By Dr. Ravi Kavasery, Blue Shield of California Vice President, Provider Performance, Quality and Affordability
Did you know that close to 20% of men have not attended a doctor's appointment in the last year?* And the declining trend continues over time. These figures are especially alarming, as preventive health check-ups lead to healthier men – care is proven to improve health outcomes, particularly in the areas of cancer, chronic disease, infectious disease (immunizations), mental health, substance abuse, vision, and oral health. June marks Men’s Health Month and serves as a reminder for men to take an active role in their overall health and wellbeing by visiting their doctor regularly.
Haven’t seen a primary care physician in a while? I recommend creating a checklist before going to the doctor. First, write down any questions you may have or health concerns you’d like to note. Secondly, ask your physician about the below tests and screenings:
Colorectal Cancer screening: Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Staying on top of routine screenings is the best way to reduce this risk of colorectal cancer. Screenings can detect cancer early, even before symptoms occur. There are different types of tests used for screening colorectal cancer. The recommended age for a first screening, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC,) is 45. Testing can either be done in the form of a stool test, which can be done at home, or during a colonoscopy.
Hypertension screening: It is recommended that men ages 18 and over get screened for hypertension, with blood pressure measurement performed at the doctor's office, every 3-5 years. Due to the possibility of white coat hypertension - when you get nervous about seeing the doctor leading your blood pressure skyrocket - it is also recommended to confirm a hypertension diagnosis by following up with at home blood pressure monitoring.
Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Disease screening: If you are over the age of 20, the general recommendation is to get checked every five years. However, this frequency will increase for individuals who are deemed higher risk. For high-risk individuals aged 40 to 75 years old, ask your doctor about statin use as an option for cardiovascular disease prevention. No matter your age or risk level, your doctor can also offer guidance on heart healthy food and exercise that are specific to your history and needs.
Diabetes screening: If you are between the ages of 35 and 70 and overweight, a diabetes screening is recommended, and should be repeated every three years. If you are diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, you can also look into Virta, which is available to Blue Shield of California members through Wellvolution.
Mental Health: During your visit, your doctor will screen you for depression and anxiety. If you are struggling with your mental health, it may feel daunting to ask for help, but your doctor can help get you the treatment you may need. Also through Wellvolution, Blue Shield of California members have access to programs like Headspace and Ginger to help manage stress, anxiety and depression.
Along with necessary health screenings, other topics to discuss with your doctor include substance use, immunizations, sexual health, prostate health, sun exposure concerns, nutrition, and exercise. Be sure to bring up any recent changes in health. Irregularities might include a changing mole, if you notice a difference in size or shape of your testicles, or a drastic fluctuation in weight.
Scheduling a preventive care visit is a big step towards taking care of your health. Ideally, this is not a one-time occurrence, and should happen once a year. A year goes by before you know it – if possible, add a recurring annual checkup to your calendar. Some people have luck tying their annual checkup to an easy to remember annual event, like Labor Day or your birthday month.
*National Center for Health Statistics. Percentage of having a doctor visit for any reason in the past 12 months for adults aged 18 and over, United States, 2019—2021. National Health Interview Survey. https://wwwn.cdc.gov/NHISDataQueryTool/SHS_adult/index.html