Health matters for men

Health screenings, disease prevention, nutrition and exercise tips -- these are just a few of the reasons to schedule regular visits with a primary care physician and, yet, according to a recent men’s health survey, more than a quarter of men say they don’t need a physician at this point in their lives. This is not only the wrong idea, but also a dangerous one.

Results of the survey show that less than 63 percent of men ages 18 to 29 say they have visited a primary care physician in the past year, compared to more than 85 percent of men ages 60 or older. Even if you feel fine, as many young men do, it still is vitally important to see your health care provider regularly. Men who wait too long between routine physicals and who pass on screenings, such as blood pressure or diabetes, miss the opportunity to detect precursors to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and other illnesses. Addressing early warning signs often is the easiest and most cost-effective way to stop illness before it starts. If you wait until you experience physical symptoms, a disease may be too advanced for effective treatment.

The survey also revealed that the most common reasons given by male respondents for not going to the doctor were that they didn’t think it was necessary, because they do not feel sick or that they had no health insurance. If you are avoiding seeing a physician because you don’t know where to start, or need help in figuring out your health insurance options, health websites can provide useful steps to selecting a physician.

The single most important way you can take care of yourself and those you love is to actively take part in your health care. Eat a balanced diet, stay physically active and see your doctor regularly. Men - get informed and stay informed for your health.

Medical truisms: If you do not present to your physician, he or she cannot determine if you have or will develop chronic diseases such as the silent killers - diabetes and hypertension; if we do not look we cannot find early disease markers; if we can find these markers early enough, we can treat and/or cure.

Men should visit a primary care physician on a regular basis to:

• Screen for disease symptoms like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is recommended that men screen for high blood pressure every two years. Men over 34 should have their cholesterol checked every five years.

• Assess risk of future medical problems. Having the opportunity to address warning signs can help prevent chronic illness.

• Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Lifestyle changes early on can help reduce the risk of chronic illness or the chances of needing surgery later in life.

• Update vaccinations. Your physician can recommend immunizations appropriate for your age group.

Maintain a relationship with a doctor in case of an illness. By establishing a relationship with your physician, he or she will be familiar with your medical history and lifestyle, and better equipped to create a personalized tailored treatment plan for you in case of an illness.

Primary care physicians are trained to consider all the factors that contribute to health and wellness - like work and home environments, activity levels and stressors - when diagnosing and treating their patients.

Prevention also is very important - so, by selecting a doctor who stresses preventive medicine, you’ll be ensuring the best in preventive measures throughout the span of your relationship.

Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care that primary care physicians can be trained to provide, and to consider the health of the whole person in order to help diagnose and treat their patients.

Dr. Daniel J. Callan is a doctor of osteopathic, family and occupational medicine for Blount Memorial Business Health.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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