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Men's health: an owners guide

Men's Health: An Owner's Guide

March 09, 2019

When you tune up your car, you’re taking steps to prevent a breakdown. In many ways, the same holds true for your body. By unclogging your arteries and checking your blood pressure gauge, you can keep your body running at its best. But with so many recommendations, it can be challenging to know which health maintenance schedule to follow.

"Following a health maintenance schedule is an excellent way to prevent life-threatening illness," says Patrick Carter, MD, MBA, FAAFP, Chief of Family Medicine at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. "Having your cholesterol and blood pressure checked at regular intervals and keeping your levels under control, can help you stay fit and healthy for life."

Kelsey-Seybold physicians recommend regular physical exams and screenings, based on age, gender, family history, and medical history.

For example, patients who are age 45 and older, overweight, and have at least one other risk factor for diabetes are prime candidates for regular blood sugar screening. Men who are 50 years or older should have a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer. If the first exam is negative, they won’t need another colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy for five to 10 years.

"For many men, diseases can go undetected for years and can lead to permanent disability and even death," cautions Dr. Carter. "A routine blood test or testicular exam can literally mean the difference between life and death."

There are other, easy ways to better care for your most important asset - your body. While genetic factors play a role, and some ethnic groups are at greater risk for certain diseases, there are several interventions you can use to prevent disability and even death.

Consider the positive effects of the following lifestyle changes:

Quit smoking. Smoking causes one out of five deaths each year in the United States alone, making it a good idea to "kick" the habit.

Drive sober. Driving under the influence of alcohol causes nearly half of the thousands of automobile fatalities each year.

Wear a seat belt. The use of seat belts greatly reduces the risk of fatal injury in automobile accidents.

Avoid alcoholic beverages. Alcohol abuse is a major cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

Exercise daily. A sedentary lifestyle resulting from little or no physical inactivity can lead to a host of health problems like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. Just 15 minutes of brisk walking can help decrease your risk of disease.

Eat more fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Studies have shown that a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Get regular checkups. The general rule is men in their 40s should get a complete physical exam every one to two years, and men in their 50s and older should get a complete physical exam every year.

"When you should have regular physical exams depends on your age, family history, and ethnicity and whether you have a chronic medical condition," says Dr. Carter. "If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or borderline diabetes, you need to see your doctor as often as he or she recommends. A man’s health over his lifetime doesn’t follow a clear-cut timeline. A serious illness can happen at any age. The good news is that you can maintain your good health over many years with preventive medicine. That includes regular checkups."

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