To your health: Three essentials for men’s health
By DR. JOSE FLORES
For Montclair Local
This series on health-related topics is written by practitioners in Summit Medical Group (SMG). This month’s author is family medicine physician Dr. Jose Flores, who practices at SMG in Glen Ridge.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest in our nation, and our own personal struggles and circumstances, our well-being is at threat. That’s why now more than ever we need to make our health a priority. While this goes for everyone, studies show men are more likely than women to put off or entirely avoid seeking health care. Men: Doing this is at your peril. Seeing your primary-care physician is a proactive way to stay healthy and screen for serious conditions. Don’t wait to visit the doctor until something is seriously wrong.
The following three things can help maintain your health and prevent disease.
1. Get regular checkups
Certain diseases and conditions may not have symptoms, so checkups help identify issues early or before they become a problem. Your doctor will ask about lifestyle behaviors and your personal and family medical history, and check your vital signs, including blood pressure and heart rate.
Be upfront about any complaints or concerns that you have about your health (physical and mental) and talk with your doctor about when to have preventive care such as cancer screenings, vaccinations and other health assessments.
2. Get screened
Screening tests can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. I know through experience that the importance of screening bears repeating (and often).
It usually takes two or three years for most of my male patients to voluntarily get a colonoscopy done from the time I recommend it! But those who get it done can help prevent the second-leading cause of cancer-related death.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends adults start colorectal screening at age 50 to diagnose and prevent colorectal cancer. But some people should get screened at an earlier age if they have certain risk factors, such as family members with colon cancer or a history of colitis.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Because guidelines for prostate cancer screening vary it is important for men to discuss their risk factors and the benefits and risks of screening with their provider. Through shared decision-making, you and your provider can decide if the PSA blood test is right for you.
Important viral screening includes tests for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in adults ages 18 to 79, as recommended by the USPSTF, and for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. For those at higher risk, the CDC recommends getting tested at least once a year.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that between 13.8 and 17 percent of men in the U.S. have diabetes. The condition can lead to heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness and impotence. A fasting blood sugar test, glucose tolerance test or an AIC all can screen for diabetes.
Healthy adults should have the test every three years starting at age 45.
A fasting blood lipid panel is a blood test that tells your levels of total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fat). The results can inform you and your doctor about your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Average-risk men need regular cholesterol testing starting at age 35.
Getting the right screening test at the right time is one of the most important things a man can do for his health.
3. Be heart-healthy
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
- Overweight and obesity
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Eat healthy and limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol. Get regular physical activity and maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. I like to play soccer and softball, two activities I’ve enjoyed since college. Strive for a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 25.
Above all, don’t smoke. Also, learn how to manage stress and how to be kind with your mind, especially now when Americans are reporting significant and sustained increases in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Healthy behaviors work far better than medicine at preventing illness.