Celebrating Men's Health Month
Men’s Health Week is just around the corner. This week, which we celebrate every June, gives us the opportunity to discuss men’s health, the importance of recognizing illnesses that can affect men and also provide general health and wellness tips.
Dr. Jon Heeb, a urologist with Lawrence Urology Specialists, said there are multiple lifestyle factors that greatly influence or increase the risk of certain diseases. These habits and choices can heavily influence someone’s overall health.
“Examples of habits which most definitely may increase the risk for certain diseases include a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle, unhealthy diet and cigarette smoking,” he said. “Though lifestyle choices are very important, there are some disease states that are more common in men who have them in their family history. These include heart disease, colon cancer and prostate cancer, just to name a few.”
If you have a family history of certain diseases, it’s always beneficial to talk with your physician about your risks and what you can do to be proactive in working to prevent this illness.
Dr. Heeb shared that prevention is key. Often times, when disease symptoms appear, it could be a warning sign that it has developed to a severe level.
Dr. Jon Heeb
“Some of the most deadly illnesses that affect men do not have any symptoms at all, until it is too late to take action,” he said. “Again, this speaks to the importance of developing a relationship with a primary care physician who can properly screen for diseases that are silent killers.”
Another reason Dr. Heeb said it is important to have a primary care physician is to ensure you undergo proper screenings that coincide with what is recommended for your age, overall health and family history. Having a physician who knows your health history and potential barriers can be vital in prevention.
“Though there are recommended screenings at certain ages, it can vary drastically from patient to patient,” Dr. Heeb said. “Again, having a trusted physician in your court who knows you and has a relationship with you can be huge when it comes to achieving your health goals and prevention of known severe illnesses that can affect men.”
Everyone views health in different ways, however a few important aspects to overall health are your diet, weight and exercise. Dr. Heeb said when it comes to monitoring your overall health, calculating your body mass index (BMI) can be a great resource.
“Consider using BMI as an indicator for a healthy weight,” he said. “Many formulas to calculate this can be easily found online or on our website, lmh.org. In my opinion, a BMI of around 25 is likely the healthiest. But again, this can vary from male to male.”
Whether you work out a little or a lot, moving your body each day is very important. However, having a balanced diet alongside that, as Dr. Heeb says, is just as beneficial, maybe even more so.
“A healthy diet is at least as important as regular physical activity - and probably even more important,” he said. “Each of us should consider these questions with every single bite of food we eat:
- Is this food providing nutrients my body needs?
- What effect will this food have on my metabolism and overall health?
- Is this food helping me stay or become healthy, or are these “empty” calories?
- Bonus questions: Where did this food come from and how did it get to where I am? What effect does that have on our environment, our ecosystem and my health?
When many think of men’s health, the first thing that may come to mind is prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society warns that the cancers that most often affect men are skin, lung, colorectal and prostate cancer.
“There is an old saying that if a man lives long enough, he will eventually develop prostate cancer,” Dr. Heeb said. “There’s a lot of truth to that, but on the other hand, most men do not die of prostate cancer.”
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows women are more likely to go to the doctor for annual exams and preventative services than men.
Kathy Ramirez, APRN with Lawrence Urology Specialists, says she sees this in action every day.
“I don’t know why this statistic is so accurate,” she said. “No one wants to get a prostate exam. When men choose not to come in and let their problems grow over time, a simple fix then becomes an emergency because they have waited so long.”
Ramirez says that it is very important to have routine check-ups and to take care of yourself. If there is fear of visiting the doctor because of medical history or cost, seeing your doctor regularly can prevent your health from spiraling downward and may help prevent major expenses in the future.
“If you notice something is different, don’t wait. Ask your doctors, and as intimidating as that may seem, it is better to ask now than waiting five years and wondering why you didn’t come in years ago when this problem began.”