Seven Health Issues Every Man Should Know About
It’s a proven fact that men are less likely to visit the doctor than women. A recent Centers for Disease Control study finds that women are 33 percent more likely to visit the doctor than men, and are 100 percent better about scheduling routine screenings and other preventive care.
And as men age, that lackadaisical attitude becomes a real liability. Because of that, we’ve put together a list of seven health issues every man should consider as part of any healthcare regimen.
To compile this list, we reached out to Jeffrey Goudreau, M.D., an internist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas.
1) See a doctor yearly for preventive care and routine screenings
Why do men slack off on seeing a primary care physician regularly?
“They avoid it because they are afraid of hearing bad news,” Goudreau says. “Which doesn’t really make a lot of sense, because as long as healthy men have regular physicals and prostate exams when it’s appropriate, they really don’t have much trouble.”
Having a good relationship with a doctor you see at least once a year means you feel more comfortable talking to them about health concerns, and he or she will know when a change in lab results occurs.
Having a primary care physician can mean that small concerns stay small. And your doctor can also encourage and coach you toward better health if you need it, too.
“My big mantra is ‘everything in medicine is weight-related’,” Goudreau says. “Keep your BMI under 25, sleep seven to eight hours a day, exercise an hour a day, eat non-processed foods, and see your doctor every year.”
2) Have a healthy diet
“60 to 80 percent of Americans are overweight,” Goudreau says. “We’re such a meat and potatoes country, but really, anyone can eat healthfully if they want to.”
So what are the key components of eating a healthy diet?
“It’s all non-processed, non-GMO, nothing out of a box or bag,” Goudreau says. “Try to aim for more farm-to-table. Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh food is, and less from the center, where the processed food is shelved.”
Being intentional about food choices and making wise swaps for healthier fats and options when preparing foods can help, too, he says.
“And try to stick, for the most part, with salads full of fresh vegetables, and fish or chicken that’s been baked, broiled or grilled.”
3) Watch your waist—especially after 40
“Waist size is so important,” Goudreau says. “I’ve been in practice for 31 years, and I see the same things every year when it comes to obesity.”
Many men may find that while their eating and exercise habits haven’t changed, they’re suddenly gaining weight as they get older.
“Most people after age 40 can gain three to five pounds a year just because of how the metabolism shifts,” Goudreau explains. “The aging process means you will need to switch things up.”
An ever-expanding waist, he says, also expands your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
“Your forties are a really vital time to start taking care of your health.”
4) Be honest about your mental health, and have that conversation with your doctor
Suicide ranks seventh in causes of death for males, but is not ranked among the 10 leading causes for females, according to a 2016 CDC report.
Family doctors are trained to spot symptoms of depression, but studies have found that men frequently don’t recognize their symptoms as depression or other mental health issues, but instead will complain of being tired, lacking energy, having trouble concentrating, or having body aches—which can also be symptoms of mental illness.
Having a doctor you see regularly can make talking about mental health a little easier, too, he adds.
“The majority of people will answer honestly if they’re seeing a doctor they’ve seen more than once,” he says.
And if a man is struggling, Goudreau says there is no shame in admitting it.
“We have such great medicines with minimal side effects,” he says. “Nobody should feel any shame in reporting it or taking the medicines.”
5) Keep tabs on your fertility—fertility can be compromised if you are in poor health
“A healthy body means healthy genetics, and healthy sperm,” Goudreau explains. “Drinking too much, being overweight, or not taking care of yourself can create dysfunctional sperm.”
Other things that can improve male fertility? Loading up on folate-rich foods, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, cutting down on caffeine, and making time to reduce stress.
6) Think about your bone health
“While men don’t have to worry about it as much as women because testosterone protects bones to a certain degree, they do still have to worry,” Goudreau says.
Although men don’t need to take calcium—unlike women—they should still make sure they’re eating calcium-rich foods in the right amounts, engaging in weight-bearing exercise, and taking vitamin D.
“Nearly everyone has to supplement vitamin D,” Goudreau explains, adding that since most people spend less time outside, and when they do they load up on sunscreen (and rightly so), a vitamin D supplement is important to help absorb the calcium you get in your diet.
7) If you’re not active now, starting with 10 minutes of exercise a day can make an impact
“This is absolutely true,” Goudreau says, adding that the flurry of New Year’s resolutions frequently has people suddenly hitting the gym every day for a couple of weeks, only to fall off the wagon when it comes to such an ambitious schedule.
“Work up to an hour, but start at 10 minutes a day for a month, then 15 minutes, etc.,” he explains. “There are simple things you can do that really do add up, like taking a few flights of stairs at work or parking further away from the entrance.”
And those simple changes can begin to reduce the need for medications that might have undesirable side effects.
“There are very few side effects to adding 10 minutes to your usual walk or cutting out red meat,” Goudreau says. “But there are definitely side effects to blood pressure drugs and statins.”
Take Charge of Your Health
It’s never too late to take control of your health. Many of the risks listed above are preventable through changing habits and becoming proactive about your health.
If you are looking for a doctor, Texas Health Resources offers an easy-to-use tool. Simply choose the specialty, type in your ZIP code and select a range. Once a list of physicians appears, you can click on a physician and access contact information, education background and a list of insurance plans the doctor accepts.