Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

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June 9, 2014
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Men’s health reminders Encourage Dad to start a new health routine this Father’s Day

So your dad never wears those argyle socks you gave him three Father’s Days ago? And you’ve never seen him in that dark green tie with the brown ducks on it?

Sunday is Father’s Day and you’ve got to come up with something.

How about calling his doctor and scheduling a physical exam? Perhaps you might sit him down and ask if he’s ever been screened for prostate or skin cancer, or heart disease. Do you love him enough to suggest a colonoscopy?

If all of this seems too aggressive, a Penn Valley physician offers something more gentle.

“Tell him you appreciate him staying in good health, and that he can use Father’s Day each year as a reminder to have his annual checkup,” Dr. Andrew Burt suggested.

This is not as outlandish as it may sound, Burt said.

“’My wife made the appointment’ is still a common reason we hear for first-time visits,” he said. “And most men don’t seem to mind the excuse.”

There’s no real mystery about why men have a reputation for not seeing doctors, Burt said.

“Many men, and many, many women, are reluctant to see their doctors, oftentimes due to a fear of hearing bad news,” he said.“They understandably don’t look forward to potentially uncomfortable tests, exams or conversations.”

Younger men don’t tend to see doctors for preventive care because they feel well and don’t see a need, he said.

But these statistics on men’s health from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that large numbers of men in the United States are facing some very real risks. The CDC has found that nearly half haven’t met the federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic exercises. Nearly 35 percent of men over 20 are obese. About one-fifth of men still smoke. About 31 percent have hypertension, or high blood pressure.

The Men’s Health Network claims that men die at higher rates than women from the 10 top causes of death — the top two being heart disease and cancer. The Network cites one doctor as saying, “American men live sicker and die younger than American women.” Indeed, an article cited on the organization’s web site claims, “By the age of 100, women outnumber men eight to one.”

This may be true because, as reported by the CDC, women are ”100 percent more likely than men to seek preventative health care.”

There are certain screenings that men should regularly have, according to Burt.

“In general, colon cancer screening should start ate age 50,” he suggested. “Screening for aortic aneurysm is recommended for men age 65-75 who were smokers. Don’t forget about routine vaccines, including a shingles vaccine at age 60, pneumonia vaccine at age 65, a tetanus vaccine every 10 years, and an annual flu vaccine.”

He noted that men who are reluctant to have colonoscopies might talk to their doctors about alternatives.

This week is National Men’s Health Week, and in combination with Father’s Day might be a good excuse for children to encourage dads to be more active on behalf of their own health.

Some suggestions?

Take Dad for a walk and tell him how much you love him. How about a weekly walk together?

Buy him a gym membership and go with him.

Talk to him about how he feels. Dr. Burt said it’s especially important for men to see their doctors if they observe any significant changes in how they feel, or how their bodies are responding.

“Many changes are part of ‘normal aging,’” he said. “One of the most important things your doctor can do for you is help determine which changes are worrisome and which are not.”

It’s not likely your father will be upset with you for caring about him. He is, according to an anonymous saying, “a guy who has snapshots in his wallet where his money used to be.”

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.


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The Union Updated Jun 10, 2014 12:20AM Published Jun 10, 2014 11:34AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.