A healthy male in his 20s and 30s should get a physical exam every three to five years, providing no major health problems are present. At 40 years of age, men should get a physical exam every one to two years.

As men age, a number of health screenings provide valuable information in keeping them healthy. Dr. Bryan Albracht, a Springfield (Ill.) Clinic family medicine physician, performs these health screenings as part of his practice, and provides some helpful answers in this Q-and-A.


Q. When should men get a physical exam?


A. A healthy male in his 20s and 30s should get a physical exam every three to five years, providing no major health problems are present. This is usually great news for young men who typically avoid the doctor's office.


At 40 years of age, men should get a physical exam every one to two years. However, a physical exam at least once a year will be necessary if the patient is being treated for a chronic condition, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma or elevated cholesterol.


When men reach their 50s and beyond, a yearly physical exam is recommended.


Q. What is checked in a physical exam?


A. The exam includes a lot of medical information gathering. This information is vital to the effective treatment of the patient. The typical exam begins with a review of past medical and surgical histories, a review of drug allergies and a listing of current drugs and supplements. Family history is important to discuss as it reveals much about pending health risks. Questions regarding social history, such as, alcohol, tobacco or drug use, are discussed as well. Vaccinations are updated.


Other exam elements include a blood-pressure check, height, weight, body mass index, blood work and urinalysis.


All laboratory tests depend upon the chronic condition that is being followed. For example, diabetic patients require yearly blood tests to monitor renal function, blood-glucose control and cholesterol levels. More frequent testing may be necessary, depending on individual control.


After age 50, a Prostate-Specific Antigen test to screen for prostate cancer may be performed after counseling with the physician. In addition, colon cancer screening begins by way of a colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy with a barium enema or fecal occult blood test. The gold standard is a colonoscopy every 10 years.


The appointment also includes time for the patient to discuss any problems, concerns or recent changes in health that they have noticed. Often, men will ignore symptoms or brush them aside. A yearly visit allows the doctor to specifically test for and discuss the most common issues that arise in aging men.


Q. What is important to consider when it comes to your blood pressure?


A. Blood pressure has two components: systolic and diastolic. Systole occurs during the contraction of the lower chambers of the heart, and diastole is measured during the relaxation of the lower chambers of the heart. A normal systolic pressure is less than 140, and a normal diastolic pressure is less than 90. Causes of hypertension can be because of genetics, obesity, dietary causes (high sodium intake, caffeine or alcohol intake) and inactivity. Blood pressure should be checked yearly.


Q. When should you have rectal exams performed?


A.Typically, I do prostate exams for men in there 40s, although current guidelines recommend starting at age 50. 


Dr. Bryan Albracht is a Springfield Clinic family medicine physician in Illinois.


-- BeHealthySpringfield (Ill.)