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June 21, 2011 > Men - Don't Wait To Be as Healthy as You Can Be

Men - Don't Wait To Be as Healthy as You Can Be

Washington Hospital Physicians Encourage Regular Check Ups

June is National Men's Health Month. The annual, nationwide event encourages men to be aware of preventable health conditions and why it's important to identify and treat problems early.

Heart disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of men in the U.S. Among other health-related problems of concern to men are cancer of the prostate, testicle or colon; benign prostate hyperplasia; and erectile dysfunction. Most of these conditions, if diagnosed early, can be treated effectively. To stay as healthy as possible, men should have an ongoing relationship with a primary care physician and should have regular medical exams and screenings.

"The key is to see your primary care physician for annual check ups, whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms or problems," says Albert Brooks, M.D., chief of Medical Services at Washington Hospital. "Don't wait for symptoms to appear before you start getting regular care."

In September, Dr. Brooks will moderate a panel discussion during Washington Hospital's annual Men's Health Fair. (See the highlight box below for more details.)

Prostate health, cancer and ED

In addition to heart disease, prostate cancer is a major concern for men. One in six men in the U.S. will get prostate cancer during their lifetime and one in 36 will die, according to the American Cancer Society. Men of African American descent or who have a father or brother who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are at higher risk of getting the disease.

"With prostate cancer, if you wait for symptoms to appear, the disease may be more advanced," states Michael Bastasch, M.D., a board-certified radiation oncologist at the Washington Radiation Oncology Center. "By the time I see a patient for treatment, they are facing a serious, possibly life-threatening condition."

Screening for prostate cancer consists of a blood test and a digital rectal examination by a physician. The American Urological Association recommends all men be screened annually starting at age 50. A man who is at higher risk should start screening at age 40.

Men should also be screened for colon cancer. For those who are at average risk for getting colon cancer, screening should begin at age 50.

Another common problem related to the prostate is benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that is more common than cancer.

"BPH will affect virtually every man," explains Mark Saleh, M.D., a board-certified urologist on the medical staff at Washington Hospital. "The prostate gland continues to grow throughout a man's life. Men may begin to experience symptoms for an enlarged prostate as early as age 40, while others don't have any trouble until they are in their 60s or 70s."

Symptoms of BPH include a weak urinary stream, trouble emptying the bladder, dribbling at the end of urination, a more urgent or frequent need to urinate, or the need to urinate more often at night. Moderate or severe symptoms of BPH can be treated with medication. If medication is not effective or can't be tolerated by the patient, surgery can be performed to alleviate severe symptoms.

Many men are also concerned about erectile dysfunction, or ED.

"Men should know that ED is not a normal part of aging," says Dr. Saleh. "It can be caused by various health conditions, especially problems related to diabetes or heart disease. ED is more common as men get older, but it can be treated effectively."

Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in young men, who are at higher risk between the ages of 18 and 35. Dr. Saleh recommends that a man should perform a self-examination of their testicles once a month to check for swelling or abnormal lumps. If anything unusual is detected, he should report this to his doctor immediately.

"Testicular cancer is very treatable, even when it is advanced," reports Dr. Saleh.

Eating right makes healthy difference

Gout, a type of arthritis, is a condition that tends to be more common in men. People with gout experience sudden, severe attacks of joint pain and swelling.

"Maintaining a healthy diet and body weight through moderate daily exercise and control of fat and calorie intake may help lower your risk of having gout or experiencing future attacks," says Macaria Meyer, a Washington Hospital registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

Lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of getting gout include excessive alcohol intake, obesity, crash dieting that leads to sudden weight loss, high blood pressure and the use of diuretics, or water pills. People with gout should follow a low purine diet, which means avoiding or limiting foods such as organ meats, beef, lamb, pork, bacon, game meats, sardines, herring, mackerel, scallops, gravy and beer.

Good nutrition can also play a part in helping with another condition common in men - kidney stones. About 80 percent of people who have kidney stones are men, who tend to be at higher risk between ages 30 and 40.

"Depending on the type of kidney stone, a special diet may be helpful," says Meyer. "Important dietary recommendations for the most common type of stone, which contains calcium, are to restrict sodium and reduce protein intake. You should also drink more fluids, especially water."

Men who have or are at risk of having kidney stones, should avoid caffeine, black tea, grapefruit juice and apple juice, Meyer recommends.

Men's Health Fair: Take Charge of Your Health

The Men's Health Fair will include presentations on prostate health, erectile dysfunction, kidney stones and good nutrition, followed by a panel Q&A discussion and a health fair. Several education booths staffed by Washington Hospital clinicians will also be featured.

When: Saturday, September 10
Time: Lectures: 9 to 11 a.m. Health Fair: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium, Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont
Register: Register online at or call (800) 963-7070.

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