in peak physical condition, and an annual physical exam is the quickest way to stop problems before they arise.

It should be a key part of your yearly checklist. Screenings don't just check for medical issues; they also promote an overall healthy lifestyle, can help assess your propensity for future illnesses (and thus, plan effectively to prevent them), get up-to-date on all your vaccinations and help built a rapport with your physician.

Still not convinced?

Why Aren't Men Getting Annual Physical Exams?

According to a study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic for their health PSA campaign “MENtion It,” only three out of five receive an annual physical exam. Why are men not going to the doctor more often?

The Cleveland Clinic study concluded that men simply don’t talk about their health issues enough. Only 7% of men discussed their health with their friends, while much higher rates brought up their job, current events or sports.

On top of that, 53% of men claimed that they just don’t talk about their health altogether. Since there isn’t a culture of men openly talking about their health issues, they don’t get the encouragement from friends and family to go to the doctor as often as they should.

This could very well be attributed to the self-perpetuating myth that men should be reserved about their personal lives. However, there could also be a more medical explanation to this phenomenon.

In an article for Slate, Jake Blumgart discusses how women are more likely to be screened for STIs and other health issues because of their annual gynecological visits. From their teenage years, women consult with a gynecologist.

Meanwhile, there’s no “equivalent process for men” that incentivizes a regular check up.  This results in 74% of women going to the doctor every year—compared to just 57% of men. Though Blumgart says there’s a notable exception when it comes to the gay community, where men are encouraged to get tested regularly for STIs, he argues that straight men generally “drop out of the health-care system” after their adolescence only to return in their 40s—when things start going wrong.

But there are still a variety diseases and conditions that men of all ages should screen for.

After the age of 22, it’s recommended that you get a medical exam once a year. The problem is that many men don’t know what exactly they should be going to the doctor for and what their health risks are.

Annual Physical Exam Guidelines by Age

Twenties

Theoretically, your 20s are when you’re at the top of your health. But there are plenty of reasons why you should still go get a medical exam. This is the annual physical exam checklist your doctor should follow:

  • Measure your blood pressure, weight and height.
  • Check if you have gotten all your vaccinations.
  • Give you a flu shot (there’s a new shot every year).
  • If you’re sexually active, screen for STIs.
  • Test for testicular cancer.

Thirties

In your 30s, you should test for most of the same things as your 20s. However, there are a couple of new things you should start looking out for, like testing for heart disease and undergoing an eye exam.

Forties

When you enter your 40s, you should start screening for diseases and conditions that come with age. It’s recommended that in addition to everything you tested for in your twenties and thirties, you also screen for diabetes, thyroid disease, liver issues and prostate cancer.

Note: Of course, nothing suggested here is set in stone. Your annual physical exam checklist is going to be unique to you, and determined by your physician, and there is no rock-solid annual physical exam format. These are just suggestions. If you feel you have a health issue that is more prominent in people older than you, you should still contact your physician.

How to Make Sure You’re in Tip-Top Shape

Seeing a doctor shouldn’t be a last-minute decision. Check out these helpful tips on how to ensure that you stay on top of your health:

  • Stay on top of your health insurance. After you turn 26, you are no longer eligible to be part of your parents’ insurance plans. With the American Health Care Act, you can find a plan that’s right for you. You could also find insurance from your employer or university.  Additionally, there are plenty of clinics—including Planned Parenthood—that screen for STIs and have flexible payment options if you do find yourself without insurance for a period of time.

  • Educate yourself. You can stay on top of your health by knowing the early symptoms and signs of irregularities. For example, you should ask your doctor to teach you how to conduct testicular self-exams, check for the early signs of having an STI and other ways to maintain your health. Though there’s some scientifically verified information online, you should prioritize the information you get from your doctor.

  • Know your risks. Ask your family members if your family has a history of inherited diseases or traits (like hair loss or obesity) that you should be concerned about. With this information, you can watch for worrisome signs and can possibly plan ahead.

  • Be open. The Cleveland Clinic study showed that male friends generally don’t have a culture of talking to one another about their health. Being open to one another can help these problems feel scary and isolating. Who knows? Your friends could also have some helpful advice or doctor recommendations. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.  

  • Have a schedule. You should set up frequent reminders on your phone or calendar for scheduling your annual exams. The ultimate goal is that going to see the doctor is part of your routine.

Remember: Prevention is more effective than denial. Want to know more about what you can be doing to stay in tip-top shape? Head on over to the hims blog