Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Health Advice for Men

For some men, taking care of the house or the car might come more naturally than paying attention to their health. Physicians with Baylor Health Care System recommend that men take care of themselves with regular checkups, too.

Q: Is an annual physical that important?
A: Annual physicals help identify risk factors and early signs of disease before symptoms or complications develop. Many patients get a yearly physical because it’s covered by their insurance plan and it provides them with preventive counseling and advice, as well as peace of mind knowing they’re healthy.

Q: At what age should men start?
A: There are varying guidelines, but most physicians recommend a baseline physical at age 18, then one every two to three years if a man is healthy. If there are issues such as borderline high blood pressure or cholesterol, physicians recommend an annual exam. Beginning at age 50, everyone should have a yearly physical. Men ages 18 to 35 should also do monthly testicular self-exams.

Q: What does a yearly checkup include?
A: A medical and surgical history, comprehensive head-to-toe exam and lab tests (cholesterol, liver function, blood sugar, thyroid study and blood cell count) are standard. Certain situations call for additional screenings such as:
• EKG for men over 40 or those with high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease
• chest X-ray and breathing studies for smokers
• testosterone level if there’s depression, fatigue or decreased sex drive
• prostate exam and PSA blood test for men over 40 to screen for prostate cancer
• colonoscopy starting at age 50 to screen for colon cancer and remove any precancerous polyps.

Q: What about vitamins and exercise?
A: Vitamins aren’t a substitute for eating well, but a daily multivitamin can help “fill the gaps” in a typical Western diet. For patients with elevated cholesterol, physicians recommend omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil), which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on lipids. Exercise 30 minutes a day, three times a week as a minimum; 45 to 60 minutes five to six times a week is better. Include a mix of aerobic exercise and resistance training with weights or calisthenics.

Q: Are there any other concerns that men should be aware of?
A: Everyone tends to be overworked, overstressed and under-rested, and a large amount of diseases are related to this imbalance. The mind, body and spirit are all intimately connected. Men need to create a balance of work, family and personal time for optimal health.

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