Tough guys take care of themselves

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For men and all who love them: This is Menís Health Week ó a perfect prelude to Fatherís Day.

Since memorialized by congressional resolution in 1994, the annual program heightens awareness of common and preventable health problems, and provides an excuse to encourage males to take better care of themselves. As the resolution states, men are much less likely than are women to seek professional advice (of any kind, but letís not go there). When they do it tends to be late in the game, making preventable illness or outcomes much worse than need be.

Guys, you matter. Please take care of yourselves.

Prime examples are prostate cancer and lung disease. If addressed early, survival rates are very good. But thatís a big ďif,Ē so those rates arenít as high as they could be.

Other findings about menís health (from federal agencies and the American Cancer Society) include:

• Despite continual medical advances, on average men still live five years fewer than women. In 1920, the difference was only one year.

• One in seven men will develop prostate cancer. Itís the third leading (down from second, a few years ago) cause of death in men, behind heart disease and lung cancer; colon cancer ranks fourth.

• Testicular cancer is another common cancer for young men aged 15-34; when detected early, it has the highest survival rate.

• Women visit the doctor 150 percent as often as men, enabling them to detect health problems in early stages. Menís Health Week originated to narrow that gap. Tests such as Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) exams, blood pressure and cholesterol screens, along with regular checkups aid early detection and significantly increase survival rates.

• Men are three times more likely than women to drive drunk, or be an alcoholic. Maybe thatís related to this next item.

• Depression in males is underdiagnosed; theyíre less likely to seek help. Teenaged boys are four times as likely as girls to commit suicide. Young men are six times as likely; the rate worsens in middle age and seniors. They need to hear there is no shame in talking about pain.

Heard of andropause? We hear a lot about menopause, but men go through their own version of ďthe change.Ē Awareness can make living with symptoms of losing testosterone ó including depression, bone loss, blood circulation changes, even possible dementia ó much easier. Andropause is less recognized in the U.S. than in Europe and Canada, but itís gaining ground.

What can a man do to prevent common health problems? Medical advice is largely the same for everybody: Less fat and sugar in the diet, more vegetables and fruits. Healthy weight and exercise, more each year past 35. Donít smoke. Drink seldom and in moderation. Get the recommended cholesterol, blood, and cancer screenings (e.g., PSA and colonoscopies). The cost spent on testing is far less than treating disease. Check with your doctor first as individual needs vary, but some docs also recommend a baby aspirin daily.

Finally, meditate, or the equivalent. One son discovered hiking alone, which reduced his stress (and associated blood pressure), and just makes coping with life easier. A quiet walk in the forest. Perhaps gardening. The time dedicated to quiet relaxation is more important than the chosen method. Itís amazing what simple stress reduction can do for a manís (or womanís) health.

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.

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