Men’s preventive health care, key to treating diabetes
June 18, 2018
According to Huy Nguyen, D.O., of Sierra Care Physicians, as little as 15 percent of his male patients seek regular preventive health care. He says men often wait until they are experiencing pain or illness, or until their spouses insist that they see a health care provider.
However, simple and routine tests can help detect diseases and health problems long before symptoms are noticeable.
One example is diabetes, which affects over 12 percent of adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control's 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report. Alarmingly, it is estimated that over 20 percent of individuals with diabetes are not aware that they have the disease.
"Type 2 diabetes is a huge epidemic and directly correlates with our obesity epidemic," said Nguyen.
Type 2 diabetes affects the body's ability to use insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. Left untreated, the disease can cause serious potential health complications.
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For example, diabetes impacts the autonomic nervous system, harming the body's ability to widen or constrict blood vessels. This can lead to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and in men, erectile dysfunction and urologic issues such as overactive bladder, inability to control urination, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
For this reason, men are encouraged to watch for symptoms and to speak candidly with their primary care providers if they experience symptoms such as frequent urination, unusual fatigue, blurred vision, increased thirst, unexplained weight loss, erectile dysfunction, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
However, according to Nguyen, symptoms are not always noticeable. "Early symptoms may only be generalized fatigue, and more often, there are no symptoms."
This is why that visit to your doctor is so important. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed easily with a blood test, and is treated and reversed with lifestyle changes such as weight loss, exercising 30 minutes a day at least five times a week, and lowering carbohydrate intake.
Nguyen notes that when patients do not follow through with the lifestyle changes needed to improve the disease, oral medications may be used to improve the condition. "Only in extreme cases are injectable medications or insulin required."
Left untreated, diabetes can cause permanent nerve damage, high risk of cardiac events, as well as skin and nail infections, vision problems, and in extreme cases, amputation due to infections on the feet.
According to the CDC, some risk factors increase the likelihood of having diabetes: a history of smoking (100 or more cigarettes in a lifetime); being overweight; living a sedentary life (less than 10 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous activity); or having high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
It is important to remember that treatment and lifestyle changes can make all the difference. First, however, Nguyen notes that individuals must realize that they have a health problem.
"I'd like to encourage men to visit their doctors regularly. It's no different than with their cars, preventive maintenance saves breakdowns and money in the long run," he said.
He recommends the following care for men:
— Men age 35 or older, go for a preventive check-up and baseline blood work.
— If you are sedentary, obese, or have a family history of diabetes – get checked earlier.
— Men age 50 or older, see your health care provider annually.
— At any age, see your health care provider if you experience new symptoms or changes in your health.
"Unlike some diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes is very preventable and reversible," said Nguyen. "The limiting factor on how well a person does is only their level of motivation. With the right diet, regular exercise, and medications, you can manage type 2 diabetes and live an active, productive life."