5 Tests You Need to Ask for During a Physical

If you don’t love checking “go to the doctor” off your to-do list, you’re not the only one. Men often avoid or skip going to the doctor for a number of reasons including high cost, busy schedules, the challenge of getting an appointment, or the embarrassing possibility of the digital rectal exam, says WebMD. Guys also could have concerns about what doctors may say about their eating, drinking, or exercising habits. Plus, with numerous types of test floating around, it can be incredibly overwhelming to know what to expect the next time you visit the doctor. However, the reality is, getting your annual exam is an essential element of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To take control of your own medical tune-up, talk to your doctor about getting these five tests at your next appointment.

1. Cholesterol

A man getting a physical

Making sure your cholesterol is healthy is extremely important. | iStock.com

According to The American Heart Association, men should have their cholesterol levels tested every four to six years once they turn 20, and more frequently if they have risk factors like diabetes or a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol. A cholesterol test will look at your levels of total cholesterol including HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides. It’s important to get this test frequently because high cholesterol can be treated by medications or diet-change, and doing so will help you avoid other consequent medical conditions.

2. Blood pressure

A man getting his blood pressure checked

You can have high blood pressure for many reasons. | iStock.com

High blood pressure is no laughing matter — it can cause some serious damage to your organs and even result in death. But luckily, a blood pressure test is easy and accurate. The procedure itself is painless and involves nothing more than that rubber-cuff you’re probably familiar with by now. Doctors recommend adults get their blood pressure checked every time you go in for an exam. But if you’re not heading to the doc yearly, at least get your blood pressure checked every two years. In fact, you don’t even need to make an appointment to get this test done, you can quickly get your blood pressure checked at most pharmacies. If you do have high blood pressure, reducing your sodium intake, exercising more, or possibly taking medication can easily treat it.

3. Colorectal cancer

a doctor holding a tablet

It’s scary to think about, but you rather be safe than sorry. | iStock.com

The CDC cites that nearly 52,000 people die of colon cancer each year. However, 60% of these deaths could be prevented if patients were screened properly for this disease. Usually, men aren’t screened for colon cancer until after age 50, but if you have any risk factors like a family member who has had colorectal polyps or cancer or who have inflammatory bowel disease. While most men dread this test more than any other procedure at the doctor, is avoiding a little discomfort really worth the possibility of missing early stages of cancer? And on the bright side, if your doctor doesn’t find anything during the screening, you don’t need to get another one for 10 years!

4. Sexually transmitted infections

Doctor writing medical certificate

You should always check for sexually transmitted diseases. | iStock.com

If you’re sexually active, it never hurts to get checked for STIs; you’ll be doing yourself and any partners a favor. Even if you’re in a totally monogamous relationship, it’s still a good idea to get tested if you haven’t done so in a while. STIs like HIV can go undiagnosed for years since it can take a long time to show any symptoms. The CDC recommends that everyone age 13 to 65 be tested for HIV at least once. But if you’re having unprotected sex or sharing needles, you should be tested yearly.

5. Prostate exam

Doctors hand holding pills

If you have increased risk factors this is worth talking to your doctor about. | iStock.com

This type of exam is widely debated — some studies say the tests are expensive and unnecessary while other specialists believe they can be crucial. While this test may have saved many lives by detecting prostate cancer in early stages, it has also returned many false positives. This may not be an essential test, but talk to your doctor about the pros and cons, especially after you’re over 50. It may be the right move if you have any risk factors related to age and family history.