June is National Men’s Health Month. Time to get the proverbial tune-up for your body (and mind). Studies show that men tend to visit doctors less than women, which is a problem because routine checkups are key to finding problems before they turn into major health issues.
It’s the time to get vaccinations and vital screenings, including testing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. We asked J. Kevin Deitchman, MD, a Family Medicine physician at Mercy Medical Group how he helps his male patients take better care of themselves.
Mental health contributes to physical health. There is finally a greater understanding of mental health issues and how the mind impacts our wellbeing. Dr. Deitchman explained, “With the pandemic, many patients experienced increased pressures from job loss, anxiety about staying healthy, and ultimately depression from isolation, and not just men. However, I’m finding men are now more comfortable talking about it and taking steps — with counseling or medications — to improve their relationships at home and at work.” Your mental health can cause physical symptoms, such as headaches and digestive problems. Your doctor can help you address both.
A simple blood test identifies issues early on. Dr. Deitchman suggests, “when you schedule a checkup, get your blood test beforehand. Then you can review your results with your doctor during your visit and talk through any concerns.”
Find a doctor that listens and understands your life/lifestyle. Dr. Deitchman notes that it’s important to find a doctor you can relate to — one that empathizes with your lifestyle (not just sympathizes), such as losing weight or stopping smoking.
“Too busy for a checkup” is no longer an excuse. Doctors are making it easier with more telehealth options, so men can’t say they are too busy to go. Dr. Deitchman said, “If being too busy has been the reason, look for those doctors that have flexibility to accommodate patients, such as offering appointments after 5 p.m.”
Getting the proper screenings at the proper time, is an easy preventative step men can take towards overall health. Dr. Deitchman shares how specific screenings and preventive measures impact specific areas of health for me.
Heart health. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the U.S., make sure you do the screenings and tests, so your doctor can identify heart concerns. When these conditions are diagnosed and treated early, it reduces the risk of developing heart disease later on.
For example, Dr. Deitchman says that, at the very least, men should get blood tests each year to track cholesterol or blood sugar levels. With those numbers, patients can work on lifestyle changes, such as:
- Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise
- Reducing a high-sodium diet, and alcohol intake
- Stopping smoking (nicotine products)
- Medication, combined with lifestyle changes, if needed
Fatigue and Energy. Men get concerned about lack of energy and fatigue and often ask about testosterone levels. With a simple blood test, a doctor can determine hormone levels, and suggest lifestyle changes that can help, like weight loss or medication. “When I talk with a patient about fatigue, it isn’t always about hormones, it could be a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea,” said Dr. Deitchman. There are take-home tests for sleep apnea to identify the issue and determine the best treatment option.”
Depending on the patient’s age, preventive screenings will help avoid problems later down the road. Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated two screening recommendations: colon cancer screening recommendations, lowering the age to 45 years (from 50 years); and offering low dose CT scan for lung cancer screening (to patients with a 20 year smoking history) in the 50-80 year age bracket.
So, celebrate men’s health month by checking with the men in your life to make sure they prioritize these important screenings!
For a list of screenings by age, visit WHA’s preventive health page. You can always check your health plan for coverage details or call WHA’s member services with questions.