Each June, Men’s Health Month is observed to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men. Most of the major health threats that men face, such as heart disease, cancer and unintentional injury, are largely preventable. By making healthy lifestyle choices, including eating a healthy diet, participating in regular physical activity, and not smoking, men can reduce many health risks.
It’s time for a check-up! You’re not alone if you have not been to the doctor in awhile. Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year. Yet, check-ups for men can improve health and reduce premature death and disability.
As Father’s Day approaches, consider (and remind the other men in your life) the importance of regular health screenings and treatment. Talk to your physician about screenings, such as those below, and other important assessments that may be needed based on your age, health status, and family history.
- General Health: Review your height, weight and overall health status with your doctor at your regular physical exam typically every 1-3 years. According to the Weight-control Information Network, men with a waist measurement greater than 40 inches have a higher disease risk because of where their fat lies.
- Heart Health: Get your blood pressure checked on an annual basis and cholesterol tested based on your current health and family history of heart disease. Take advantage of free health screenings that may be offered at your workplace or in the community, and share your results with your doctor.
- Colorectal Health: An annual rectal exam is an important screening to assess hemorrhoids, lower rectal problems, and colon and prostate cancers. Starting at age 50, or younger if you are at high risk, men should have a colonoscopy to screen for polyps and colorectal cancer.
- Prostate Cancer Screening: Also starting at age 50, men should have their PSA level checked each year. An elevated PSA level may be a sign of infection, enlargement or cancer of the prostate. The Men’s Health Network offers a Prostate Health Guide online: www.prostatehealthguide.com
- Immunizations: Men are nearly 25 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for the Adult Immunization Schedule: www.cdc.gov
Add good mental health to your list of priorities. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life. The Alzheimer’s Association provides tips on how to exercise your brain to stay mentally agile and adept: www.alz.org/maintainyourbrain/overview.asp. Mental health helps to determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Don’t hesitate to use mental health services. Undiagnosed depression contributes to a rate of suicide that is four times higher for men than women.
When men do seek medical assistance, they are more likely to play down the severity of symptoms, less likely to finish their prescriptions, and more often cancel follow-up appointments. Don’t be one of those guys! Make a list of concerns and questions before your appointment. There is no topic that is “off-limits” – your doctor has heard it before! Describe your symptoms clearly and be honest about what products and treatments you are taking. Ask about treatment alternatives, supplements and additional resources. Be proactive about asking for the results and clarification of any tests.
Sources: Agency for HealthCare Resources and Quality, Men’s Health Network, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, LifeWork Strategies EAP, The Reginald S. Lourie Center, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.