Men, Don’t Put Off Your Checkups and Screenings

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June 15, 2017

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By a significant margin, women are more attentive to their health, including the scheduling of regular or annual checkups and screenings, according to surveys by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This week, leading up to Father’s Day, Sunday, June 18, is Men’s Health Week. It’s marked across the country with healthcare screenings, wellness fairs and other outreach activities.

There’s a stark reason for getting men to see their doctors, at the very least for regular check-ups. Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide.

There are potential health issues that even men who eat right, exercise regularly and are health conscious should take into consideration. Generally, men understand the importance of prostate health as they get older, but they don’t pay attention to the importance of proper screenings, including the digital-rectal examination or the PSA blood test to monitor prostate issues, including prostate cancer. But men should not fear routine screenings as part of a regular physical, especially after the age of 40, says James Jennings, M.D., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care.

Don’t Ignore Symptoms
In addition to getting blood labs done and physical checkups once a year, men shouldn’t brush off certain symptoms, such as unusual fatigue or bouts of frequent urination.

“Regardless of your age, there are certain symptoms that should send up a red flag. Unusual fatigue, for example, can certainly warrant screening tests that could include testosterone levels,” Dr. Jennings said. “Men shouldn’t write off certain things that they may think is a natural part of aging.”

More than 50 percent of men in their 60s, and as high as 90 percent in their 70s or older, have symptoms of an enlarged prostate, which can include urinating frequently or trouble urinating. Even young men could be suffering from low levels of testosterone.

And the most common chronic condition that affects men as they get older has to do with heart disease risk factors, including diabetes, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors don’t have symptoms, making annual screenings even more important.

Choosing a Primary Care Physician
Dr. Jennings said men should choose a primary care physician with whom they feel comfortable talking about any health topic. But physicians also have a responsibility to be direct with their patients and take the time to “get to the bottom of any health problem,” said Dr. Jennings.

“You can’t just tell them that they’re fat and they’re at high risk for diabetes,” he says. “That will go in one ear and out the other. If you want to get into their heads, tell them they’re at a higher cancer risk by being overweight. Tell them that increased fat percentages can lead to a host of health problems.”

The bottom line, says Dr. Jennings, men should seek a primary care physician who “is truly involved in their care,” or someone they can call “a life coach.”

Healthy Lifestyles Choices

Everyone benefits from healthy eating, regular exercise and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol. Here is the CDC’s guidance for men, which applies to all adults.

Eat healthy. A nutritious diet can help you maintain an ideal weight. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, along with whole grains, lean proteins and limited red or processed meats. Fruits and vegetables have many vitamins and minerals that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol.

Move more. Adults need at least 2½ hours of moderate-to-intense aerobic activity every week and muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.

It’s never too late to quit. Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits.

Tame stress. Too much stress can be harmful, especially when it is severe enough to make you feel overwhelmed and out of control.

Get enough sleep. Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions.

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