Taking charge: Men need to take an active role in their health
Whether the issue is lack of awareness, risky behaviors that threaten good health, or reluctance to speak up, there is a big, preventable problem plaguing the health of American men: Not seeing a doctor.
Women are 100% more likely than men to visit the doctor for annual exams and preventative services, according to the CDC. Add to this fact that more than 12% of men 18 years and older are in fair or poor health, and more than 34% are obese.
Even with these kinds of statistics stacked against them, it’s never too late for men to take control of their health, according to Dr. Trent Thompson from Dean Clinic-Waunakee.
Dr. Thompson says at every stage of their lives men should include regular checkups with their doctors, not just when they’re sick.
Regardless of the reason for a visit to his doctor’s office, there are three questions every man should ask his provider:
Question One: How can I improve my diet?
“One important thing a man can do is to watch carefully what he puts in his body,” says Dr. Thompson. “Diet is the single most important thing that we have control over in our lives that can lead to the most positive health outcomes and help us avoid illness.”
He advises men to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, good sources of protein – such as meat, beans and nuts – and good fats like olive oil. These foods have nutrients needed for a healthy life, including potassium, calcium, vitamin D and fiber that may protect against chronic diseases. Make an effort to drink water instead of soda, energy drinks and sports drinks, which are major sources of added sugar and calories in the typical American man’s diet.
Unfortunately, the foods featured at many Super Bowl celebrations, family get-togethers and hangouts with friends are often laden with added sugars and salt. Think of foods like ribs, pizza, sausages, bacon, hot dogs and desserts as occasional indulgences, not part of an everyday diet.
“And needless to say,” he added “stay away from all tobacco products and keep alcohol to a minimum.”
Question Two: How can I get up and moving more often?
Recent health articles have declared “sitting is the new smoking.” It stresses the importance of an active lifestyle. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with several health concerns, including obesity, increased blood pressure and high blood sugar.
“Any physical activity can help you, whether it’s as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, or as difficult as running a marathon,” notes Dr. Thompson.
And one thing to remember is test out different activities to find what you enjoy, because those are the ones that will keep you motivated.
Question Three: How will I make prevention a priority?
Many health conditions can be detected early with regular checkups. And even if you go to your primary care doctor because of an illness, you can talk about preventative care.
“If the doctor doesn’t bring it up, I recommend asking. Especially after age 50, because that’s when issues like colon cancer screening become important,” says Dr. Thompson.
After age 65, Medicare will pay for an annual exam focusing on wellness and discussing other areas of healthy living such as mobility, social and financial issues, as well as end-of-life planning.
The bottom line: Men who take an active role in their health and ask the right questions of their doctors can lead longer, healthier lives.