Dr. Mark Edney: Every man should consider health status

Men’s health can often take a back seat to other issues in our busy lives, but as we slow down for the summer, it’s an excellent time for men to reflect on their current health status and identify areas to target for improvement this year.

Cardiovascular health: Heart attack and stroke are the most common causes of death in men 65 and older. Preventing early cardiovascular death relies on developing preventive habits in one’s 20s and 30s.

Don’t smoke: Quitting smoking is the singular most important thing you can do for your health. Smoking is a major contributor to narrowing of the arteries, which causes heart attack, stroke, leg pain from low blood flow, kidney function problems and loss of erections. There are effective medicines to help in the quitting process, but these should be combined with behavior coaching.

Diet and exercise:  Minimize red meat, fried and processed foods and get all 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Twenty minutes of cardiovascular exercise (sustained increase in heart and respiratory rate) 4-5 times per week is a good goal.

Blood pressure and blood sugar control: elevated blood pressure and blood sugar can in some cases be reduced with diet and exercise.  If not, medications may be required.

Mental health: Depression and anxiety are common. Treatment can include counseling and medications. Stress can also contribute to cardiovascular changes.  Seek the advice of a primary care provider or certified counselor.

Accident prevention: Accidents are the number one cause of death in men 15-35.  Alcohol is a significant contributor to many accidents. If alcohol is causing relationship or work problems or you continue to use it in potentially hazardous situations, seek help from a primary care provider or certified counselor. Distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Don’t text and drive.

Cancer screening: Cancer is the leading cause of death for men 45-64. Four of particular concern for men are:

  •         Lung cancer: don’t smoke. If you still smoke or had a long history before quitting, a CT scan of the chest may detect lung cancer at an earlier stage before symptoms develop.
  •         Colon cancer: Get a colonoscopy starting at age 50 or sooner if you are at higher risk.  Blood in the stool or persistent change in the diameter of stool needs to be evaluated by a primary care provider or gastroenterologist.
  •         Prostate cancer: Men at average risk should consider getting a PSA blood test starting at age 55, sooner if one is high risk (African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer).  Discuss pros and cons with primary care provider or urologist.
  •         Testicular Cancer: Though not a common cause of cancer, and one of the most treatable forms of cancer, its peak age of onset is in the 20s and 30s. Men should perform a testicular self-exam once per month. Painless, rock-hard enlargement of the testicle needs prompt evaluation by a primary care provider or urologist.

Women play a major role in monitoring the health of male loved ones. Men are notoriously stubborn about preventative health issues and seeking care when problems arise.  Keep encouraging them, ladies!

Dr. Edney of Peninsula Urology Associates is Medical Director of the Surgery Service Line at  Peninsula Regional Medical Center.


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