June is Men’s Health Month, and leading up to Father’s Day we celebrate Men’s Health Week. This is a special awareness period first recognized by Congress in 1994 and celebrated around the world. The goal is to educate men, boys, and their families and friends about preventable health problems and to encourage them to be more actively involved in their own health care. In this issue of the Assisting Hands “Hand in Hand” newsletter, we’d like to share information about men’s health, and also about the special challenges faced by male caregivers—a rapidly growing segment of our nation’s caregiving population.
This Father’s Day, remind Dad to take care of his health!
Father’s Day is a great day to celebrate fathers! It’s also a great day to take stock of men’s health and well-being, to help Dad enjoy many more Father’s Days.
Men lead women in 14 of the top 15 causes of death in the United States. More than half of premature deaths in men are preventable. But many men are unaware that simple screening tests can dramatically improve their health. Here is a checklist from University of Maryland Medical Center experts:
Heart Health. Cardiovascular disease kills almost 400,000 men each year. Risk factors for diseases of the heart and blood vessels, such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, can begin in the thirties.
Unfortunately, many men do not pay attention to the heart and may feel invulnerable to heart disease.
Recommended screenings: (1) Blood pressure. Normal blood pressure in adults is below 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. One out of every four men has high blood pressure, but many men are unaware that they have it. High blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer,” because it usually has no noticeable symptoms until other serious problems occur. Blood pressure should be checked at least every two years, starting at age 18, or more frequently if it is at or above 140/90 or if you have other risk factors. Ask your doctor. (2) Cholesterol. Your total cholesterol number should be below 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and your good cholesterol (HDL) should be 40 mg/dL or higher. A lipid panel test (a simple blood test that measures blood fats such as cholesterol or triglyceride) is recommended for all men age 35 and up, and much earlier if heart disease runs in the family.
Diabetes. This chronic disease can be life-threatening if it is not controlled. Complications include: heart disease and stroke, blindness or vision problems, nerve damage, kidney damage, gum disease, sleep apnea and depression. Risk factors include: obesity, a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fat levels, and an inactive lifestyle.
Recommended screenings: According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, men age 45 or over, especially those who are overweight, should be screened for diabetes. Testing is also strongly recommended in men younger than 45 who are overweight with one or more risk factors. If results are normal, testing is recommended every three years.
Prostate Health. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer. The best way for a man to protect himself is to catch prostate problems early, when chances of successful treatment are better.
Recommended screenings: Two prostate screening tests are advised: a physical exam, and a blood test, called a prostate-specific antigen test. Dr. Michael J. Naslund of the University of Maryland School of Medicine recommended that men begin the physical exam and the PSA test at age 50. Two groups at higher risk for prostate cancer—men with a family history of cancer and African-American men—should begin the screening when they are 40.
Colorectal (Colon) Cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of non-skin cancer in men, after prostate cancer and lung cancer. Healthcare providers suggest one or more tests for colorectal cancer screening. These include a colonoscopy, which is used to visually examine the lining of the large intestine. Other screening methods include virtual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and double-contrast barium.
Recommended screenings: The American Cancer Society recommends that beginning at age 50, men at average risk for developing colorectal cancer receive a colonoscopy every 10 years; or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; or a virtual colonoscopy every five years. Men with a family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps or a personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease should begin screening earlier.
Skin Cancer. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, men are more likely to develop skin cancers than women. One form of skin cancer, called melanoma, causes about 73 percent of skin cancer deaths.
Recommended screenings: A monthly mole self-exam should be performed by men in all age groups. In addition, starting at age 20, a doctor should do a mole exam every three years. For men 40 and older, a doctor should do a mole exam every year.
The University of Maryland team also reminded men to speak with their healthcare provider about the right schedule for dental exams, vision and hearing care screenings and immunizations.
Source: University of Maryland Medical Center.
Visit the Men’s Health Network website (http://www.menshealthnetwork.org) to find out more about Men’s Health Month, including a free brochure with recommendations for both Dad and Mom, and a poster alerting senior men to scams that might take advantage of their health concerns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers some great ideas to share with Dad and the other men in your life (http://www.cdc.gov/Men/nmhw/index.htm). You can also send Dad a Men’s Health e-Card.