HOUSTON -

There are some medical tests every man needs to have performed.

Jeffrey Donovan, 45, has never taken a sick day from work. He has never had the flu. He is the picture of good health and he has the annual physicals from his job to prove it.

"All the testing I had through work and my history has always revealed normal cholesterol levels, a normal body type and my nutrition was always I would say average to above average. I ran six days a week and three to four marathons a year," said Donovan.

So when Donovan's doctor suggested getting an advanced cholesterol screening after his father passed away from what doctor's call a silent heart attack, Donovan thought nothing of it.

"I thought it would be another one of those visits where they tell you everything is great, just avoid that second glass of wine. This was much different. This was your good cholesterol is OK, but a closer look at the bad, a deeper look at the size particles of that cholesterol is not good," Donavon said.

Dr. Dian Ginsberg with Specialty Healthcare and Wellness in Bellaire said the results were that of a person on the path to dropping dead of a heart attack with very little notice.

"I think there is a feeling of invincibility if you are very active living a fairly healthy lifestyle," said Donovan.

Donovan said he wants people, men especially, to realize it can be a dangerous thing not to look deeper into some of these medical issues.

Ginsburg said the annual physical needs to be looked at like a tune-up for your car. A basic check finds basic problems, but for better performance you need a better look.

Dr. John Ott, also with Specialty Healthcare and Wellness, said that isn't so easy to get since a recent federal task force started pushing for fewer tests in regular physicals.

"The guidelines seem to suggest we do less instead of more. Now that's a little worrisome when their guidelines leave us open to finding things a little bit too late. To me the doctor's biggest concern now is that the motive may be more financial than the individuals benefit. We don't have crystal balls. How are we going to find out a person has a problem? It can't strictly be based on their lifestyle or family history. We have to have some data and labs of some sort," said Ott.

Ott said people should all be wary of the in-and-out, check-the-box style of annual physicals.

"The tests are designed to find people who already have a problem. When you come in without a problem you don't have any way of knowing if you are headed that way or not with just the standard tests," said Ott.

But thanks to new science and new tests, there are ways to look past the surface results and spot some signs of problems to come.

A standard checklist for a 30-year-old man includes a basic cholesterol test and a check of the thyroid gland.

Men will also get a screening for skin cancer since it occurs in males more than females and a testicular exam because this cancer usually occurs before the age of 40.

Ott said in the thirties, the name of the game is prevention - making sure the body is working efficiently.

He suggested these men also add a micro-nutrient test to their physical to see what vitamins and minerals their bodies are absorbing. He said having this in balance sets up a strong foundation.

"You can assume at 30 you are looking at preventing aging. At 40 you start repairing what aging has occurred. It takes a lot more effort to make 40 work. We want to find out if the body is building the initial blocks of heart disease because most people at 40 will still look good on conventional tests," said Ott.

The conventional tests at 40 are the same as 30 but more focus is put on blood pressure and a diabetes screening is added to the mix.

Doctors should also look at Vitamin D levels since the body doesn't collect it as well after 40.

Ott said this decade is when men should add that advanced cholesterol screening that helped Donovan. It is called the lipoprotein profile, or LPP, and looks deeper at the density of cholesterol particles in the body, not just overall numbers.

By 50, the same tests apply but now hearing and colon checks are added along with screenings for bladder and prostate cancer. It also is a time where more focus is put on checking the metabolism.

"At 50 you want the whole package because we assume that something is wrong," said Dr. Ott.

James Walker was in his 50's when he took a telemeres test, which offers a look at aging on the DNA level.

"Not good results I am afraid. My body was telling me it is decades older than I am," Walker said.

The microscopic look at the ends of the DNA tells doctors how the body is aging and can help them lay out a plan to compensate for bad genetics.

"I was going to the medicals annually and they were telling me I was fine and not to worry. I have come to discover there is much more to it. And they were really ticking the box and making the check I guess," Walker said.

A runner and marathoner, Walker's tests showed he was stressing out his body with all of that healthy but running focused living.

"If you are not in balance you can take one of these things to an extreme and it becomes a derailer," Walker said.

The good news -- for Walker, Donovan and countless other men -- it's never too late to start fixing the problems

"I changed my lifestyle and cut back on some running, according to my nutritionist and doctor. I started taking a couple vitamins which I have never done and I just got re-tested and I am happy to say all my information -- all of my trouble marks -- were significantly dropped," Donovan said.

Some insurance companies will cover the costs of the tests under their prevention programs. Donovan was so happy with the results he sent his wife and mother in to get their own results. As for Walker, he said he feels like he is feeling his own age outside and in.

"Just small changes, not huge changes, to my life … the outcome has been huge. You can live longer, but what is the point unless you are healthy?" Walker said.

Male Physicals Checklist

Men in their 20s should have these items checked ...check
Blood Pressure - Check every two years. Normal range is no higher than 140/90. Tip - Home readings are often more accurate because they avoid the anxiety some have visiting a doctor's office.
Testicular Exam - The highest rates of testicular cancer occur between the teens and 40 years old. Tip - A doctor can explain how to do your own self-examination.
Skin Cancer Screening - Men have a higher rate of skin cancer than women. Yearly checks are helpful to monitor any growth in moles or spots on the skin.
Eye Exams - Surveys show 1/3 of adults don't get regular eye exams. Checks should include tests for glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinopathy.
Cholesterol Check - 220 is the magic number to stay below for overall cholesterol. Triglycerides should be no more than 150 milligrams.

Men in their 30s should have these items checked ...check
Thyroid Test - In men, hyperthyroidism causes erectile dysfunction, low sex drive and ejaculation problems.
Belly Check - Measure your waist, if it is more than 40 inches, that is a red flag for heart disease.
Blood Pressure - Check every two years. Normal range is no higher than 140/90. Tip - Home reading are often more accurate because they avoid the anxiety some have visiting a doctor's office.
Testicular Exam - Ninety percent of men who received an early diagnosis survived. Tip - A doctor can explain how to do your own self-examination.
Skin Cancer Screening - Men have a higher rate of skin cancer than women. Yearly checks are helpful to monitor any growth in moles or spots on the skin.
Eye Exams - Surveys show 1/3 of adults don't get regular eye exams. Checks should include tests for glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinopathy.
Cholesterol Check - 220 is the magic number to stay below for overall cholesterol. Triglycerides should be no more than 150 milligrams.

Men in their 40s should have these items checked ...check
Same checks as 30s, minus the testicular cancer screening.
Vitamin D Check - Some studies have found men with low levels of vitamin D have higher incidence of heart attacks. It is a common problem for men in the northern states, who work indoors or don't drink milk.
Diabetes Screening - If not covered by insurance, many drugstores offer free testing.

Men in their 50s should have these items checked ...check
Same checks as 40s.
Colonoscopy - Ninety percent of colorectal cancer is curable when found in the early stage, but about 39 percent of cases are discovered at stage III.
Bladder Cancer Screening -Caucasian men or men who smoke have a higher rate of this cancer. In the early stages it is symptomless.
Prostate Cancer Screening - This cancer affects 1 in 6 men.
Metabolic Syndrome Screening - It's a syndrome with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. Get screening if your waist measures more than 40 inches, low good cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and a high fasting glucose.
Hearing Test - By 60, 1 in 3 adults is losing hearing. Men have a higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss. This test is voluntary which means a doctor has to request it.
Fecal Occult Test - This is a test for microscopic blood in the stool which is a sign of intestinal problems, like Crohn's disease and colorectal cancer.

Men in their 60s should have these items checked ...check
Same checks as 50s.
Bone Density Test - It is a myth that osteoporosis is a woman's disease. Six percent of men over 50 will break a hip and five percent will suffer a vertebral fracture.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening - This test which checks the largest artery in your body, which is good for smokers to have.