I’m middle aged.
I’ve been hiding from this fact for a while. I pretended the “dad bod” staring back at me in the bathroom mirror could be fixed with better light bulbs. The weird noises I make when I pick up the paper in the morning weren’t grunts and groans, so much as a hearty good morning to the birds. And the socks I occasionally wear with my sandals were for convenience, not a lack of fashion sense.
But when my grandfather died in February at age 90, I could no longer hide from reality.
I am 45-years-old and I am officially a middle aged man.
I’ve seen enough movies to know what middle aged means. It means talking with my doctor about my prostate. I’m still not sure exactly sure what the prostate does, or where it is, but the exam I received a few years ago told me the general vicinity.
In a few years, I’ll have to schedule a screening for colon cancer. My buddies and I will probably start talking more about back pain than sports. And I might have to start paying attention to my doctor when he talks about my cholesterol levels. I’m pretty sure middle aged guys have a higher risk for heart attacks.
I decided to talk this over with my doctor, Jay Kurth, DO. He’s a family medicine physician with Banner Medical Group and I’ve been seeing him for eight years. It turns out I’m not the only middle-aged guy with sudden concerns about my health.
Middle-aged men’s health
“My practice has morphed into a lot of men between the ages of 40 and 55,” Dr. Kurth said. “One or two times a day, guys are coming in and saying everything is falling apart.”
For these men and others like me, Dr. Kurth recommends a physical exam and laboratory tests to measure several things, including:
- Cholesterol: a type of fat found throughout the body that is carried by the bloodstream
- Blood pressure: a measurement of how hard the heart works to pump blood
- Blood sugar levels: used to diagnose pre-diabetes or diabetes, a condition where the body can’t use its main source of energy – sugar in the blood
- Complete blood count: a blood test that screens for a variety of different illnesses
- Thyroid function: he thyroid helps control the rate of various bodily functions like temperature, heart rate and energy level
- Other tests as needed based on symptoms and family history of disease
Health risk assessment
Using the information from these tests, Dr. Kurth can assess a patient’s risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and sexual problems. He can determine whether a patient has thyroid issues which can cause changes in weight, depression and anxiety. He can tell whether diabetes is creating problems with a person’s eyes, kidneys, heart, veins, nerves and feet.
The good news? Most of these health issues can be prevented or managed. And if the body feels like it’s “falling apart,” it doesn’t have to stay that way.
“A lot of it comes down to lifestyle, people having a lack of a routine with their sleep, diet and exercise,” Dr. Kurth said.
I guess I’m lucky. I already have a baseline for these tests because I see Dr. Kurth every year. Despite my genetic programming to avoid doctor’s offices (Dr. Kurth said many of his male patients don’t come in unless pushed by their spouse), I’d much rather find out I have an issue early when it can be managed, than too late when the damage begins to take its toll.
I’ll get that opportunity soon when I meet again with Dr. Kurth.
Meanwhile, I’ll need time to figure out what will replace the invincibility from my youth. Hopefully, it will come with a mix of the wisdom and humility that made my grandfather such a beloved man.