According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention statistics, U.S. men on average live six years less than women and are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and injuries. They are also less likely than women to have health insurance or seek preventive care.
While young men can sometimes get away with the wait-until-you-feel-ill approach to seeing a doctor, after age 30, you are at greater risk of a variety of diseases affecting men that have no or few symptoms in their early stages, when they are easier to treat.
It's recommended men in this age range see their doctor every three years. Expect blood tests for cholesterol, fasting blood sugar, and kidney and liver function, as well as a urinalysis. These results give your doctor a broad picture of your general health. You should also review your family health history which can help determine whether you should have some early screenings.
What to Look Out For
For men, cancer and cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and stroke) are the biggest concerns. Nationally, half of all deaths for men result from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Ron Sinha, M.D., an internal medicine physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, sees many men in their 30s and 40s who retain a residual feeling of invincibility from youth. This can lead to unhealthy behaviors with direct consequences on their health once they leave their 20s.
“In general, between age 35 and 40 is when things start breaking down in guys who neglect their health,” he says. “Characteristics of confidence, resilience, independence and drive may make men successful in the workplace, but these characteristics work against you when it comes to your health.”
If you are experiencing weight gain and more aches and pains, these could be warning signs of premature aging and not a normal part of getting older, Dr. Sinha explains.
“Don’t wait for a significant health event, like a diagnosis of diabetes, a heart attack, or a herniated disk, to prompt you to change poor lifestyle choices,” he says. “If you’ve got a family and others who depend on you, refusing to change is a selfish decision.”
Tests You May Need
In addition to looking for early signs of cardiovascular disease and chronic health problems like diabetes during the physical exam, your doctor will try to assess your risk for other serious diseases by collecting as complete a health history as possible. For example, certain cancers that affect men can occur at younger ages if there is a family history of the cancer. These include prostate and colon cancers.
If your father developed prostate cancer before age 50, your doctor may offer you the prostate specific antigen or PSA blood test when you turn 40. If you have male relatives who had early colon cancer, you may need to be screened before age 50.
Tests recommended for men in their 30s and 40s include the following. If you have a specific medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems, you may need even more frequent testing. Always follow the specific directions of your doctor, Dr. Sinha adds.
- Cholesterol testing every five years starting at age 35.
- Glucose test (Type 2 diabetes screening) every three years starting at age 45.
- Blood pressure measuring every two years starting at age 40.
- Eye exams every two to four years starting at age 40. (Nearsightedness typically begins at this age in both men and women.)
- PSA test if you have certain risk factors, such as a family history of prostate cancer.
- A stool occult blood test annually if you are at higher risk for colon cancer.
- A flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy if you have certain colon cancer risk factor, such as polyps, irritable bowel disease, a family history or colon cancer or are African American.
- Sleep disorder testing (polysomnography) if you are fatigued and/or a heavy snorer.
- Sexually—transmitted disease testing if you have engaged in unprotected sex outside of a monogamous relationship.