Men can take lots of steps to be heart-healthy, but many overlook one very important habit: having a regular checkup with a doctor. Think you’re too busy? Think about this: heart disease kills one in four men in the United States, and a lot of men don’t know that they’re at risk.
Early treatment can save your life, and regular checkups give you the chance to talk to your doctor about your risks, habits, and how to make heart-healthy choices.
Heart Health Basics
All men need to take on – and keep up – heart-healthy habits to lower their risks of heart disease and serious medical problems. These include:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Finding ways to cope with stress
- Quitting smoking, or not starting in the first place
- Having a checkup with your doctor each year, and keeping up with health screenings as you age
What Is a Heart Screening?
A screening is a test that gives you basic facts about your health. Heart screenings can take place in your doctor’s office, and many communities have free screenings at health fairs and other events.
What Type of Screening Do I Need?
It’s always best to talk to your doctor about which screenings you need. Most men need basic tests to check blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels every few years.
You might need checkups more often if you have:
- A family history of heart disease
- Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity
- Habits that raise your risks, like smoking
RELATED: Diabetes and Heart Health: Lowering Your Risks
In your 20s & 30s
Get a checkup each year for your overall health. Talk to your doctor about your family history, your lifestyle, and your risks for heart and vascular disease.
Your screenings should include:
- Body mass index (BMI): starting at age 20, get checked every year
- Blood pressure: starting at age 20, get checked every two years
- Cholesterol level: starting at age 20, get checked every six years
In your 40s and 50s
Even though you’re busy with work, family, and community activities, it’s important to keep that yearly checkup with your doctor. If you get diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or another condition, talk to your doctor about your treatment options. Even if you don’t have symptoms or start to feel better, stay on your medicines and stick with the diet and activity guidelines your doctor gives you.
Besides BMI, blood pressure, and cholesterol, your screenings should include:
- Blood glucose level: starting at age 45, get checked every three years
In your 60s & beyond
As you get older, your risks get higher. At your yearly checkup, talk to your doctor about how to keep your risks low and about the symptoms of heart and vascular disease. Chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and other symptoms can be signs of problems.
Based on your history and risks, you may need checkups more often. You might also need screenings for:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm: especially if you’ve smoked, get checked starting at age 65
- Carotid artery disease (CAD): to check your risk of blocked or narrowed arteries in your neck, that bring blood to your brain, which can cause stroke
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD): to check your risk of blocked or narrowed arteries in your limbs and pelvis, which can cause symptoms like pain and difficulty walking and can lead to limb loss
By having your yearly checkup, you can stay in touch with your doctor about your heart and vascular health. Free heart screenings are also offered in many communities, so visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484) to learn about upcoming events and heart screenings in your area.
To find a UPMC primary care physician near you, call 1-800-533-UPMC, or request an appointment online.