Get answers to your heart disease prevention questions.
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.
Many men take better care of their cars than they do themselves. 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. Most men are not aware that simple screening tests and lifestyle changes can dramatically improve their health.
Here’s a short list of the most important things you can do to stay healthy:
Cardiovascular disease kills over 410,000 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 30s, says Mandeep R. Mehra, M.B.B.S., head of cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Mehra, most men in their 30s do not pay attention to the heart, and may feel invulnerable to heart disease.
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.
Recommendations: 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. Don’t have time for an appointment with a health care provider? Stop by a neighborhood fire station for a free blood pressure check-up.
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.
Recommendations: 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.
Michael Miller, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says arteries begin to clog in late childhood and early adolescence. “For those with a history of heart disease in their families, the recommendation is regular check-ups beginning in the teen years, and monitoring cholesterol intake should begin even before adolescence,” says Dr. Miller.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can be life threatening if it is not controlled. In people with diabetes, the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. 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.
Recommendations: 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. 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 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.
Two prostate screening tests are advised. One is a physical exam. Michael J. Naslund, M.D., head of urology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says a simple digital rectal exam can detect abnormalities that could be cancer. He says the physical exam should be combined with a blood test, called a prostate specific antigen test, which is also used to screen for prostate cancer.
Recommendations: Dr. Naslund recommends 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 the cancer and African-American men, should begin the screening when they are 40.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of non-skin cancer in men, after prostate cancer and lung cancer.Health care 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. Tissue samples can be taken and abnormal growths can be removed during the procedure. Other screening methods include virtual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and double contrast barium.
Recommendations: Beginning at age 50, the American Cancer Society recommends the following screening schedule for men at average risk for developing colorectal cancer:
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 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.
Recommendations: 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.
What’s happening in your mouth can affect your overall health. Good dental hygiene may reduce the risk of ulcers, pneumonia, digestive problems, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and daily flossing can control the buildup of plaque, which can cause tooth decay, cavities and gum disease. Men are more likely than women to develop gum disease. The risk of gum disease increases if you smoke, clench or grind your teeth and eat a poor diet.
Recommendation: A dental exam one to two times every year across all age groups.
Even though your vision is good, you may not have healthy eyes. Many diseases that can damage your vision, such as glaucoma, are unnoticed until it is too late. Early detection is the key to curing or slowing the progression of vision loss.
Recommendations: An eye exam any time you have a problem with your eye. In addition, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a baseline screening at 40 for men with no signs or risk factors for eye disease. That is about the time that many eye diseases or changes in vision may occur. For men with symptoms or at risk (such as those with a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure), an ophthalmologist can determine the frequency of eye examinations. This is in addition to regular checkups for eye glasses or contact lenses.
Vaccines teach the immune system how to protect against infectious diseases. Immunization is a cost-effective way to prevent some serious illnesses.
Recommendations: The recommended adult immunization schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes a range of vaccinations. Influenza: age 18-49, discuss with your doctor or nurse; age 50 and older, every year. Pneumonia vaccine: age 65 or older, one time. Tetanus-diphtheria booster vaccine: every 10 years. Meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine: discuss with your doctor or nurse if you are attending college. Herpes zoster vaccine (to prevent shingles): starting at age 60, one time only.
Hearing loss increases as we age. More than 30 percent of people over 65 have some hearing loss, as do 14 percent of those between 45 and 64.
Recommendations: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends that adults be screened at least every 10 years through age 50 and at three-year intervals thereafter.
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