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June 26, 2007 > June is Men's Health Month

June is Men's Health Month

In general, most men don't like thinking about their health; and going to the doctor is something they'd rather avoid. And yet, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says American men have more reason than ever to listen to their bodies. Here's why, according to the CDC:
* Men tend to smoke and drink more than women.
* Men don't seek medical help as often as women.
* Some men define themselves by their work, which can add to stress.
* Some health conditions affect only men, such as prostate cancer and low testosterone.
The good news is many major health risks faced by men, including colon cancer and heart disease, can be prevented. When these conditions do occur, they are often treatable, especially if they are diagnosed early.
The bad news is some ailments that afflict men are "silent," including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. These diseases usually don't produce symptoms in the early stages, and they can do a lot of damage to your body before they are diagnosed.
"To heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys," the Men's Health Network has declared June 11-17 Men's Health Week.
"It really comes down to doing what your mother always told you: eat your vegetables and go out and play. These are still the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle," says Fremont family practice physician Steven A. Curran, M.D., medical director of Washington Clinic in Warm Springs.
Diet and exercise
The basic principles of a healthy diet apply to men, as well as women. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, limit saturated fats and trans fats, and control calories to help maintain a healthy weight. To help, Dr. Curran recommends these informative web sites: www.calorie-count.com and www.whfoods.org (World's Healthiest Foods).
For questions about alcohol intake, moderation is the key, keeping in mind that studies have shown one glass of wine a day can be beneficial for heart health and lower cholesterol.
On the question of whether men should take vitamin and mineral supplements, Dr. Curran gives this advice: "Certain supplements are more important for men, such as selenium for prostate health. If they take a multivitamin, I advise my male patients to take one without iron."
When it comes to exercise, Dr. Curran observes, almost any exercise appears to be beneficial. Men should try to do a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week with an ultimate goal of one hour of combined aerobic and resistance exercise four times a week.
"We've come to appreciate the value of resistance exercise or weight training not just to look good," explains Dr. Curran. "It also helps compensate for the fact that men tend to lose 10 percent of muscle for every decade after age 40. The best way to reverse that loss is resistance exercise, especially in combination with aerobics."
Exams and screenings
To stay at their healthiest, men need to have regular physical exams by their doctor. Dr. Curran's recommendation is:
* Men in their 30s should have a full physical exam every three years.
* Men in their 40s should do so every two years.
* Men age 50 and above should have a physical every year.
"These frequencies can change, based on your family history," adds Dr. Curran.
Men should also think about the need for vaccinations. This includes a regular tetanus booster and any necessary vaccinations when traveling overseas. In addition, at age 60, men can have a vaccination called Zostavax, which helps prevent painful shingles.
Stress management
Dealing with stress is another serious health challenge for men, who tend to want to avoid burdening other people with their problems, says Dr. Curran. Men should understand that finding a successful strategy for managing stress can have a direct impact on their health. Two possible strategies are medication and yoga.
Men can meet these and many other health-related issues head-on with the help of a personal physician. That's why it's important for them to develop an ongoing relationship with their doctor.
"Ideally, it a partnership between a man and his physician," explains Dr. Curran. "The doctor can function as a source of information to guide the man through health care's complexities and clarify conflicting views. The physician is one more person on the man's team who's looking out for him."
"In considering the best approach to a long and healthy life, men should also talk to their doctor about the role of alternative approaches to medicine, such as chiropractics and acupuncture," Dr. Curran concludes.

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