For Men, Preventative Health Is Often Overlooked
June is Men’s Health Month, a time when health care professionals remind men that regular health check-ups are important
By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
Women are told to visit a doctor for annual exams, yet men often forego a visit to the doctor unless something is wrong. Preventative care should be a priority for men and women, an important point that health care professionals across the United States remind their patients every June during Men’s Health Month.
“Because men are not compelled to do annual physical exams in the way that women often are, they may not realize that there is screening which is important to have done periodically to make sure that there are not modifiable issues which can prevent later disease,” said Dr. Shannon Garton, Family Medicine Physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Edwards Medical Offices.
Injuries and Suicide
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the top causes of death in men across all age groups as heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, suicide, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Garton said that younger men in Colorado should be especially cognizant of the top causes of death for males ages 10 to 34: unintentional injuries and suicide. For men ages 35 to 44, the top three causes of death are unintentional injuries, heart disease and suicide.
“We live in a very active area, and being safety conscious is important at every age. Avoiding alcohol or drugs while driving a car, or engaging in risky sporting activities are important. Any of these activities, which are important to avoid while intoxicated, are also activities not to do while distracted —texting, talking on the phone or video-gaming,” she said. “Using proper safety equipment is a must, and always think and plan before acting.”
Men’s mental health, and specifically suicide, has been dubbed a silent epidemic by researchers due to its prevalence and lack of public awareness. Men die by suicide 3 ½ times more than women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
If a person is having difficulty coping due to stress, built up anger, sadness, it is very important to talk to someone and talking to a doctor is a great place to start,” Garton said. “Finding tools to deal with life’s mental stresses helps to lower blood pressure. Also, coping skills help people to make good lifestyle choices such as good diet and exercise, avoiding smoking and substance abuse.”
A Common Thread
Garton said the prevention of so many of the top diseases affecting men share a common thread: healthy lifestyle.
Smoking and being overweight are two of the top risk factors associated with developing illnesses. And even men who find they can eat burgers, fries and pizza whenever they want while still maintaining a healthy weight should adjust their diets to include more healthy foods.
“In certain cases, despite efforts to have a healthy lifestyle, a patient may need to use medication to help manage certain conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or hypertension,” Garton said. “It is very important to work with your physician to be screened for these conditions, and when lifestyle efforts alone are unable to change the course of the illness, then it is important to see if there are medications which can help to manage the condition.”
Preventative exams for men include lab tests and physical exams that screen to see if there’s a risk of developing any medical conditions that may lead to disease. Garton said screenings for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes are typical, and screenings for colon cancer begin once men are over the age of 50.
“Also, as men age, we may screen for prostate cancer, which needs to be discussed with your doctor, as well,” Garton said. “In certain cases, we also will screen for sexually transmitted infection. It is always advisable to use a condom for protection unless you are in a monogamous relationship and have had the opportunity to be tested.”
In addition to screening for disease, Garton recommends that men keep safety in mind when engaging in sports, driving or sexual activity.
“And again, even if a person can ‘get away’ with an unhealthy diet by maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy food and getting adequate exercise still helps keep us healthy on the inside,” she said.