One secret to men’s health: Actually visiting the doctor!
Preventive care, regular screenings & strong doctor-patient relationships are key to long-term health
Dr. Jimmie C. Stewart is seeing an encouraging trend in his Family Medicine practice at Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) Canyon Park: men returning to the clinic to catch up on annual physicals and routine health screenings.
“Now that the threat from COVID-19 is hopefully starting to wane, I’m beginning to see more patients refocusing on preventive care, which is great. Research shows, if we can be aggressive on preventive care and catch issues early, we can prevent many long-term health issues,” he says.
In general, men are notorious for avoiding doctor’s visits, and Dr. Stewart can sympathize. If you think you’re too young to get sick or don’t understand why your doctor has ordered extra tests in the past, you may be hesitant to go to the primary care clinic, especially if your symptoms are mild. Such hesitancy is common. But Dr. Stewart says annual exams are important, and well worth a visit.
“I get so excited when we can find an issue before it becomes a serious problem. We can correct it easily and early, and my patient gets to keep living the lifestyle they want to be living,” Dr. Stewart says. He explains that common conditions like prediabetes and hypertension can be asymptomatic in the early stages, but if you wait until symptoms are more severe, you may experience more serious, long-term issues. That’s why annual physicals and screening tests are so important.
Men’s preventive health checklist
There’s no universal formula for better health. Your doctor can make personalized recommendations based on your family history, your lifestyle and your goals. But if you’re curious where you stand on preventive care, Dr. Stewart suggests keeping the following milestones in mind:
- Age 35 – 40: Cholesterol screening as part of your annual checkup. “Uncontrolled cholesterol indicates a greater risk of heart disease,” Dr. Stewart says.
- Age 45-50: Colon cancer screening. “Colon cancer is affecting people younger and younger, and modern screening doesn’t have to be invasive. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of these screening options.”
- Age 55+: Prostate screening.
No matter your age or health goals, Dr. Stewart promotes building a strong relationship with your primary care doctor to help keep you on the right track.
“Some patients want to avoid medication or expensive tests, and I understand,” he says. “I try to give my patients as much information as possible, and then let them decide. I think of it as ‘a menu of options.’ My job as a physician is to explain the menu; my patients are always in charge.”