Home/ Blog/ Preventive Care/

Men's health at every age: A guide through the decades

Nov 28, 2023 By Dominique Astorino
Doctor and male patient walking together down a One Medical office hallway

Clinical Editor: Spencer Blackman, MD

When it comes to your health, it can be hard to stay on top of your personal to-dos. There are screenings, exams, and tests to be done in every chapter of your life. But what boxes are we trying to tick, and when?

Men and individuals assigned male at birth have their own unique set of challenges. When should I start talking about heart health with my doctor? What about getting tested for colorectal cancer?

To help you manage this plan a little better (and provide a peace of mind), we’ve created a checklist to help you navigate every decade. Here’s how you can reduce your risk of disease and boost your health at every age.

All ages

No matter your age, a proactive approach to your health is essential. There are several preventive actions you can take to stay on top of your well-being.

One of the best things you can do is develop a relationship with a primary care provider and stay on top of your annual visits. Primary care providers can keep you on track with routine immunizations and preventative screenings and catch potentially serious issues early on before they cause any complications. “An annual wellness visit, to check in with your primary care provider about your health and your family's health history, helps determine if you are at increased risk for certain diseases that might need earlier detection and/or genetic testing,” says One Medical provider, Laura Korin, MD, MPH. Your provider will treat you within the context of your personal and family health history, and partner with you to create a personalized care plan to help you meet your long-term goals. During annual visits, your provider can stay on top of your progress and suggest lifestyle changes to keep you on track.

Beyond visiting your primary care provider, there are some general habits that are important, no matter what age you are. “For all ages, a well balanced diet, regular moderate intensity exercise, quality sleep, and mitigating stress levels can promote a long, healthy life,” says Korin. This means getting regular physical activity, prioritizing a well-balanced diet full of whole-foods, and aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. It’s also always a good idea to be mindful of your alcohol and tobacco consumption. If you smoke, the sooner you quit, the better. Likewise, heavy drinking is associated with a number of health problems, so moderation is key.

In your 20s

You might feel invincible in your 20s. It’s an exciting, fresh time in your early adulthood. But it’s also the perfect time to lay the foundation for a healthful life. Consider this decade an opportunity to start adopting the healthy habits mentioned above; The earlier you begin practicing them, the easier it will be to stick with them as you get older.

If you haven’t found a primary care provider yet, now is the time to start going in for an annual visit. While regular check-ups may feel unnecessary when you’re feeling fine and healthy, it’s important to establish this relationship now so that you have a trusted resource who can monitor your health and discuss issues when they arise.

If you’re sexually active, you should start a conversation with your provider about screening for sexually transmitted infections (STI). A number of factors, including your lifestyle, sexual activity, and personal health history, will impact which screenings your provider recommends and when.

Additionally, everyone through the age of 45 who has not gotten or completed the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series yet should be vaccinated as soon as possible, as the vaccine provides protection against strains of the virus most associated with penile cancer, anal cancer, and other cancers.

In your 30s

Some subtle ‘side effects’ of aging may be creeping in and you may not feel as infallible as you did in your 20s. Maybe you don’t recover as quickly from a hangover as you used to, or you’ve noticed a few gray hairs. While your 30s can come with a lot of changes, you can count on your health checkpoints to be virtually the same as your 20s, and remain focused on your annual checkups and STI screenings.

One thing that may be new during your annual visits though is diabetes screening. Your provider may recommend checking your fasting blood sugar level, your non-fasting blood sugar level, or a test called hemoglobin A1c, which can also give information about your blood sugar without requiring fasting. While this is typically recommended starting at age 35, your provider may suggest testing earlier depending on your risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

Another concern for many individuals this age is hair loss. Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, is the most common form of hair loss in individuals assigned male at birth and occurs gradually over time. Though it’s more frequently seen in individuals in their fifties or older, it can start at any time, and by the age of 35, up to two-thirds of individuals assigned male at birth will experience some degree of hair loss. If you’re concerned or unhappy with your hair loss, reach out to your primary care provider. They’ll be able to help rule out any other causes and guide you through your available treatment options. One Medical members can use the Treat Me Now feature via the One Medical app to be evaluated for male pattern baldness right from their phone.

In your 40s

Between your 30s and 40s, you might find yourself juggling more responsibility. Maybe you’ve taken on a bigger role at work, have started raising a family, are caring for aging parents, or are busy doing all three. With a jam-packed schedule, it can be hard to find time for yourself.

At this stage in life, prioritizing your mental health is key. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, including raising your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, so it’s important to make time for self-care. Protect yourself from burnout by practicing stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing, journaling, meditation, or yoga. Continue taking care of both your physical and emotional well-being by maintaining a balanced diet, workout regimen and sleep schedule. Your primary care provider can also provide mental health support and work with you to develop a care plan for managing stress, anxiety, and more.

In addition to your mental health, caring for your heart health becomes increasingly important in your 40s. As the risk of heart disease increases with age, paying close attention to your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels now can help you better understand your personal risk and take preventative action. Metabolism also typically takes a dip at this age. so it’s especially important to keep up with good eating habits and regular exercises to maintain a healthy weight, protect your heart, and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Likewise, erectile dysfunction becomes more common with age, and can be an early signal of suboptimal heart health. If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, it’s important to talk to your provider, who can evaluate and address your risk factors for heart disease.

It’s also recommended that you have a discussion with your primary care provider about when to start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45. If you have a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors for it, we recommend having this conversation even earlier.

In your 50s and beyond

While hitting that middle age milestone may be scary, your future is still bright. You’ve experienced a lot in your life and there’s more to come. Use this time to renew your focus and take charge of your health for years to come.

Cancer screenings continue to become increasingly important during this stage of your life, as the risk of various cancers increases with age. You should continue colon cancer screenings based on the schedule and frequency you determine with your provider, and have a discussion about prostate cancer screening at age 55. Those who are at higher-risk of prostate cancer should consider having these conversations earlier, around 40 or 45.

As cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for individuals assigned male at birth and risk increases with age, regular visits to your primary care provider become especially important as you get older. Your provider will work with you to review your labs and health habits to ensure your personal risk factors are being continuously monitored and mitigated.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with key warning signs of heart attack and stroke, so you know what to do in the event of an emergency. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, and some may experience more mild symptoms than others.

If you’ve ever been a smoker, this is a good time to pay closer attention to your lung health as well. Depending on your smoking history, your provider might recommend an annual chest scan.

Additionally, your bone health should be a priority as you age. Loss of bone density is a normal part of aging, but some people experience a condition called osteoporosis, which causes the bones to become weak and brittle and increases the risk of a fracture. As you get older, your provider may recommend bone density testing depending on your personal risk and health history.

Have more questions about preventive care as you age? Our primary care team is here to help. At One Medical, we aim to provide exceptional care designed around you and your unique health needs. Sign up today to book an appointment — in person or over video — through our app.

Primary care designed around your needs.
Find a provider who will take the time to get to know you, your lifestyle, and your unique needs.
Learn more
Dominique Astorino

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.