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June 11, 2008 > Men, Take Charge of Your Health

Men, Take Charge of Your Health

Physician Talks About the Importance of Communication, Preventive Medicine

Gentleman, raise your hands if you groan when your wife tells you to go the doctor. But you secretly love her more for it because it means she's looking out for your health, right?
Washington Township Medical Group family practice physician Steven Curran, M.D., points out that men can oftentimes be their own worst enemy when it comes to seeking medical attention.
"Men, if anything, tend to be more reluctant to seek medical care - certainly at an early stage," he laments. "In the medical profession, we're simply not as successful at catching them with routine screens as we are with women, who tend to get more regular screenings, such as Pap smears and mammograms.
"It's probably related to the same gene that makes us reluctant to ask for directions and the same reason we're not as good at self care. A lot of men will come in and say 'My wife told me to come in.'"
Schedule that appointment
The truth is that regular doctor visits can help ward off potential health issues before they start or identify others that could turn dangerous if left untreated. Recognized as Men's Health Month, June is a good time to make that appointment you've been putting off and put a smile on your wife's face.
Dr. Curran says some of the most common issues he sees include prostate issues, erectile dysfunction (ED) and exercise/fitness issues.
"As men, we tend to - after the age of 40 - lose 10 percent of muscle mass per decade," he relates. "I always like to remind my male patients that weight-bearing and weight-resistance exercises are particularly important, in addition to cardio exercises, to maintain fitness. This also has an affect on heart disease and the diabetes epidemic."
When it comes to issues surrounding ED, Dr. Curran stresses that still too many men are reluctant to seek treatment, despite the advent of many viable treatment options, including medications, such as Cialis(r), LEVITRA(r) and Viagra(r) - which has been on the market for a decade now.
Regular screening is vital
Prostate cancer, much like breast cancer for women, is a health issue all men must pay attention to, particularly those with a family history of early development of the disease.
Most men, Dr. Curran says, should begin regular screenings for prostate cancer at age 50, although certain ethnic groups and those with a family history should begin screenings as early as age 40. When the disease develops in younger patients, he adds, it is typically tends to be more aggressive, which makes early diagnosis and treatment especially important.
While many health issues tend to become significant closer to middle age, certain screenings, such as testicular cancer, should begin as early as the teen years. Dr. Curran notes that testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in men under age 35.
"It's always a good idea to bring up the issue of screenings with your physician," he says. "It's also important to discuss your family history with the doctor."
The heart of the problem
The most significant threat to men - the entire country in fact - is a silent one.
"The biggest concern would be the early development of heart disease and strokes," according to Dr. Curran. "The No. 1 killer of men remains cardiovascular disease."
As heart disease exhibits no early symptoms, Curran stresses the importance of identifying risk factors early on. These include high blood sugar, which is linked to diabetes; high cholesterol; high blood pressure; obesity; smoking and heavy alcohol consumption.
By modifying behavior, many risk factors can be reduced or eliminated. Eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats, receiving routine screenings, exercising regularly and quitting smoking may all have a positive impact on cardiovascular disease. But Dr. Curran reminds that there is no "magic bullet."
He recommends maintaining contact with a physician for routine care.
The unexpected ones
Regular medical care is also important for the more rare but also less expected health issues. Dr. Curran points out that some diseases, which more often affect women, also affect men and shouldn't be ignored.
"Here's a less well known fact," he says. "Men can develop osteoporosis as well. The greatest risk would be smaller framed individual, Asian or northern European dissent, particularly."
Dr. Curran again indicates the benefits of screening, noting the availability of free osteoporosis screenings at Washington's Community Health Resource Library located across the street from the main hospital at 2500 Mowry Avenue.
While it's necessary to talk to a physician if you suspect decreased bone density, the best way to prevent further damage appears to be adequate dietary calcium and vitamin, as well as exercise.
"Another surprising tidbit is that 1 percent of breast cancers are actually in men," Dr. Curran reveals. "While uncommon, any sort of unexplained mass in the breast area shouldn't be ignored."

Good health starts with you
Washington Hospital offers a number of free community seminars on various health topics, as well as regular and periodic free health screenings.
Do you have unexplained pain in your legs that goes away when you sit or stop exercising? On Saturday, June 14, Washington Hospital will host a Peripheral Vascular Screening between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Participants must pre-register.
To attend the screening, call (800) 963-7070 to register.

To see a list of upcoming seminars, visit, click on "The Community," click "Community Seminars & Health Classes" and choose "Calendar of Seminars" from the drop-down menu.

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