Comprehensive heath check-ups, especially in men over 50, can be of great benefit as many conditions do not reveal themselves and can go undetected for many years with detrimental effects. HEALTH explains the top 10 most recommended health screening tests for men aged 50 and over to enhance wellbeing and health.
The purpose of health screening is to give a snapshot of a man’s health status and to advise and manage health and lifestyle problems before they become serious. It also allows an individual to track his health status over time and to take advantage of other screening services as he gets older such as prostate and bowel cancer screening after the age of 50, for example. Also conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol do not cause symptoms until they are advanced and severe while other common diseases such as diabetes and the effects of alcohol, smoking and obesity often go undetected until irreversible damage is done.
Why It’s Important: Dr. Ihsan Ullah Khan, Assistant Professor and Specialist Urologist at GMC Hospital explains that prostate cancer has a strong age related incidence especially in men age 60 to 70 years old. “Prostate problems increase with age because of hormonal changes inside the body,” he says. “Some symptoms include hematoma, recurrent UTI, difficulty in passing urine and urine in a narrow stream with later symptoms including bone pain, paraplegia, and/or renal failure.” Prostate screening includes serum PSA and a digital rectal examination and he advises these screening tests for those who are prone to their diseases six monthly or one year, especially for men who are prone to enlargement of the prostate (benign prostate hyperplasia), prostatics or cancer.
Why It’s Important: Colon cancer, says Dr. Khan, is also age related. “Some symptoms include change in bowel habit, constipation, abdominal distension, blood in the stool, a mass in the abdomen, decrease in weight, disliking for food, and peri-anal itching,” he says. “It is important for men over 50 years for precautionary measure for early diagnosis and treatment for these two diseases.” Colon screening includes stool examination, colonoscopy, and double contrast barium enema and Dr. Khan indicates these screening tests for the colon, like the prostate, are paramount in men over age 50, especially those at high risk and should be undertaken every six months to once a year to minimize the risk.
Why It’s Important: Once a man hits age 50, quite often he may notice that it is more challenging to read small print and also may have to squint to see images on TV. While those normal aging happenings are not necessarily health problems, annual scheduling of eye exams can do more and Dr.Salwa Attia, Professor and Consultant of Ophthalmology at GMC Hospital points out that some common problems that increase over age of 50 include presbyopia and refractive errors, glaucoma, cataracts, visual complications due to diabetes, hypertension like vein contusion, haemorrhage and accidents. “A sign of a cataract is blurring vision and also an inability to see definite faces during the day-light even,” she says and even as severe as an inability to read or define details. “It is important for men over 50 to take precaution as glaucoma has age incidence more in people above 50 as the risk of serious problems like glaucomatous optic atrophy which leads to loss of vision, diabetic haemorrhage which leads to distraction of retina and loss of vision, haemorrhage of vicrous due to other atherosclerosis changes and eventually blindness,” she says. “However the most important test for the eyes is a fungus check-up which should be done annually.”
Why It’s Important: The thyroid, says Dr. Graham Simpson, Medical Director at Eternity Medicine Institute plays an important role in regulating how fast your body is running (metabolism.) “Testing the thyroid can be done through blood and through various diagnostic tests,” he says and in fact, the T4 and T3 hormones are responsible for controlling the rate of metabolism of every cell in the human body. The most common problems of the thyroid gland consist of an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) with symptoms of which include fatigue, anxiety, sudden weight loss, rapid heartbeat, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and others. While an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) has symptoms which include fatigue, weight gain, depression, memory loss, and others, he says. This test should be done annually.
Why It’s Important: An extremely important test, Dr. Simpson says that with this test, the thickness of tunica intima and tunica media, the innermost two layers of the arterial wall are measured. “An IMT test is used to detect the presence of atherosclerotic disease in humans,” he says and by using a handheld ultrasound device, it measures the carotid arteries, which are arteries that supply the brain and face with oxygenated blood. “You have one of these arteries on each side of your neck and the blood flow in this artery can become partly or totally blocked by fatty material called plaque,” he says. “Such a blockage can reduce the blood supply to your brain and may cause a stroke.” This should be done annually.
Bone Density Scan (also using the EBCT machine)
Why It’s Important: Bone density scanning (also known as BMD – bone mineral density testing) is used to assess bone density and diagnose osteoporosis, says Dr. Simpson. “Osteoporosis is a condition that is characterized by bones that are less dense than, and thus not as strong as normal bone and this and low bone mass affect millions,” he says. “Less dense bones (the result of the bones thinning) may occur as a result of aging and diets low in calcium and vitamin D.” This should be done annually.
Why It’s Important: Homocysteine is an amino acid that is found in the blood of the human body. “Hundreds of studies have been done over the years and prove that high levels can cause damage to the arteries and cause blood clotting problems,” says Guillaume Safah, registered nutritional consulting practitioner and natural medicine consultant in Dubai. “This test should be done bi-annually.”
Why It’s Important: This test measures an inflammatory response in the body that has been proven to play a role in atherosclerosis and blood clotting formation. “Hs-CRP is the name of the test that patients should ask their doctors for, because it helps determine heart risk, and elevated hs-CRP is related to increased risk for heart attack and narrowing of blood vessels which can lead to restricted blood flow of coronary arteries after angioplasty, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease,” Safah says and should be done annually or bi-annually.
Fasting Insulin Level
Why It’s Important: This is a simple glucose test to check fasting glucose level, tells Safah. “It is possible to have low fasting glucose but still have significantly elevated insulin levels,” he says. “The American Diabetes Association recommends that all people age 50 and older get screening for type 2 diabetes, even if they have no symptoms or risk factors other than age.” However, if there are additional risk factors, screening is especially important. This should be done bi-annually.
Why It’s Important: Vitamin D, says Safah, influences about 3,000 of the 30,000 genes in the body, which is why it’s involved with the expression of so many diseases, from cancer to heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. “Vitamin D level should be regularly checked, but you must obtain the correct test,” he says. “There are two vitamin D tests: 1, 25(OH) D and 25(OH)D and of the two, 25(OH)D is the better marker of overall vitamin D status.” If a man’s vitamin D level is at optimum after the first test, Safah advises that this test should be done annually, provided the individual take vitamin D3 supplements or are exposed to the sun daily for 15 minutes.