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June 15, 2010 > Men Often Ignore Signs of Health Problems

Men Often Ignore Signs of Health Problems

Men's Health Week Focuses on Prevention

Are you sure that backache will go away if you just ignore it? Think getting your blood cholesterol checked regularly is just too much trouble? Men often ignore the signs and symptoms of poor health and avoid preventive measures like regular health screenings. This Father's Day, give yourself the gift of good health and consider getting a physical exam, especially if you are over 40 and can't remember the last time you had one.

"Women patients seem to be much more concerned about preventive measures," said Dr. Sarkis Banipalsin, medical director at Washington Urgent Care. "From my experience, they are more likely than men to think about their health and visit the doctor when problems arise."

National Men's Health Week, June 14 - 20, is designed to raise awareness about the need for men to seek regular medical advice and early detection and treatment for health problems. The annual observance is held every year during the week leading up to Father's Day.

"For the most part, men need to be concerned about the same issues women do: cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and sexual health," Banipalsin said. "The problem for men is they tend to ignore some of the risk factors leading up to these diseases."


Risk Factors

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To reduce their risk, Banipalsin encourages men to stop smoking if they currently smoke; eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fiber and fish and reduce their intake of foods that are high in saturated fat and sodium. Banipalsin also emphasizes staying physically active; maintaining a healthy weight; avoiding excessive alcohol consumption; keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control; and managing stress.

"These lifestyle changes will also help to reduce the risk for stroke and diabetes," he said. "You have to pay attention to what you eat and how much, but from my experience, men don't seem to be as interested in diet and controlling what they eat. Women seem to be more conscious about their food intake and keeping their weight down."

Cancer is also a major health risk for men. Avoiding tobacco, eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce the risk, according to Banipalsin.

"It's also important to protect yourself from the sun to avoid skin cancer," he added. "Put on sunscreen along with a hat and other protective clothing before spending time in the sun."


Preventive Measures

In addition to lifestyle changes, there are other ways for men to reduce their risk of disease, including screenings and regular checkups. Banipalsin encourages men to get their blood sugar, cholesterol and pressure checked regularly. Colonoscopies and rectal exams can help reduce the risk for colon and prostate cancer, he added.

"As you get older, it's even more important," he said. "The risk for cancer and other diseases increases with age, particularly prostate cancer."

According to Banipalsin, medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, fatigue, stress, depression, anxiety and diabetes as well as tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption and drug abuse can lead to erectile dysfunction.

"This can be disastrous for men and difficult for the marriage," he said. "The medication is very expensive, so it's better to prevent the problem if you can by staying healthy."

Injuries are another preventable health risk for men. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatal accidents among men, according to the CDC. Banipalsin urges men to wear their seatbelts, follow the speed limit, never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol or when sleepy, and always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle.

"These are simple ways to prevent injury and illness," Banipalsin said. "It's important to make men aware of the risks and the preventive measures that can improve their health."


Improve Your Health from Head to Toe

Washington Hospital will hold its Third Annual Men's Health Fair on Saturday, October 2. The free health fair and discussion will focus on helping men make subtle changes in their daily routines that can make a positive impact on the length and quality of life. Physicians specializing in preventing and treating heart disease, stroke and knee and joint problems will share practical tips during a panel discussion. Registration is required. Register online at www.whhs.com.

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