For Men Only
They can take the car in for regular servicing, get to an important business meeting early, and line up a golf game with friends, but men are much less conscientious when it comes to taking themselves to the doctor, particularly for preventive care.
For some men, picking up the phone to make an appointment requires a specific, sometimes significant, health concern. Which of course might not have developed if they had scheduled a checkup in the first place.
“This reminds us that the earlier we start orienting males to take care of themselves, the more likely they are to follow a healthy lifestyle as adults,” says Dr. David Straface, medical director of Peninsula Primary Care, Community Hospital’s primary care affiliate in Carmel.
This healthy lifestyle, Straface says, should include eating well, exercising right, avoiding smoking, having regular checkups and screenings, and consulting their doctor and other trusted health professionals when issues do arise.
The most important screenings for men (and women) monitor cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight, and test for diabetes and certain cancers. The frequency of these screenings depends on variables such as age and risk factors, including family history. The
schedule should be set by the patient in consultation with his doctor.
“Given that cardiovascular issues are the leading cause of disease and death for both men and women,” Straface says, “early attention to blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight, prevention of diabetes, and avoidance of tobacco are crucial to good health.”
Unique to the male’s screening to-do list is a prostate exam. The small gland has a big role and often causes trouble as men mature, from swelling and urinary tract issues to cancer. Besides skin cancers, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men; and after lung cancer, it is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men. By the time a man reaches his mid-70s, he has a better than 50-percent chance of a positive diagnosis for prostate cancer. And most men in their 80s and beyond have the disease. Treatment may not be necessary or recommended in some cases, but the only way to determine that is to know if the disease is present and its stage.
“Prostate cancer survival is most related to the extent of the tumor at the time of diagnosis,” Straface says. “If it is confined to the prostate gland, or localized, then the 5-year survival rate is near 100 percent. If, however, it has spread at the time of diagnosis, the 5-year survival is around 30 percent.
Prostate cancer screening is a complex topic that should involve discussion of pros and cons between the patient and his doctor.”
Because colorectal cancer is the thirdleading cause of cancer deaths among men, they should have a colonoscopy at age 50 if they have no family history, then as recommended by their doctor.
If they have a family history, they should talk to their doctor about the appropriate time for a first exam.
Not unique to men, but certainly more common among men than women, is the risk of accidental injury or death, Straface says. In fact, it is the thirdleading cause of death among men, after heart disease and cancer.
“This has to do with greater risk-taking behavior, such as motorcycle riding, substance abuse, binge drinking, anger-management issues, and high-risk occupations,” Straface says.
With the possible exception of high-risk occupations, men can reduce their odds of accidental injury or death through lifestyle choices and changes, just as they can make choices and changes to improve their overall health.
“It is easier to talk about a solution than to put it into action,” Straface concedes, but change is doable.
“A common complaint among working men — especially if they have the added responsibilities of a spouse or partner, a family, a house — is that they don’t have time to exercise, eat right, or get enough sleep,” he says. “I try to get people to look at how they’re using their off hours. Can they exercise on the weekend and then find maybe one or two days during the week where they can set aside 30 to 60 minutes for themselves? If not, maybe they can ride a stationary bicycle in front of the TV for 30 minutes before dinner. It’s about creating a healthy lifestyle that works for them.”
Dr. David Straface, medical
director of Peninsula Primary
Care in Carmel.
Straface says men also need to do a check-in on their mental health, though it’s another area many men tend to avoid thinking about.
“To become aware of and deal with stress, a male has to be willing and able to address his emotions,” Straface says.
“But for many men, being male means not needing to focus on feelings and the psychological aspects of health.
“Society needs to do a better job of screening for stress, depression,
job burnout, and anger. We talk about blood pressure, cholesterol, or a bad knee, but we rarely ask, ‘How are you feeling today? How is your family life? Have you had any meltdowns lately?’
We need to give men the opportunity to address their mental health and its impact on their physical well-being.”
View preventative care recommendations for men.
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