- By Mary Caldwell For the AJC
Men are notorious for not wanting to go to the doctor unless they're desperate. But routine doctor's visits – especially when you hit your 40s and beyond – can help you be as healthy as possible. Getting regular care and screenings can help your doctor catch and treat issues while they're in their earliest stages.
What screenings do I need?
After age 40, family history plays a greater role in what your particular health concerns may be, according to Men's Journal. For example, if you have a family history of colon or prostate cancer, you'll want to start getting screened every five years in your 40s rather than waiting until the usually-recommended age of 50.
You'll also want to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol by getting a full lipid panel every three years – or more often if there's an issue. You should also have your blood glucose level checked, particularly if you're overweight.
Could I be depressed?
Middle-aged men can be at risk for depression or even suicide, but they're often less likely to seek help than women are. Suicide rates for men ages 45 to 64 increased by 43 percent in the years from 1999 to 2014, according to Men's Health.
Many men who are suffering from depression may not experience the typical sadness that's associated with this disorder. They may have a change in sleep patterns, fatigue, a diminished interest in sex or feeling a lack of purpose and connection to life. Increased substance abuse is also a common indication that you may be depressed.
Should I be tested for sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. This deprives your brain and the rest of your body of the oxygen it needs to function at your best and increases your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and type 2 diabetes, WebMD says.
If you're a man over 40, you're at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, especially if you're overweight. Other risk factors include having a neck size of 17 inches or greater, a family history of sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and nasal obstruction due to allergies or sinus issues.
If your doctor thinks you may have sleep apnea, he or she can refer you to a sleep specialist. A sleep study, which measures and records what happens to your body as you sleep, can help confirm or rule out the presence of sleep apnea.
Should I be taking a statin?
Statins are cholesterol-busting drugs, and they're now recommended for people ages 40 to 75 who have one or more risk factors that make them have a 10 percent or greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years. The Washington Post says that with these new guidelines, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has greatly expanded the number of people who should take statins.
Risk factors that could cause your doctor to recommend statins include smoking or having high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.
How can I reduce or prevent a "spare tire?"
As men hit middle age, many tend to gain weight around the middle, which is commonly known as a "spare tire," WebMD says. Studies show that gaining weight in this area is a predictor of heart disease and diabetes, even more so than overall obesity is.
Talk to your doctor about what you can do to lose weight and target extra weight around the middle. He or she can point you to a weight loss and fitness plan that's appropriate for your age, weight and any health considerations you may have.