You are so in clover right now, dude. Young men (like the young women they chase) have time and, for the most part, health on their side. But don’t grab another beer or hit another drive-thru just yet: It’s actually now that you should take control of your health so you’re not facing down 40 with a spare tire around your gut and a bunch of pill bottles in the bathroom.
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While you probably don’t need regular annual exams, it’s not a bad idea to find a doc you like and start with at least one full checkup—including baseline height, weight and blood pressure. A good internist will also listen to your heart, lungs and the carotid arteries, checking for any abnormalities; do a skin check for suspicious moles; look in your mouth, ears, and eyes; and check your lymph nodes and abdomen for any lumps or bumps.
Be sure to discuss lifestyle issues like smoking, exercise and weight honestly, and openly, says David K. Spindell, M.D., internal medicine practitioner and divisional vice president of medical affairs at Abbott Diagnostics. Also mention any illnesses or diseases that run in your family so your physician has a realistic view of your health history. To keep everything primed and pumping, here’s what you’ll need to do:
What, never touched ‘em before? Kidding aside, you need to know what normal feels like, and now’s a good time. You might be surprised to find out that the risk for testicular cancer actually peaks in your 20s, says Gary Rogg, M.D., internist at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York.
“It’s wise to do a self-exam probably monthly,” Rogg says, but talk to your doctor first to get a “feel” for what you’re looking for. “Most men don’t know, which can lead to a lot of anxiety and unnecessary testing,” adds Dr. Spindell.
You’ll probably need a few shots in the arm (or butt) in this decade, in part because some immunity from childhood vaccination has worn off, and in part to match your lifestyle. Get a tetanus booster, and ask about a Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis), which also includes a diphtheria vaccine. “If you travel abroad, get a vaccine for Hepatitis A, and if you didn’t get it as a child, you also need Hep B,” says Dr. Spindell. Finally, if you’re still in college or in the military, be sure you’re vaccinated against meningitis.
STD check, including HIV
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone get screened at least once for HIV, but definitely get checked if you’ve had unprotected sex with multiple partners; have sex with men; have injected drugs; or just to play it safe. In general with STDs, men have a slight advantage over women (if you could call it that), because if you contract an STD like gonorrhea, symptoms tell the story – so treatment, not so much screening – is the name of the game.