June is Men’s Health Month, and focusing on men’s health is important. According to the CDC, 13.2% of men aged 18 and over are in fair to poor health, and they die at higher rates from the three leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer and unintentional injuries.
“Men’s health is important to a family’s overall health,” says Matthew J. Kaiser, MD, a family medicine physician at PeaceHealth Medical Group. “I have many patients from a certain generation that are hesitant to come in and talk about what may be ailing them. Loved ones sometimes have to encourage the men in their lives to come in and talk about their health.”
Get screened to find problems early
Screenings are medical tests that doctors use to check for diseases and health conditions before signs or symptoms. Screenings help find problems early on when they may be easier to treat.
Depending on your age and medical history, you may be to be screened for:
- Certain types of cancer (prostate or colon cancer)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
- Mental health conditions, like depression
Lead a heart-healthy lifestyle
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the U.S, and in 2019, it accounted for nearly one in every four male deaths. Unfortunately, heart disease can go undiagnosed until a man experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, arrhythmia (chest palpitations) or heart failure.
Major risk factors for heart disease include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Overweight and obesity
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
To reduce your chances of getting heart disease, it’s important to do the following:
- Know your numbers and participate in regular screenings. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it’s essential to check it regularly. High cholesterol also has no signs or symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get checked. If you do have either, there are effective treatment options available.
- Eat well. Maintain a healthy diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low levels of added sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol. Try a green salad instead of fries or drink water instead of a sugary soda.
- Get moving. Thirty minutes a day, five times a week, of moderate exercise will help maintain a healthy body weight and improve mood and heart health. If you’re new to exercising, begin with short walks or light-intensity activities and gradually build up to longer walks or more moderate or vigorous exercise.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake to one drink a day. Learn ways to quit smoking.
- Get a good night’s rest. Sleep is essential to good health; most adults need between 7 and 9 hours nightly. The quality of your sleep is just as important. If you have insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea (gasping for breath while snoring), talk to your doctor.
- Lower your stress level and find meaningful ways to cope with stress. Life can get tough; discussing things with a mental health professional can help.
Decide if you should be screened for prostate cancer
Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races and ethnicities. A man’s lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer is one in eight. That being said, most prostate cancers grow so slowly that they are unlikely to cause serious problems, so screening can be controversial.
All men are at risk of getting prostate cancer. The most common risk factor is age; the older a man is, the more at risk. Some men, however, are at an increased risk.
- African American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from it. They also tend to get it at a younger age, have a more severe form and are not diagnosed until it is at a more advanced stage.
- Genetic factors may put some men at higher risk of prostate cancer. These risks include more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer or family members diagnosed with breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer.
Prostate cancer symptoms differ among men, and some men do not have any symptoms. If you have any of the following symptoms, be sure to see your doctor right away:
- Difficulty starting urination.
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Frequent urination, especially at night.
- Difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
- Pain or burning during urination.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away.
- Painful ejaculation.
Keep in mind that in most cases, these symptoms may likely be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer.
Research has found that men aged 55-69 with an average risk benefit the most from screening. Still, a decision to undergo screening should only be made after getting information about the uncertainties, risks and potential benefits of screening.
If you decide to get screened, many physicians will use a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to measure the PSA (a substance made by the prostate) level in the blood. PSA levels in the blood can be higher in men with prostate cancer; however, PSA levels may also be elevated due to other conditions affecting the prostate.
The only way to know if an abnormal PSA test is due to cancer is to do a biopsy. If the biopsy shows cancer cells, your doctor will discuss treatment options.
Treatment of prostate cancer may include:
- Close monitoring and follow-up visits.
- Surgery to remove the prostate.
Men, this month is the perfect time to see your doctor and focus on the early detection and treatment of any health condition. If you haven’t seen your doctor recently because of the pandemic or any other reason, pick up the phone and make an appointment today.