Memorial Regional Health: Men should seek preventative care more often — June is Men’s Health Month
- Don't smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution and chemicals, such as those in the workplace.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds — and keeping them off — can lower your risk of heart disease as well as various types of cancer.
- Get moving. Exercise can help you control your weight, lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and possibly lower your risk of certain types of cancer? Choose activities you enjoy, such as tennis, basketball or brisk walking. All physical activity benefits your health.
- Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. That means up to two drinks per day for men age 65 and younger and one drink per day for men older than age 65. Examples of one drink include 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters) of standard 80-proof liquor. The risk of various types of cancer, such as liver cancer, appears to increase with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you've been drinking regularly. Too much alcohol can also raise your blood pressure.
- Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under pressure, your lifestyle habits may suffer — and so might your immune system. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
Men have different so-called health-seeking behaviors than women, meaning they’re less likely to seek regular, preventative health care and, instead, only visit the doctor when they feel sick or have a medical emergency.
That’s according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that men are 80 percent less likely than women to use a regular source of health care.
But there’s hope ahead, as men are also reportedly improving these statistics. A survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that men are increasing the number of annual physical exams, exercise and health care from their regular doctor. That 2017 survey found that 52 percent of men reported getting a physical exam in the past year, up from 45 percent in 2007.
“A family physician in a medical home provides preventive care to detect and treat problems before they become serious,” AAFP President Wanda Filer said in a news release announcing the survey results. “That’s one of the keystones to maintaining good health. If more men develop ongoing relationships with their family physician, their perception of good health is more likely to become reality.”
Preventative care matters
Many of the leading causes of death among men — heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes and suicide — can be prevented. The first step is seeing a doctor for regular checkups and health screenings.
Different health screenings may be required, depending on personal and family medical history, as well as age. Your doctor can help guide you to determine which medical screenings are appropriate for you.
“I think of prevention in two baskets: the preventive services you can get if you went to the doctor or went to see a nurse, like vaccines and blood pressure screening; and there’s also what I think of as lifestyle prevention, the decisions we can make in our own lives around diet, around physical activity, around the precautions we take to prevent injury,” former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told Men’s Health magazine in 2015.
A good example of how prevention improves outcomes is diabetes, according to Memorial Regional Health. If you catch diabetes in its early stages, as pre-diabetes, you can halt its progression and, sometimes, even reverse it. Think of the diagnoses of pre-diabetes as a wake-up call to take action and correct the issue before it becomes full-blown diabetes.
The key to preventing heart disease is living a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats and getting regular exercise.
For cancers caught before they’ve spread to other parts of the body, the chance for full recovery and survival are often high. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is substantial evidence that regular exercise lowers cancer risk.
For men who only think about seeing a doctor when there are signs of something wrong, try scheduling a regular visit to check on your health status. It could be the preventative maintenance that’s needed to someday save your life.