DOVER — Many months and campaigns throughout the year focus on women’s health issues but every June is set aside specifically for men — Men’s Health Month.
One of the first steps in keeping healthy is to visit a general practitioner on an annual basis.
“Men are notoriously bad for putting off things that involve their health until something is actually wrong,” said Richard Killingsworth, section chief of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Division of Health and Social Services. “But a lot of illnesses can be prevented or caught early through routine screenings.”
The most important test men regularly should get is blood pressure. That should be checked annually.
“It’s important to monitor blood pressure regularly because men on average smoke and drink more than women,” Mr. Killingsworth said.
Other regular testing should include for diabetes every three years, cholesterol every five years and colorectal every five to 10 years for men older than 50.
Prostate cancer is another major health risk for men with an estimated one in six men diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that family history impacts the likelihood of developing the disease. Men with a brother, father or son who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer are two to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer.
Although it is a common disease, there is no universal screening protocol that is right for everyone.
“The most important thing about prostate cancer is an important health issue, the most important thing is for men to have an open dialogue with their doctor about it,” Mr. Killingsworth said. “The doctor will be able to determine what kind of testing should be done and how frequently.”
There are symptoms of prostate cancer that men should be on the lookout for including a need to urinate frequently, blood in urine, nausea and back pain, but more than half of men who develop prostate cancer will show no symptoms.
Symptoms alone should be no reason to panic because other causes could be an enlarged prostate or non-cancerous growths but a doctor should be seen if any symptoms emerge to rule out cancer as the cause.
According to the Men’s Health Network, prostate cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the world, but is the number-one non-skin cancer in men from the United States. It is also the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States.
The top killers men need to be on alert for are similar to those for women — heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is now in the top 10 causes of death, but the growing occurrences may be attributed to the aging of the baby boomers, Mr. Killingsworth said. But he added that it’s very unlikely Alzheimer’s will ever top heart disease and stroke.
“There are measures that men can take to prevent many common diseases, but the most important is to quit smoking and using tobacco products,” Mr. Killingsworth said. “Smoking is a habit that is almost guaranteed to kill you.”
The next most important prevention measures are drinking alcohol only in moderation, getting regular physical activity, eating properly and sleeping regularly.
“Men are more likely that women to skip meals, especially breakfast, so it’s important to focus on getting three or four balanced meals in each day and everyone should be getting seven or more hours of uninterrupted sleep per night,” Mr. Killingsworth advised. “The uninterrupted sleep may be difficult because with prostate issues, men may be disturbed up to four times a night to go to the bathroom, so if this is happening, it’s time to see a doctor.”
Another common cancer that can be prevented is skin cancer which effects both men and women.
“Just like most other things, men are less likely than women to take preventative measures when it comes to skin protection,” Mr. Killingsworth said. “Just like anyone else, men need to regularly wear sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and limit sun exposure.”
More information about men’s health can be found at menshealthnetwork.com and information about skin cancer is available at protectyourskinde.com.