PORTLAND, Ore. — While men are susceptible to diseases that can affect anyone, such as heart disease, stroke, depression and cancer, studies have shown they're also less likely to pay attention to their health than the average woman.
“Culturally, men tend to neglect their health,” said Dr. James Polo, executive medical director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon. “They tend to assume they’re fine. They tend to wait until they’re actually having a problem rather than taking care of themselves ahead of time.”
Polo thinks of Men’s Health Month as an opportunity, not only to educate men about their own health but also to make sure they’re taking charge of their health. That, he says, starts with your yearly doctor’s visit.
“Those annual checkups are really important,” he said. “First of all, there are some key symptoms that you can develop that you won’t know you have unless it’s checked,” he said.
For example, blood pressure. Rising blood pressure is an early symptom of potential cardiac disease, but you won’t know it because you can’t feel it, Polo said.
High cholesterol and high glucose are also a sign of bigger problems, but you won’t necessarily feel them as a symptom.
“So, unless you have these things checked you’re not really going to know you might have some early symptoms where treatments make all the difference,” Polo said.
Yearly checkups also include cancer screenings for things like colon and prostate cancers, which, if caught early, can be treatable.
“One of the things about cancer these days is that if we can identify it early, more often than not you can actually cure it,” Polo said. “But if you wait and you miss that early diagnosis, sometimes it progresses far enough along that you can’t quite cure it anymore.”
Statistics show, that compared to women, men are more likely to drink alcohol and use tobacco, and make risky choices. However, many of the health risks that men face can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, according to Dr. Polo.
That means regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, stress reduction and keeping alcohol consumption in the moderate range.
“Part of the challenge is that, very often, people don’t maintain the consistency of attending to exercise over time,” Polo said.
Men need about 150 minutes of exercise a week. That’s 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, Polo said.
As for a healthy diet, he suggests cutting out fried and processed foods. Eat moderate amounts of red meat and instead add more poultry and fish. Eat whole grains and get plenty of veggies. Also, limit the amount of alcohol you drink daily. For men, that’s no more than two drinks a day — if at all.