Monday Medical: Helping dad stay healthy
This year, encourage dads to give themselves one of the best Father’s Day gifts of all: time to take care of their health.
Men are at higher risk than women for various diseases but are often less-connected to health care resources than women. That’s why Dr. Brian Harrington, a Steamboat Springs family physician who also has a degree in public health, encourages men to prioritize health.
Below, Harrington shares steps men can take to better their health.
• See a primary care doctor regularly. These physicians understand a wide range of organ systems and diseases, and serve as a one-stop resource for getting health care needs addressed.
“Having a regular checkup is a chance to review these things, because guys don’t tend to come in otherwise,” Harrington said.
Going to the doctor for a broken arm or bad case of the flu isn’t enough. During visits for acute needs, there usually isn’t time to consider other potential health issues thoroughly.
“We don’t just want to take care of them after they’ve had a heart attack; we want to take care of them before they have a heart attack,” Harrington said. “We’re not just talking about living to a ripe old age — we’re talking about living to a ripe old age with quality.”
Schedule a physical at a convenient time — around a birthday, so it’s easy to remember, or during a time of year when work is typically slow. A regular physical can also help ensure you’re up-to-date on important immunizations.
• Get appropriate health screenings. From screenings for prostate cancer to heart health, the list of health screenings is long and sometimes overwhelming. However, not every man needs every test.
A conversation with a primary care doctor is a good place to start to figure out what you might need. Recommendations from various groups, such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Physicians, are also helpful.
“It’s important for us to have a conversation with guys about the screening tests and the pros and cons, because what to do may not be black and white,” Harrington said. “Getting tests ‘just because’ isn’t always the right answer.”
And don’t forget that health screenings span a range of issues, including dental, hearing and vision.
• Practice a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight are critical to overall health.
“When you’re looking at the top-10 causes of death, excluding accidents, diet and exercise are related to all of them,” Harrington said. “Just walking helps. Twenty minutes of walking seems to affect your metabolism for the day; that’s what the science shows.”
It’s also important to practice mindfulness and relaxation, whether that’s prayer, yoga or meditation. And men and those close to them should pay close attention to mental health.
“We know that, nationally, we tend not to address mental health … That’s even more exacerbated for men than women,” Harrington said.
“Some of this is a message to men, and some of this is a message to people around men: Recognize issues that need to be addressed and get them in to be seen.”
Most importantly, a commitment to health is something that happens year-round.
“I would suggest that the majority of health prevention and wellness is outside the doctor’s office,” Harrington said. “You want to create healthy lifestyle habits that you continue throughout your life, not just for a two-week course. Wellness is not answered by a pill; it’s answered best by a healthy lifestyle.”
Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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