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Men’s health checklist — what should you be checking at your age?

The recommended checks and advice for every decade of a man’s life.

Ever wondered what the health screenings are for your age? Even if you feel fine, keeping your health checklist (like, when was the last time I checked my balls?) at the top of mind can help you avoid problems in the future.  

It can be challenging to keep on top of the mountain of recommended health tests and lifestyle measures throughout life. This men’s health checklist highlights some of the areas of your health that you should focus on through each decade.  

Many of these checks are cumulative, meaning there’ll be more to keep an eye on as you get older. So, while you should start self-examining your testicles from adolescence, you should make this a lifelong habit.  

Find out what you should be checking in your:  

What to check in your 20s

1. Sexual health 

If you’re sexually active, it’s important to practise safe sex and keep an eye down below for any symptoms. Young people are at much greater risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), so it’s important to:  

  • Use a condom — Male latex condoms are safest. 
  • Get checked regularly — You should get a test every three months if you have lots of sexual partners. 
  • Avoid drugs or alcohol before sex — Being under the influence increases your chances of engaging in risky behaviour. 

Many people forget that STIs can also be passed on through oral sex (like chlamydia and gonorrhoea), rimming, sharing sex toys, as well as genital contact (such as genital warts and syphilis).  

In the UK, chlamydia is the most common STI in the UK by far [1], followed by gonorrhoea and genital warts.

Look out for symptoms like: 

  • Pain when peeing 
  • Discharge from the penis — Discharge may be white, yellow, green, cloudy, or watery. 
  • Pain in the testicles 
  • Small, flesh-coloured, brown or pink growths around the genitals 

Don’t forget that many STIs produce no symptoms at all, so you should always get checked if you believe you’re at risk.  

Visit our sexual health hub for more information on how to look after your sexual health. 

Some services offer free sexual health testing depending on the area you live. Alternatively, you can book an appointment at a sexual health clinic.   

2. Testicular health 

If you’re not already in a regular routine of self-examining, now’s a very good time to start.  

Each year in the UK, around 2,300 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer [2]. Although it’s relatively uncommon on the whole, it’s one of the most common cancers to affect men aged between 15 and 49. White men are at greater risk compared with other ethnic groups [3]. The good news is, it has an excellent prognosis if you spot it early.  

It’s important to try and do a testicular self-examination every month. It’ll help you become familiar with the normal size and shape of your testicles, making it easier to spot if something changes. It’s a good habit to get into while you’re young. If you know you’re likely to forget, set yourself a monthly reminder on your phone.   

Here’s how to check for testicular cancer.  

3. Mental health 

Did you know that three-quarters of mental health problems are established by the age of 24? [4] Yet many young adults don’t have appropriate treatments or intervention at a sufficiently early age.  

Your 20s come with many emotional challenges and stresses: 

  • Career anxiety — As soon as you start employment, it can start to feel like a constant uphill battle to reach your peak and be successful. Many people put themselves under immense pressure which can lead to burnout, stress, and even depression. Remember your career is something you work on lifelong, and your younger years are a great time to explore.   
  • Uncertainty — You may finish your studies, take a gap year, or change careers only to wonder if you’re doing the right thing. Periods of uncertainty can lead to anxiety. Remember it’s normal to worry about the unknown, but if it becomes a permanent emotion that interferes with your day-to-day functioning, it’s time to seek help.  
  • Body image — Fitness models and social media paint an unrealistic picture of a normal male physique. Body dysmorphia (anxiety related to body image) has become increasingly common in men. Find out more about body dysmorphia and where to go for help.   
  • Relationship problems — Many people in their 20s go through big relationship changes such as marriage, having children, sexual problems, financial difficulties, or separation. These can be difficult periods to get through. Often the best way to resolve problems like this are to have an open and honest discussion your partner. You can also visit Relate, a website that offers relationship support.  

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help. Your GP can talk things through with you, support you, and connect you to a range of helpful services.  

You can also refer yourself to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT) without a referral. If there is a waiting time, there are many charities that can offer mental health support in the meantime.   

What to check in your 30s

1. Blood pressure 

Around one in three men in the UK has high blood pressure (hypertension) [5].  

If you don’t yet know your numbers, it’s a good idea to get a blood pressure check.

This is especially true if you:  

  • Are carrying extra weight 
  • Smoke 
  • Have a family history of hypertension 
  • Have diabetes 
  • Have high cholesterol 

While your risk of high blood pressure is much greater in your later years, if it’s high now, it’s likely already causing damage. It’s impossible to know without checking as often there are no symptoms. So, it’s best to correct it sooner rather than later. If you have your own blood pressure machine, you can measure your blood pressure at home or alternatively, visit your GP. You may not even need to book an appointment — many practices now have automatic blood pressure machines in the waiting room. 

Visit our hypertension guide to find out more about the causes and risks of high blood pressure and how you can prevent it.  

2. Diet and nutrition 

Many people in their 30s are focused on their career or starting a family. When this happens, it can be easy to put others first and forget to look after yourself.  

If someone were to ask you what your diet was like, what would your honest answer be?  

If your response is anything but nutritious and well-balanced, this might be an opportunity to see where you could make some positive changes. While there are certain things you should limit — saturated fats, salt, added sugars, processed foods — it’s just as important to make sure your diet is varied and rich in nutrients. 

Your diet greatly impacts your energy levels, mood, and fertility, factors which may well be a priority in your 30s. And as you approach your 40s and beyond, cardiovascular health takes the front seat. If you’re unsure where to start, the Mediterranean diet creates a good foundation. Rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, and unsaturated fats, this diet can help reduce your risk of many conditions.  

For a more objective measure of your nutritional status, try our Nutrition Blood Test that measures important micronutrients like vitamin D and B12, iron, and magnesium.  

 3. Male hormones 

Male hormones describe the group of hormones that give men their male characteristics. 

There are several reasons you may wish you check your male hormones, particularly testosterone levels, in your 30s:  

  • Fitness and body composition — Many men in their 30s are in their peak physical condition. You may find yourself embarking on a new fitness journey, training for a physically demanding challenge, or wanting to smash new personal bests at the gym. Testosterone has a role to play in athletic performance and indirectly affects your body composition, including your muscle to fat ratio and your ability to build muscle.  
  • Energy and vitality — If your testosterone levels are low, it can affect your energy levels, something many men in their 30s can’t afford, especially if you’re flat out in your career or starting a family.  
  • Sexual health — Testosterone deficiency can lead to erectile dysfunction and low sex drive.  
  • Fertility — If you’re planning on starting a family, there’s no need to check your fertility before trying. But having low male hormone levels can affect fertility, so it’s important to know what lifestyle choices might cause a hormone imbalance.  

Testosterone levels are affected by alcohol and anabolic steroid abuse and type 2 diabetes, among others. You can measure your testosterone levels easily at home with our Testosterone Blood Test.  

If you already know your levels are low, here’s how you can naturally increase your levels of testosterone.   

What to check in your 40s

1. Cholesterol 

When you turn 40, you’ll be eligible for a free NHS Health Check every five years until the age of 74, provided you don’t already have a pre-existing condition. Part of this check involves assessing your risk of heart disease with a cholesterol blood test and blood pressure check.   

Risk factors for high cholesterol include:  

  • A poor diet high in saturated fats 
  • Being overweight 
  • Lack of exercise 
  • Smoking 
  • Alcohol 
  • A family history of high cholesterol 

Having high cholesterol significantly increases your risk of circulatory diseases like heart attacks, strokes, and vascular dementia. So, it’s really important to know your numbers.  

You should aim for a total cholesterol of less than five, an LDL level (bad cholesterol) of less than three, and an HDL level (good cholesterol) of more than one.  

You can check your cholesterol levels from home with a finger-prick blood test. Try our Cholesterol Blood Test.  

2. Diabetes risk 

For every 14 people in the UK, one has diabetes. And it’s becoming increasingly common — one in five of us is now at increased risk, and this number climbs as we get older. 

As part of your NHS Health Check, you’ll also be offered an HbA1c blood test, which measures how much glucose (sugar) has attached itself to your red blood cells. An HbA1c between 42 and 47 is termed prediabetes. A confirmed value above 47 is diagnostic of diabetes.  

You’re most at risk if you:  

  • You have a parent, sibling, or child with diabetes 
  • Are of South Asian, African-Caribbean, or Black African descent 
  • Are carrying extra weight, especially around the middle 
  • Have ever had high blood pressure, a heart attack, or stroke 

You can calculate your risk score of type 2 diabetes with a diabetes quiz. Or, check your HbA1c levels directly with our Diabetes (HbA1C) Blood Test.   

3. Liver health 

It can be easy to fall into a routine of enjoying a few beers or glasses of wine in the evening after work or at the weekends. Without realising, you may be drinking over the recommended 14 units. If you’re not sure, check your weekly consumption with a unit calculator.  

It’s important to be aware of the long-term harmful effects of alcohol. It can affect not only important organs like your liver, but also your career, relationships, and sex life. 

It’s fine to enjoy a drink every now and again, but if you feel it’s getting out of hand, there’s plenty of support available for alcohol dependency.  

Another aspect that can affect your liver is being overweight. Your liver loves to store excess fat which can lead to fatty liver disease, causing inflammation and scarring over time.  

You can check your liver health at home with our Liver Blood Test. This check can help you identify whether your lifestyle is causing detectable damage to your liver, however, a normal result does not necessarily mean your diet is healthy.  

4. Mental health  

Mental health crops up again because it is critical in this decade — men in their 40s continue to have the highest suicide rate in the UK [6]. 

Mental health problems are perhaps more common in men than you think. Conditions like depression, anxiety, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affect about one in eight men [7].  

While this paints a gloomy picture, there is help and support available to help you through difficult periods in your life. MIND provides an excellent overview of these services as well as how you can help others that may be going through something similar.  

What to check in your 50s

1. Skin check 

If you’ve not already been regularly checking your skin for suspicious moles and other abnormal growths, this is your reminder.  

It’s important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so you can pick up on any subtle changes. Develop a regular habit of checking your skin alongside a testicular self-examination.  

Stand naked in front of a mirror and check your entire body in good lighting — back, scalp, and even soles of the feet. You can also ask your partner to check for you.  

Skin cancer can be easy to miss. It’s often seen rather than felt. Use an A to E approach to identify suspicious moles:  

  • Asymmetry — Look for spots that lack symmetry.  
  • Border — Any moles or growth with an irregular or notched edge are more suspicious.  
  • Colour — Get checked if you identify blotchy spots with several colours like black, blue, red, white, or grey.  
  • Diameter — Look for spots that are getting bigger.  
  • Evolving — If a spot is changing or growing, get it looked at. 

Some skin cancers spread very quickly, so if you notice something that looks abnormal, don’t wait. Book in with your GP as soon as you can.  

2. Urinary symptoms and prostate health 

About one in three men over 50 have urinary symptoms. The most common cause of these symptoms is an enlarged prostate [8].  

An enlarged prostate (or prostate cancer) may cause symptoms such as:  

  • A weak flow of urine 
  • A feeling that your bladder hasn’t fully emptied 
  • Difficulty starting to pee 
  • Dribbling urine after you finish peeing 
  • Needing to pee more often, especially at night 
  • A sudden urge to pee 

If you have any of these symptoms, you should visit your GP to find out what might be causing them — it’s not always the prostate. And on the flipside, some men with an enlarged prostate don’t get any symptoms at all.  

Having an enlarged prostate does not increase your risk of getting prostate cancer, but it is possible to have both at the same time. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men — about one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. In addition to the symptoms above, if prostate cancer spreads, it can also cause back pain, erectile dysfunction, weight loss, and blood in the urine. If you’re worried, see your GP.  

Check your risk of prostate cancer in 30 seconds.  

There is currently no screening programme for prostate cancer. A blood test known as prostate specific antigen (PSA) can be useful when assessing risk, but it does have its downsides. It can be both falsely reassuring or cause anxiety if it is raised when there might not be a problem. Both an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer can cause a high PSA.  

You can measure your PSA at home with a finger-prick blood test — PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) Blood Test

3. Cardiovascular health 

By the time you reach your 50s, you might have a good idea of your cardiovascular risk.

This risk is based on several factors including:  

  • Family history of heart disease 
  • Ethnicity 
  • Blood pressure 
  • Cholesterol levels 
  • Weight 
  • Smoking status  
  • Diabetes status 

If you’re not sure, now is the time to find out. You’ll need a recent blood pressure reading and ideally your cholesterol levels. If you don’t know your cholesterol status, ask your GP for your latest results or take a cholesterol test at home with our Cholesterol Blood Test.  

With this information, you can calculate your QRISK3 score, which will tell you your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years. It will tell you how your risk compares with other people your age. (Note, this test is only valid if you do not already have a diagnosis of heart disease or stroke.) 

What can you do if your score is raised? The good news is you can reduce your cardiovascular risk through lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. If your QRISK3 score is greater than 10% or you’re deemed high risk, your doctor may also offer a cholesterol-lowering medication.   

What to check in your 60s

1. Bowel health 

When you reach your 60s and beyond, you’ll be given the option to take part in screening programmes. The purpose behind these is to identify diseases as early as possible when they are easier to treat. 

One very successful screening programme is bowel cancer screening. Bowel cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer and catching it early makes a significant difference to prognosis. Screening is very simple: you’ll be sent a home test kit to collect a small sample of your stools to be sent to the lab. If they find anything abnormal, you might be asked to have further tests.  

As well as regular screening, you can also look out for symptoms.

Nine out of ten people with bowel cancer have at least one of the following symptoms:  

  • A persistent change in bowel habit — pooing more often with loose, runnier stools and sometimes tummy pain 
  • Blood in the stools (without piles) 
  • Tummy pain, discomfort, or bloating always brought on by eating — this can sometimes cause reduced appetite and weight loss 

If you develop any of these symptoms, book in with your GP as soon as you can. 

2. Visual health 

As you reach 60 and beyond, visual problems become more common.  

Common causes of vision loss include:  

  • Presbyopia — This is when the natural lens of the eye loses its ability to focus on nearby objects. People often notice it in their 40s and it often gets gradually worse. You may find yourself having to hold reading materials at a distance. Solutions range from reading glasses at their most basic, to laser surgery.  
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — AMD is a common condition that affects the middle part of your vision. It doesn’t cause total blindness but can make reading and recognising faces difficult. Symptoms include a blurred or blind spot in the centre of your vision, which can get worse if it’s not treated.  
  • Glaucoma — Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve gets damaged, usually caused by fluid building up in the front portion of your eye. It most commonly affects adults in their 70s and 80s.  
  • Cataracts — Cataracts are when the lens of the eye develops cloudy patches. It usually affects both eyes and can make it difficult to carry out daily activities.  
  • Diabetic retinopathy — Diabetic retinopathy describes damage to back of the eye due to diabetes. It can cause blindness if left untreated.  
  • Dry eye — Dry eye occurs when the eyes don’t make enough tears. It can cause blurry vision and your eyes may feel gritty, sore, or itchy.  

NHS sight tests are free for people over 60.

The NHS recommends you have a sight test at least every two years if you:  

  • Have diabetes 
  • Are aged 70 or over 
  • Are aged 40 or over and have a family history of glaucoma 

You may have an NHS sight test more frequently if it’s considered clinically necessary. If it’s not deemed necessary, but you’d still like to get checked, you’ll need to pay for a private test. 

3. Bone health 

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just women that are at risk of osteoporosis (reduced bone density). More than one in five men will break at least one bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime [9].  

In most cases, the cause of osteoporosis in men is unknown. However, there’s a link to testosterone levels which decline naturally with age [10]. Other factors which can increase your risk of osteoporosis include alcohol and certain medicines like steroids. 

It’s important to make sure you’re getting plenty of calcium (700mg a day) and vitamin D (10µg a day). Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium which is important for maintaining healthy bones.  

Unfortunately, many of us are deficient in vitamin D in the UK — it’s difficult to get enough from food and sunlight alone. Vitamin D is one of the few supplements that almost everyone can benefit from taking. Find out more about vitamin D and how it affects your health or check your levels with our Vitamin D (25 OH) Blood Test.  

4. Male hormones 

Testosterone levels steadily decline from your 30s onwards, but there is a steeper decline from your 70s and 80s onwards. This isn’t usually a problem for most people, but for some it may cause symptoms.  

Typical symptoms of testosterone deficiency include:  

  • Erectile dysfunction 
  • Reduced libido 
  • Small or shrinking testicles 

It may also cause nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue and low mood, which are commonly caused by other conditions.  

If you think your testosterone levels might be low, you can check them at home with our Testosterone Blood Test

Find out more about how testosterone levels change with age.  

5. Immunity 

When you reach your 60s and beyond, your immune system becomes less responsive to infections. You might find that you’re catching more colds than usual, or that your energy levels have slumped.  

There are several ways you can adapt your lifestyle to keep your immune system in tip-top condition — we’ve put together a list of five ways to stay energised and well.  

6. Cardiovascular health 

As mentioned previously, cardiovascular health becomes increasingly important with age. So, as a continuation of advice in your 50s, keep a close eye on your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and consider a heart-healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet.  

Keeping fit and active is another excellent way to optimise your cardiovascular fitness. If you’re not already, aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week.  

Vaccinations 

In your 60s and beyond, you’ll be offered several one-off or repeat vaccinations to help protect you from certain conditions. These are: 

  • Pneumococcal (one-off injection at 65 years old or older) — This vaccine protects against potentially fatal pneumococcal infections which can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and blood poisoning (sepsis).  
  • Influenza (at 65 and every year after) — The influenza vaccine protects you against the flu. Though no vaccine is ever 100% effective, it can significantly reduce your risk of becoming seriously unwell.  
  • Shingles (70 – 79 years old) — This injection prevents reactivation of the chickenpox virus known as shingles. Shingles can be very painful and cause long-lasting pain even after the rash has cleared.  

Men’s health checks 

No matter your age, there are always ways you can improve your health with simple changes to your lifestyle. Aim to exercise regularly, enjoy a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and avoid smoking, and limit alcohol to less than 14 units per week.  

For an all-round check of your health, we highly recommend our Advanced Well Man Blood Test. It covers liver and kidney health, diabetes risk, cholesterol status, as well as testosterone levels and vitamins for energy and wellbeing.  


References 

  1. GOV.UK. 2022. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): annual data tables. [online] Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/sexually-transmitted-infections-stis-annual-data-tables> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  2. Macmillan Cancer Support. 2018. [online] Available at: <https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/testicular-cancer> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  3. NHS. 2019. Testicular cancer. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/testicular-cancer/> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  4. Mental Health Foundation. n.d. Mental health statistics: children and young people. [online] Available at: <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  5. Bloodpressureuk.org. n.d. Blood Pressure UK. [online] Available at: <https://www.bloodpressureuk.org/news/media-centre/blood-pressure-facts-and-figures/> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  6. Samaritans. 2020. Latest suicide data. [online] Available at: <https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/latest-suicide-data/> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  7. Mental Health Foundation. n.d. Men and mental health. [online] Available at: <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/men-and-mental-health> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  8. Prostate Cancer UK. 2017. Enlarged prostate. [online] Available at: <https://prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information/further-help/enlarged-prostate> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  9. CKS NICE. 2021. Prevalence | Background information | Osteoporosis - prevention of fragility fractures | CKS | NICE. [online] Available at: <https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/osteoporosis-prevention-of-fragility-fractures/background-information/prevalence/> [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 
  10. NHS. 2019. Osteoporosis - Causes. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoporosis/causes/> [Accessed 29 April 2022].