Mark Twain said, "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." Whether due to a lack of awareness, poor health education, and culturally induced behavior patterns in their work and personal lives, men's health and well-being is deteriorating steadily. Society is being dramatically affected because men are living approximately five years less than women.
The single most important way a man can take care of himself and those he loves is to actively take part in his health care. It is important to educate yourself on health care and participate in decisions with your doctor.
June is Men's Health Month. This month gives us, as men, the opportunity to focus on our health and realize that many diseases we face can be prevented by regular visits to a physician, through preventive screenings, and by living a healthy lifestyle.
Preventive screenings can often detect health problems early when they are easier to treat. Men need to talk with their physician about which screening tests apply to them and when and how often to be tested. The following are some recommended screenings to have completed.
1. Obesity: Have your body mass index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A healthy BMI range is 18.5 to 25.
2. Cholesterol: Have your cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 35. Your physician may want to check your cholesterol at a younger age if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of heart disease, or if you smoke. Your overall cholesterol level should be 200 or less, with your "bad" cholesterol (LDL) at 130 or less and your "good" protective cholesterol (HDL) 40 or higher.
3. High blood pressure: Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years or more often if you have a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure. Recommended blood pressure is less than 140 over 90 but optimally 110 to 130 over 60 to 80.
4. Colorectal cancer: Have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your physician may want you screened at an earlier age.
5. Diabetes: Have a test completed for diabetes if you have a family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other risk factors such as being overweight and of a certain age.
6. Prostate cancer: Starting at age 50, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of testing so you can decide if testing is the right choice for you. If you are African-American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, you should have this talk with your doctor starting at age 45. A man's PSA (prostate specific antigen) level alone does not give doctors enough information to distinguish between benign (noncancerous) prostate conditions and cancer. However, the doctor will take the result of the PSA test into account when deciding whether to check further for signs of prostate cancer.
7. Depression: Men's emotional health is just as important as your physical health. If you have felt sad, down or hopeless, or have felt little interest in doing things you use to enjoy doing, you may be suffering from depression. Talk to your physician about the feelings you have been experiencing.
As men, the most important things we can do to stay healthy are:
Get recommended screening tests.
Be tobacco free.
Be physically active.
Eat a healthy diet.
Stay at a healthy weight.
Take medications recommended by your physician for treatment of medical conditions.
When you get a preventive medical test, you're not just doing it for yourself. You're doing it for your family and loved ones.*
Don't be a statistic:
Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests.
Men are 28 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure.
Men are 32 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes and are more than twice as likely as women to have a leg or foot amputated due to complications related to diabetes.
Men are 24 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization.
With all the advances in preventive medicine, why is it that men are so unlikely to seek treatment and preventive services? Be it denial, the male ego, procrastination, or embarrassment, it is time for you to speak-up, and take charge of your health.*
As men we are living longer but unfortunately the added years of life are often spent battling chronic disease and disability. Latter years can vastly improve for us if we get serious about our health. In fact evidence shows that good health may be extended if we make good lifestyle choices today and take proper preventive health measures. It is not just about how long we can live, but how long we can live a quality life free from disability and disease.
Aaron Peimann, M.D., is affiliated with UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine Kenyon Road in Fort Dodge. He is board certified in family practice.
*"Healthy Men: Learn the Facts. December 2012," Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md. (www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/index.html).