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Men’s Health Week

A great opportunity to re-focus on overall health

By Will Humble

featureGrowing older has its rewards. We watch our children grow into young adults. We also watch careers flourish thanks to our hard work. We reap the rewards of that hard work with opportunities to play the way we want. And, we’ve earned the respect that can only come from a lifetime of experiences and lessons learned.

But growing older also brings new challenges, especially when it comes to our health. When we were young, we could bounce back from almost anything. In college, we’d stay up all night studying and pass the test the next day – or stay out all night with our friends. When our kids were first born, we woke up at all hours of the night to change diapers, rock them back to sleep and still made it to work on time the next day. We also thought we could skip seeing the doctor every year because our bodies were strong.  

This month we celebrate Father’s Day and, with it, Men’s Health Week. While Father’s Day is seen as an important time to honor your dad, Men’s Health Week is often passed over without a second thought. But, part of being a good father or being a good son for your father is making sure you’re in good health. So, I am asking that you, and I, pledge to take a few simple steps this year to help each of us live a long and healthy life.

Annual physical

Have you ever said to yourself, “The only time I need to see a doctor is when I’m bleeding or something is broken?” That’s a nice macho comment to make to your friends, but, sensibly, you should see your doctor at least once a year. Your provider can do simple tests and conduct a physical in order to identify small issues before they become big problems. 

Most health issues, if caught early, can be controlled, allowing you to really live your life when you get older. Your doctor will help monitor important things like blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight and provide screenings for cancer. 

Having an annual physical isn’t the only exam you need to schedule. If you’re over 50 or have a history of colorectal or prostate cancer in your family, schedule an exam. Colorectal and prostate cancers are serious diseases that affect almost 6,000 Arizonans every year. Both can be very aggressive, but when caught in the early stages, they can be treated quickly and effectively.  

Most men tend to avoid this discussion because of distorted perceptions of what the procedure is like. I can tell you from my own experience that the exam is not as bad as you imagine. I won’t lie and tell you it’s pleasant, but it is not the nightmare you may have in your mind. I had my exam several years ago, and I am glad I did. My doctors found a noncancerous (thankfully) polyp that was easily removed. If it hadn’t been for the exam, I never would have known about this or other problems that could have been lurking. 

When you do have your colorectal and prostate exams, don’t panic if you get an abnormal test result. Talk to your doctor about all your options and try to learn as much as possible about your condition. You can find more information about the benefits of colorectal and prostate cancer exams and free resources by looking up the “Fit at Fifty” program on the Arizona Department of Health Services website at fitatfiftyhealthcheck.org.

Physical activity

Heart disease is the number one killer for men, which is why you need to think about what you eat and how active you are. 

Another one of those macho ideas that men have is that we can continue doing the same kinds of physical activity that we used to do indefinitely. Do you remember what it was like to be young and have unlimited energy? You played hard at whatever sport you wanted and bounced back almost immediately. But years of wear and tear take a toll on the body, and now it’s time to be a little more realistic about physical activity.

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This Article appears on the June 2013 issue of LPM under Features

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