SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Every car owner knows that routine upkeep and maintenance are vital to the care of your vehicle and monitoring for potential problems that could cost a lot of money in the future.

Dr. Mark Beard with Sanford Health says that routine health screenings are no different than taking care of your car.

“Many men can understand they have to take their car in for their oil change,” Beard said. “They understand the importance of that, and we have to do the same thing with our bodies.”

For many young men in high school and college, Beard said that annual visits are required to participate in school athletics. But after graduating, those men do not establish care once they become independent.

Annual wellness visits include simple screenings for things such as blood pressure and cholesterol that can provide care teams with a documented history of those results over the years that can help prevent issues later in life.

“Many times, it’s those conditions that we miss that are those silent killers that later in a man’s years of 40s and 50s lead to a heart attack, stroke, issues around, maybe, cancers that are missed,” Beard said.

In South Dakota, heart disease is the leading cause of death. In 2020, the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) reported that 18.5% of deaths were caused by heart disease. That was followed closely by cancer, COVID-19, unintentional injuries and Alzheimer’s.

For men, specifically, heart disease is the number one cause of death while the leading cause of death for women is cancer. That’s why Beard says annual visits can be so important in monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol.

“You feel fine, you feel like things are good and if you’re not checking in on those things and monitoring those things come 40, 45, 50 then you’re coming in and presenting with chest pain,” Beard said.  

Skin checks for melanoma and skin cancer might also be a part of those visits as many men in South Dakota work or spend a lot of time outdoors, Beard added.

Another component of the annual visits is mental health screenings. The DOH reported that between 2010 and 2019, 78% of suicides in the state were men. Those suicides were the highest among the 20-29 population with the 30-59 range accounting for nearly 50% of suicides.

Annual visits include a few questions regarding anxiety and depression, Beard said. If a patient answers in the affirmative, there are more questions to better understand what the patient is feeling.

“It’s amazing that as you ask those questions, patients begin to realize, ‘Yeah, I do feel like that, that’s constantly how I feel,’” Beard said. “And that’s our opportunity to educate them that many times that’s a sign of depression.”

Beard wants to encourage men to make those annual visits regularly to prevent further disease and injury down the road that could cost more both financially and physically.

“If they’re not coming in for those cholesterol screenings, the checkup for maybe that diabetes, looking at the glucose, and let’s say blood pressure’s high, cholesterol is high, sugars are running borderline… Then damage is being done,” Beard said.