• Printer Friendly Version

MEN: Are You Paying Attention to Your Health?

“Men’s health starts with boys’ health,” said J. Christopher Costabile, PA-C with CalvertHealth Primary Care. “The sooner you start, the better. And remember, what you don’t do matters just as much as what you do.”

A century ago, the leading causes of death among men were communicable diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis, and complications from eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Today, is a vastly different story with heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and diabetes rounding out the top six, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recently, we sat down with Costabile to discuss how men can reduce their risk factors, at any age, and live healthier lives.

Q: What are chronic diseases?

Chronic diseases are basically conditions that last a year or more and require regular, ongoing medical attention, or conditions that limit activities such as work or daily living—or both. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading chronic diseases causing death in the U.S.

Q: How can men prevent getting chronic diseases?

Many chronic diseases are caused by a short list of risk behaviors: tobacco use as well as exposure to secondhand smoke, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and alcohol abuse. About half of American adults—more than 117 million individuals, have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating patterns and physical inactivity. I feel the core of one’s health rests firmly on four pillars: what you put into your mouth, what you put into your lungs, what you put into your mind and toxic environmental exposures.

Q: At what age should men start getting serious about their health?

Men’s health starts with boys’ health. This notion that children can eat as much junk food, sodas, chips and candy as they want because they should enjoy themselves while they are young, is backward thinking. If moms and dads instill the idea of health and healthy habits when their children are young, there’s a good chance they will carry those healthy habits into their adult lives and avoid obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions that are linked to poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Q: Why is it important for men in their 20s and 30s to have regular check-ups?

If young men get tested for indicators of heart disease and some cancers early, they will have time to make adjustments to their diet and exercise routines, as well as get the latest information on prevention. The Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance plans must cover preventive health services, including an annual physical, so building a relationship with a primary care physician should be on every young man’s list. Things can sneak up on men that can have devastating consequences down the road. I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is have a regular physical exam.

Q: What advice would you offer to a man who has been neglecting his health for years (or decades) and is avoiding going to the doctor? What’s the first step?

Please make an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible to get a checkup. If you don’t have a primary care provider, find one that you feel you can relate to. We are here to help you achieve optimal health so you can live your best life - free of guilt or judgment.

Q: If someone doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, shouldn’t they be able to eat whatever foods they enjoy and still be healthy?

Health is not a zero-sum game. Not smoking nor using alcohol is great, but abstaining from those things won’t protect your arteries from a buildup of plaque if you are eating the wrong foods. The same is true for people who have an excellent BMI (Body Mass Index), but smoke two packs of cigarettes a day.

Q: Is it normal for men to feel overwhelmed, down or unhappy?

Everyone, in every age group, feels down from time to time and it is a normal part of life. Major life changes such as the breakup of a relationship or loss of a job, a failure or an unfavorable health diagnosis, will undoubtedly bring on emotional pain. But, when feelings of hopelessness and despair won’t go away, or if you find it hard to function and enjoy life, something more serious could be causing these emotions. The most common symptoms of depression are: the feeling that nothing will ever get better and you won’t be able to improve your situation; loss of interest in hobbies and social activities you used to enjoy; a significant weight gain or weight loss; sleeplessness; and/or, trying to escape emotional pain by using alcohol or drugs.

According to statistics gathered through the National Institutes of Health, men between the ages of 18 and 44 are less likely to see a specialist for emotional health than women, and when they do agree to see a professional it is at the point of crisis. You wouldn’t hesitate to see a health practitioner if you wrenched your back and were in pain every day—you should think about emotional or mental health the same way.

Q: “I feel stressed all the time, I can’t seem to relax. I’m irritable and generally unhappy. Is this normal for a man in his 50s?”

Before I can answer that, I have to ask if there have been any major changes in your life. Stress and depression are issues that most men don’t want to admit they have. Everyone can feel overwhelmed at times, but if that carries on and if loved ones are suggesting that you talk to your primary care provider, then that might be a sign that you should make an appointment.

In addition to eating right, exercising, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking, men should have regular physicals with lab work to test for cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, and begin screening for colon cancer, skin cancer and other conditions as recommended by their primary care provider.
back to top button