Earlier this month, we celebrated all fathers and male role models with Father’s Day. While likely many nice cards and gifts were bestowed, I’d like to remind everyone there is no gift as precious as good health.
As a family doctor, I can tell you that in general, men are much less likely to focus on their health than women, believe me, I’ve heard your wives and daughters complain about your “non-health activities.” Yet, they have many important reasons to take care of themselves – often for their families and at the minimum, for themselves. In honor of all fathers and all men, I’d like to share a few important reminders.
- Schedule a routine physical. My partners and I can attest that our female patients are much better about scheduling routine wellness exams than our male patients, whom many we only see when they’re feeling quite sick. In addition to a health screening, your provider can make sure you’re up to date on immunizations and important health procedures, also it’s good to have a doctor who has your back, meaning your backside, because you likely need to trim off a few pounds.
- Ask for wellness labs to be done. Most insurance plans cover the cost of a routine physical at 100 percent. However, they may not include screening lab exams. I encourage you to request labs drawn to check your cholesterol and blood sugar. Many people have issues with high cholesterol or pre-diabetes and have no clue they are near a health emergency. You may think diabetes or high cholesterol is only for the parents, but now you are one! Time to keep up on those things!
- Eat less processed foods and a more balanced diet. Guys, if you are no longer a growing teenager, your go-to vegetable can’t always be fries. Remember that “Hollow Leg Syndrome” my dad said I used to have, has an expiration date. Mine was about 1999. Strive for a diet that’s low in fat (less than 7% of calories should come from saturated fats), cholesterol and salt. Add fresh fruits and veggies to your diet – daily. One great way to prevent heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers is by improving your diet.
- Move more. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days. If you’re short on time, even short bursts of activity – 10 minutes of intense activity several times throughout the day – can make a difference. And, if you are wondering what’s moderate to intense? If you can’t talk while doing it that’s intense. If you can keep up talking between breaths, that’s moderate. Good luck!
- Focus on safety. You may appreciate a dare-devil reputation, yet you will greatly lower your risks for a major health incident or accident if you practice safety – safe sex, always wearing your seatbelt in a vehicle and a helmet on a bike or motorcycle, turning the mower or snow blower off when trouble-shooting an issue; care in using a saw and other tools, and so on. One day you're 39, and living the dream, and then you hop out of your pickup at age 40 and break a leg (literally).
- Learn to manage stress. Stress takes a toll on your physical and emotional health so seek healthy ways to manage it. Enhance your communication skills and talk about problems or issues rather than letting them simmer. Exercise is a great stress reliever. Get a massage. Take a vacation. Just don’t turn to alcohol or other substances for relaxation as they come with a whole different set of potential health issues. If you are getting comments about your substance use, it might be time to ask your impartial, but invested doctor what they think of how your health is heading.
End story: don’t ignore your health, you have a family to care for, and a life to live. Make it a good one!
- men's health