BY JAMIE LOBER
Many men take pride in the car they drive. They get in the habit of changing the oil and filter, rotating and balancing the tires and waxing until the car shines. Men are a lot like cars. Both require maintenance and care, yet many men choose to neglect their health. If you spend more time working on the performance of your car than the optimal functioning of your mind and body, this road map is for you.
Be mentally aware. “Men need to pay attention to health news and need to be more aware of their bodies and the changes that they go through. As those things happen, they need to understand that their bodies, minds, and situations will change. They need to be prepared for them by being well-educated and well-versed,” encourages Ron Hugely, LCSW of Quality Directions of Macon. Read the health section of your newspaper, consider subscribing to a men’s health magazine, and do not be afraid to ask questions of your doctor.
You need to manage stress. “A lot of times men do not want to talk about what is bothering them or what is on their minds. They think it is macho to keep things to themselves because it is a sign of weakness to have concerns,” explains Frank Mack, executive director of Central Georgia Family Counseling Center. When you talk about things, you start to feel better. “You simply need to get it out and not hold it in,” he adds.
Social support can help in stress management as can getting at least eight hours of sleep each night. Try not to bring your work or other distractions to bed with you so your room is conducive to sleep. WebMD (National Institutes of Health) shows that stress can cause your mind and body to age faster, so it is important to keep tensions under control.
Look at the big picture. “You see that you are part of a family and you want the family to be as healthy as possible, which means you have to take care of yourself to be healthy and supportive,” reminds Mack. Try to be a good example. Promote healthy behavior in your family like wearing a seat belt, washing your hands, applying sunscreen, and staying away from smoking.
Screen for depression. Several scales to screen for depression in men include the Beck Depression Inventory, Zung Depression Rating Scale and the Center for Epidemiological Studies—Depression. If your life is being affected by changes in sleep, appetite, mood, or ability to concentrate, you should consult with your doctor. He will make sure that a physical condition or medication you are taking is not prompting the depressive symptoms. There are many causes for depression including genetics, vitamin deficiencies and illness. It is more common than you think, and it may be easily treatable.
Build healthy relationships with others. A good place to begin is with your doctor. Find one that you trust and feel comfortable talking to about your most personal needs. Honesty is the key to getting the best healthcare possible. Make time for your family and friends. It is important to strike a healthy balance that does not allow work to sink the scale.
Do not be afraid to set aside time for yourself. “Sometimes men are so busy that it is hard to take time out to really take ownership of your health,” says Williams.
The Center for Disease Control reports that taking care of yourself and making time do to things you enjoy can keep you healthier, whether it is reading a magazine or playing golf. In addition to your other commitments, be sure to schedule time for yourself on your agenda. Remember that you should make yourself a priority.
Practice healthy lifestyle choices. “Make time for physical activity. Go to the gym and bring your favorite book or office materials to read or workout at home watching your favorite show,” suggests Darrya Lipscomb, communications director for the American Heart Association-Georgia. Roger Mogil, personal training manager at Edge Fitness of Warner Robins, recommends resistance training. “You can use gravity and weight to increase lean muscle mass to burn more calories per day than when you did not have that muscle,” he says.
Diet and exercise as well as choosing not to smoke or drink have a positive effect on your health. Dr. William F. Bina, Dean of Mercer School of Medicine states, “General counseling recommendations include no tobacco use, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight.”
Schedule an annual physical and recommended screenings. This is the best way to prevent and detect disease early. Remember, it is like tuning up your car. Mayo Clinic recommends that all men have an annual dental checkup, at least one eye exam between ages twenty and twenty-nine, a blood pressure reading every two years, and a lipid panel test every five years to check cholesterol.
“Screen obesity annually using your height and weight to calculate body mass index. Check blood pressure every two years and cholesterol every five years or more often if abnormal. Check for diabetes annually if you are at risk. Risk factors include high blood pressure, family history of diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol. For those over fifty years, get a colorectal exam,” summarizes Bina. If you have a family history of cancer or polyps, you should have colon screens.
Check your body. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends performing a monthly testicular exam after a shower when your skin is relaxed. Look for lumps, swelling or changes in size or shape. If you have concerns, you may want to consider visiting with a urologist who specializes in men’s health issues. You should also check your skin for abnormalities or changes in moles and your breasts for lumps. Although it is less common, men can get breast cancer, especially in their 60s and 70s.
Gather your friends together to advocate men’s health issues. The Department of Health and Human Services has an Office of Women’s Health at the state and federal levels, but not an Office of Men’s Health. You may want to contact your congressman and ask him what he can do to diminish this health disparity. Once you have taken control of your own health, you are prepared to inform others and help them to do the same—and you’re sure to get more mileage out of your engine.