Men, it’s never too early or too late to start caring about your health. Men die an average of 5 years younger than women and lead 9 out of 10 of the top causes of death. They also have a higher suicide death rate and do not see physicians for a physical exam as often as women.
So, what can you do to stay healthy and prevent disease? Make your annual appointment. June is Men’s Health Month and Men’s Health week is June 10-16. This month, schedule your annual exam and have a conversation with your doctor about your overall health and wellness.
What to expect at your annual exam
Your annual exam is an opportunity for your doctor to get a snapshot of your overall health. It’s also an opportunity for you to ask any questions and discuss any concerns you may have so make a list before you go to help you remember your questions once you get there. Here are some things your doctor may check during your appointment.
History: Your doctor will ask you questions about your lifestyle and medical history as well as the medical history of your immediate family. They may ask you about smoking, alcohol use, sexual health, diet, and exercise. It’s important that you’re honest with your doctor because this helps them determine your risk for certain diseases and helps create the best plan for keeping you healthy.
Depression: If you've felt "down," sad, or hopeless, and have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things for two weeks straight, talk to your doctor about whether he or she can screen you for depression.
Sexually transmitted diseases: Talk to your doctor to see whether you should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV.
Vital signs: Your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 and anything over 140/90 is considered high. A healthy heart rate is typically between 60 and 100 and respiration between 12 and 16 breaths per minute is considered normal. A temperature of 98.6 is average but yours may be slightly higher or lower and still be normal.
Heart: By listening to your heart with a stethoscope, your doctor can hear if you have an irregular heartbeat, a heart murmur, or may hear other clues that can indicate heart disease.
Lungs: Again using the stethoscope, your doctor will listen for crackles, wheezes, or decreased breath sounds which may indicate lung disease.
Head and neck: Your doctor will likely have you open your mouth and say “ah” so he can get a good look at your throat and tonsils. He’ll also look at your teeth and gums as they can indicate other health problems as well. He’ll also probably look in your ears, nose, eyes, check your lymph nodes, and may check your thyroid and carotid arteries.
Abdominal: Your doctor may have you lay down and do a series of exams in order to check liver size, presence of abdominal fluid, listen for bowel sounds, and checking for tenderness.
Neurological exam: Your nerves, muscle strength, reflexes, balance, and mental state may all be assessed.
Skin: The doctor might check your skin and nails as they can be indications of problems or disease.
Arms and legs: He may check your arms and legs for physical and sensory changes, check your pulse in both the arms and the legs, and examine your joints.
Male physical exam: Your doctor will likely check each testicle for lumps, tenderness, or changes in size. He or she may also examine your genital area for signs of sexually transmitted diseases. He or she will also do a hernia exam to check for weakness in the abdominal wall between the intestines and scrotum. Finally, he may check your prostate size and screen for any abnormalities that could indicate prostate cancer.
Although the thought of going to the doctor may be intimidating and some of the exams performed and questions done can be uncomfortable, it’s important in order to stay healthy. So, don’t shy away from discussing and caring for your health. Make your annual appointment today!
Dr. John Hughes is a physician with Fisher-Titus Primary Care-Norwalk. To find a primary care physician close to home, visit fishertitus.org/findaprovider or call 419-660-2900 to schedule an appointment.