Do you give yourself health checkups?
We’re men. We’re invincible, right?
That’s called the Superman Syndrome. (Yes, it’s actually a thing.) Men are more likely to avoid going to the doctor for regular check-ups and more likely to wave off certain health issues as minor setbacks to their regular routine of kicking ass and taking names.
Guys, the Superman Syndrome isn’t doing us any favors. You should visit your general healthcare physician at least twice a year for routine check-ups, but there are a few proactive ways that you can get ahead of the game where your health is concerned, simply by observing your own body. It’s time to check yourself.
Here are five health self-checks that you can do in the comfort of your own home.
1. Measure Your Belly Fat
Stubborn belly fat is the hardest to shed from the body. A ‘beer gut’ is unsightly but it’s also a key health indicator that you can’t afford to ignore. This type of fat lies beneath the subcutaneous layer and surrounds your inner organs. If you have too much belly fat, then you’re at high risk for Type 2 Diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
You don’t have to perform a home self-check on your visceral fat on a monthly basis, but it’s an important health check if you think you might already be at risk. Here’s what you can do. Take a measuring tape, like the ones that tailors use, and measure your waist to hip ratio.
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Basically, you divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. So, if your hip measures 45 -inches and your waist measures 56-inches, you would divide 45 into 56 to get a ratio score of 1.2.
Now, if your measurement is above 0.92 then you’re considered to be at high risk levels for serious health problems. ACE Fitness’ best exercise to get rid of stubborn belly fat is the bicycle crunch. Here’s some detailed information on how to do bicycle crunches properly.
2. Heart Rate
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in America, affecting 1 out of every 4 individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that between 70 and 89% of sudden cardiac events happen to men. That should get your attention.
Now, you should consider doing a self-examination on your heart rate and pulse. Do it once a month.
When you’re at a state of rest, place your index and middle finger against your inner wrist. You should feel a rhythmic thumping sensation – that’s your pulse. A normal pulse rate for men is 10 to 16 pulses in a 10-second span of time. Sometimes, this is calculated by counting the number of pulses and multiplying by six.
If you’re outside of this range, you could be in danger of hypothyroidism or even have damage to your heart tissue. You need to contact your doctor immediately if you think your pulse is consistently too high or too low when you are at a state of rest.
You should also listen to the spaces between your pulse beats to note an irregular pulse.
This is called arrythmia and could be indicative of a potassium imbalance, heart disease or problems with how your heart muscles contract.
3. Testicular Examination
A testicular exam is the first type of self-examination that men should perform. That’s because it affects men as young as 14 years old and it’s the most common type of cancer for young men, specifically between the ages of 15 and 35.
The Testicular Cancer Society notes that the overall 5-year survival rate is 95% when the problem is detected early.
That’s why a testicular self-examination is so important. The best way to perform a self-test for testicular cancer Is to take a warm shower so that the skin of the scrotum is relaxed, and the testicles are positioned away from the body.
Hold a single testicle between your thumb and forefinger and roll it around, looking for any abnormal lumps, bumps or abnormal growth.
It helps to get a basic knowledge of the anatomy of your testicles because you might feel around down there and not know what’s normal. You should perform a testicular examination once a month and alert your health care provider immediately if you have any concerns.
4. Skin Examination
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, affecting 1 in 5 Americans according to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s findings. Once a month you should check your entire body for skin-related issues.
The best way to proceed is to take a warm shower and afterwards, stand in front of a full-length mirror. A handheld mirror might also help you see those hard to reach areas of your body along the posterior chain. Start by looking for moles and birthmarks. Most of these are normal and harmless, but you want to familiarize yourself with their size and texture.
Note whether any skin abnormalities have grown in size or changed color. You also want to check for new moles or bumps, and whether they cause pain when you touch them. Don’t overlook your scalp, your hands and even feet.
Men are also especially vulnerable to skin cancers around the back of the neck and ears due to sun exposure. So, you might want to ask your partner to help you do a more thorough examination of those areas, as well.
5. Oral Health Check
You should perform an oral check in a well-lit environment at least once a month. You can also use a small handheld mirror to make a more detailed examination.
Pull your lips and cheeks away from the teeth and look for any discoloration or suspicious lumps or bumps. It might help to run your tongue over any problem areas you find because this might help to jar your memory as to how long that particular problem has been there.
Check your tongue by running your finger along the top, bottom and sides. Check the roof of your mouth by tilting your head back and saying “ahh”.
Using your smart phone to take a quick photo might help you when visually checking the roof of your mouth. Plaque is a sticky bacterium that leads to gingivitis, but you can check for it with a self-examination.
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You can check for dental plaque by using an over-the-counter staining solution. This type of product specifically targets the plaque bacteria and stains it a specific color, so you can notice it more easily.
Lastly, pull out the floss and check specifically for bleeding along the gumline or see if you have any loose teeth. Gum disease can be a warning sign for other serious health risks such as dementia and increased risks for heart disease and stroke.
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to perform an oral health check, take a closer look at this chart.
Tips and Tricks
You might want to keep a self-check journal to help you remember the dates of your last examination and any concerns that you might have had. You can also document some of your problem areas by taking a quick snapshot with your smart phone.
The photos you take will be time stamped and dated but be careful not to share them accidently. Also, a self-examination doesn’t mean that you have to do it yourself.
A trusted partner or loved one might be able to spot a health-related issue better than you can, so it’s perfectly alright to enlist the help of someone close to you.
As men we have societal pressures dealing with healthcare that researchers have barely begun to investigate. Conventional masculinity can sometimes increase our tendency to “suck it up” and make light of our pain rather than take proactive steps to improve our physical well-being.
The Superman Complex has us lying to ourselves. “Today’s health systems don’t speak to the cultural issues that are ingrained in men,” says Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, Senior Faculty Advisor at Emory University’s School of Public Health in Atlanta, Georgia.
Testicular self-checks are just as important as breast examinations, but most school systems aren’t teaching young boys how to do them because of the sexual stigmatism centered around our genitalia.
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Oral cancer rates are higher for men than women, but the Journal of Periodontology reported that women are more proactive about their oral health than men.
We’re also at risk of having a heart attack much earlier than our female counterparts. These are just a few of the reasons why self-checks are so important for men.
We should take just as much pride in our clever, forward-thinking preventative measures, as we do our superior strength and durability. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Be a good caretaker of your body and live a longer, healthier life.