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Men's health timeline: The treatment you need and when

mens health timeline To live a long and healthy life, it's important for men to have the right treatments and screenings at the right times in their lives.

Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, introduced a major benefit for men: expanded health coverage and preventive services that don't require copays. 

There are specific conditions for which all men and boys should get checked. Many screenings and vaccines are covered by insurance plans, but always check your plan for your specific coverage details.

Boys and teens: ages infant to 17

For boys under the age of 6, common vaccines include those for chickenpox and pertussis (whooping cough).  A full schedule of vaccines for boys 6 and under can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

For boys aged 7 to 12, vaccines for meningitis, a life-threatening disease that can cause strokes and brain damage, and the flu are recommended. 

For boys ages 11 to 17, doctors may discuss the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine with parents. According to the CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. The vaccine helps prevent genital warts and certain cancers.

The current recommendation is that boys get the vaccine at the age of 11 or 12, although the vaccine is approved for males up to age 21.

According to Joel Heidelbaugh, a professor of family medicine and author of the book "Clinical Men's Health: Evidence in Practice", the teen years are when doctors also begin to discuss lifestyle habits and their potential effects on your health, such as smoking, drinking and unprotected sex.

Men: ages 18 to 39

In addition to staying current with the adult vaccine schedule, which includes a yearly flu shot, your doctor will start screening you for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Men in this age group are in a good position to develop healthy behaviors that will reduce their chances of getting a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease later in life.

These behaviors include maintaining a healthy weight and diet and getting regular exercise.

Men: ages 40 to 64

In this age group, your doctor will discuss screening for colorectal cancer, beginning at age 50 for men at normal risk, and screening for hepatitis C, which can lead to liver disease and death.

Your doctor may also discuss prostate cancer screening with you. About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

The current methods available to detect prostate cancer include the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam.

"Men should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of getting the PSA test," says Sandra Fryhofer, a past president of the American College of Physicians and an associate professor of medicine.   

Risks of the PSA test can include a false-positive test result (suggesting that there may be cancer when no cancer is actually present) and having to get additional biopsies –- both of which may cause anxiety for the patient.

Men age 60 and older should consider getting the shingles vaccine. Shingles comes from the same virus as chickenpox and causes a rash that forms into blisters.  Shingles may also cause flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, and headaches. Shingles typically aren’t life threatening; however they can be very painful. 

Men: ages 65 and older

Men in this age group should schedule their "Welcome to Medicare" exam -- a wellness visit that occurs within the first 12 months of joining Medicare. 

This exam includes a vision test and routine screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and mental health conditions such as depression.

Recommended vaccines for this group include the flu shot, and the PCV13 and PPSV23 shots to reduce your risk of getting pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes chest pain, coughing and difficulty breathing. 

Many men in this age group will have one or more health conditions such as heart disease, so your doctor will talk to you about medication management and ways to maintain your quality of life while managing your health.  

Another important test for men between ages 65 and 75 includes screening for an abdominal aortic aneurysm or bulging in the abdominal aorta -- your largest artery. If this artery bursts, you could die from excessive bleeding.

Health throughout your lifetime

Getting regular checkups, vaccines and age-appropriate screenings will help you live a happier, healthy life.

There is some evidence that men go seek out health services less often than women and may feel less comfortable talking about health problems with their doctors.

"Men should feel empowered to talk to their doctors about health concerns and to be an active partner in their health care," Heidelbaugh says. 

To learn more about tools to help you manage your health and talk to your doctor, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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