This month we celebrate Men’s Health Week, which kicks off the week before Father’s Day. In recognition of this national celebration and the day meant honor all the dedicated fathers of Arizona, why not take a pledge to take a few simple steps that can help you live a longer, healthier life.
Get an Annual Physical
Have you ever said this to yourself: “The only time I need to see a doctor is when I’m bleeding or something is broken.” That’s a nice macho answer we can tell our friends when we want to sound tough, but in reality we need to see our doctor at least once a year. Your doctor can do simple blood tests and a physical to identify small issues before they become big problems.
Your doctor will help you monitor very important things like your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight and screenings for cancer. Prevention is the best tool we have to live longer, healthier lives.
Getting yearly physical from your primary checkups is not the only exams you need to schedule. If you’re over the age of 50 or have a history or prostate cancer in your family, schedule a prostate exam. Prostate cancer is a serious disease that affects thousands of men every year. It can be a very aggressive cancer, but when it is caught in the early stages it can be treated quickly and effectively.
This is the one area where most men will shy away from because of the perceptions of the procedure. I can tell you from my own experiences the exam is not as bad as you are making it out to be in your mind. I won’t lie to you and tell you it’s pleasant, but it is not the invasive nightmare you may have in your mind. I did my exam several years ago, and I am glad I did. My doctors found a noncancerous (thankfully) polyp that was easily removed. If I had not had the exam, I never would have known about this or other problems that could have been lurking.
You can find more information about the benefits of a colorectal exam and free resources by looking up the Fit at Fifty program on the Arizona Department of Health Services website at www.azdhs.gov.
Be More Physically Active
Heart disease is the biggest killer among men, which is way the next two recommendations are so critical. Making better food choices and eating a more balanced diet are two simple steps you can do right now to minimize your risk of heart disease.
A common mistake many men make is to think that we can do the same kinds of physical activity as we could when we were younger. We all remember what it was like to be younger and have unlimited energy. We could play hard at whatever sport we chose and bounce back almost immediately. But the years of wear and tear on our bodies takes a toll, and not that we are older we need to readjust the things we do to be physically active.
Our goal should be to get at least an hour of physical activity every day. That does not mean that we need to head down to the local basketball courts and get into hour-long pickup games with a bunch of 16-year-old. Unless you’re a former college basketball standout and you never stopped playing, you’re probably going to leave the game a little beat up and equally embarrassed. That’s not to say you should not challenge yourself, but we need to be smarter and do the kinds of activities we are going to enjoy and that are giving us the maximum health benefit.
If the thrill of competition and winning are still important to you, then by all means be competitive. Never give up on your drive to succeed. My advice is to be competitive within your limits. Part of getting older is gaining wisdom, and with wisdom we should learn to set reasonable expectations.
This is the easiest thing you can do to take better care of your health, but often it is the thing we neglect the most. It is easy to go for the quick meal, especially when our lives become hectic and stressful. And it’s also easy to fall into a pattern of eating food that are not good for us because they are right in front of us, like the morning donuts at the office or the fast food restaurant that is on the way home. I am not saying you have to cut out all of these foods completely, but you should take some time to plan some healthier meals into each day. A great way to insure you are eating healthier foods is to make it a family effort. Lead by example in your family by eating more fruits and vegetables, not drinking sugary drinks, drinking more water and not over indulging in your meals. There are some great tips and recipes on how to eat a balanced diet at www.eatwellbewell.org
Get Help If You’re Feeling Down
Life can be stressful, and that stress can have a long term effect such as depression. When you’re suffering from depression it makes it harder to be more physically active, eat better, work and focus on all the things you need to do to insure your family is safe and healthy. Depression can be a serious medical condition, but the good news is it is easily treated. If you feel like you may be suffering from depression or are even feeling over stressed, ask for help. There is no shame in reaching out for help from a professional. Sometimes all it takes is talk therapy to help you deal with your problems. If the conditions are more serious you may require some medication to help you get your life back in balance. Most insurance plan and employers offer an Employee Assistance Program that will offer free or low cost access to a mental health professional. If you feel like you need help, take advantage of these programs. Finally, be a good friend and if you notice the signs and symptoms of depression in your friends, reach out to them and ask if they need help.
If you’re still smoking, stop. With every puff you take from your cigarette or cigar you are taking time off your life, and thus negating all of the great things I mentioned about the benefits of getting older. You’re losing years that you can watch your children grow up to be adults, and you are missing out on all the benefits of your hard work. Smoking is simply not worth the price you pay with your health. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and quitting is easier said than done. But when you look back on your life and all the hard work it too to get you to where you are, you also know it’s not impossible. If you need help call the ASHLine at 1-800-556-6222 or go online to www.ashline.org.