December 3, 2020 by John Fernandez
Men, Don’t Put Off Your Checkups and Screenings
By a significant margin, women are more attentive to their health, including the scheduling of routine annual exams and health screenings, according to surveys by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but that was the case before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, however, women may be as likely as men to put off vital checkups and screenings because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We understand that many people are apprehensive to return to their Doctors’ Offices for routine care, but we want to assure you that at Baptist Health, we have taken all the necessary precautions to protect our patients and staff,” said Kamaljit Kaur, M.D., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “We are doing all that we can to minimize your exposure to COVID-19. It is also important to understand that, by putting off and delaying routine healthcare, you may actually be putting your current health at risk; not only is it important to continue routine health checks for your chronic conditions, but it is also very important to continue routine health checks for preventative services, such as cancer screenings.”
Traditionally, there’s a stark reason for getting men to see their doctors, especially for regular checkups. 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.
Nonetheless, there are potential health issues that even men and women who eat right, exercise regularly and are health conscious should take into consideration.
Cancer screenings are a vital component of staying healthy. Women understand the importance of annual mammograms. Generally, men understand the importance of prostate health, especially as they get older, but they often don’t pay attention to the importance of proper health screenings, such as the digital-rectal examination or the PSA blood test. These tests are used to screen for prostate cancer. “However, men, especially those who are 40 years of age or older and/or those who have a strong family history of prostate cancer, should not fear or delay these routine preventative screening exams,” says Dr. Kaur.
Don’t Ignore Symptoms
In addition to getting annual physical exams and routine blood tests, men shouldn’t brush off certain symptoms, which can include unusual fatigue, changes in their urinary stream, difficulty urinating and/or unexplained bouts of frequent urination.
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 having trouble urinating. However, even young men can suffer from an enlarged prostate and/or low levels of testosterone.
“Regardless of age, there are certain symptoms that should send up a red flag and require further investigation. For example, unexplained persistent fatigue, unexplained significant weight loss, recurrent night sweats and an unexplained reduction in appetite warrant testing for an underlying cause; sooner than later. Each person knows their body the best and, therefore, knows what is new and/or unusual for them, but men should not ignore certain symptoms by thinking they are just a natural part of aging.” Dr. Kaur said.
The most common chronic condition that affects men as they get older is heart disease, whose risk factors include Diabetes Mellitus, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors don’t have symptoms, which makes annual preventative screenings even more important.
Choosing a Primary Care Physician
Dr. Kaur advises men to choose a primary care physician with whom they feel comfortable and can openly discuss their health concerns with. However, your physician also has the responsibility to be direct with you about your health; “one who takes the time to help investigate for and help you manage any underlying health problems,” she said.
“You cannot just tell someone that they are fat and at high risk for Diabetes Mellitus,” she says, “Not only is that rude, but it does not get the point across as it should. To really help patients understand their overall health and risk factors, a Physician must take the time to educate someone about why having excess fat or being obese places them at health risks, which includes certain cancers. It is also important to educate patients on how to avoid or how to reduce these risk factors.”
“The bottom line,” says Dr. Kaur, “is that men should seek a Primary Care Physician who is truly involved in their healthcare and helps motivate them to improve it.”
Healthy Lifestyles Choices
Everyone benefits from healthy eating, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol intake. Here is the CDC’s guidance for men, which actually applies to all adults.
Eat healthy. A nutritious diet can help you maintain an ideal weight, which means a BMI of 25 or less. 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 that are high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and/or alcohol.
Move more. Adults need at least 2½ hours of moderate-to-intense aerobic activity every week along with 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 health benefits.
Tame stress. Too much stress can be harmful not only to your mental health, but also to your physical health; especially when it is severe enough to make you feel overwhelmed and out of control. Finding ways to avoid and/or reduce stress can significantly improve your overall health; this can include regular exercise and/or daily meditation.
Get enough sleep. Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night to ensure optimal health. Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions – it can even shorten one’s lifespan.