Media Contact: Keith.O’Connor@baystatehealth.org, 413-794-7656
SPRINGFIELD – When it come to their health, women are much more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men.
When men have symptoms that bother them, many go into denial about what is happening or rationalize their symptoms away. As a result, men, on average, die almost six years earlier than women, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Men need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their health, not just for themselves, but for the sake of their families. It’s a known fact that preventive care can extend your life and help prevent illness,” said Dr. Apolinario Pastrana of Baystate Medical Practice – West Side Adult Medicine in West Springfield.
“Men need to partner with their primary care physician who can evaluate their risk factors, based on their current health and family history, then create a health plan tailored to prevent or treat disease in its early stages,” he added.
June, designated nationally as Men’s Health Month, and the week leading up to Father’s Day, is Men’s Health Week - designed to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of diseases among men. During Men’s Health Month and all throughout the year, the CDC recommends that men maintain a healthy weight and eat correctly, keep physically active, get enough sleep, don’t smoke or drink excessively, and manage their stress.
According to Dr. Pastrana, healthy men under age 40, who have no pre-existing conditions requiring routine monitoring, should visit their primary care physician every
2-3 years. After age 40, however, healthy men should begin visiting their doctor yearly or more often for anyone with a chronic condition such as diabetes or hypertension.
Health concerns differ with age, according to the West Side Adult Medicine physician.
Cancer, with the exception of testicular cancer, and heart disease are rare in
young men. Special to this age group, however, are serious health problems most often found in a lack of safety precautions resulting in motor vehicle and work-related injuries, as well as smoking and excessive drinking and risky behavior.
Dr. Pastrana said middle-aged men need to understand what modifiable risk factors they have for heart disease and reducing those risks, whether it means losing weight, working with their doctor to identify the best exercise for their age and condition, or taking medications to lower their cholesterol or blood pressure. Colon and prostate cancer screenings begin after age 50. In addition, men should have their cholesterol measured every three years, even if it has been normal.
Older men have the same needs as middle-aged men and more. They often have at least one chronic condition that also needs to be managed such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, or heart disease. Older men also have more concerns about impaired eyesight and hearing.
“Men can also be proactive by asking their doctor if they are due for any recommended screenings or vaccinations based on their age,” said Dr. Pastrana, who noted that the CDC now recommends that baby boomers between 1945 and 1965 be tested for hepatitis.
“Hepatitis C is a serious viral infection which can result by coming into contact with an infected person’s blood. The concern is that people might have been infected by blood transfusions before 1992, when widespread screening of blood began contact with an infected person’s blood. Many people aren’t even aware that they have this serious condition which can destroy their liver,” said Dr. Pastrana.
A recommended “maintenance schedule” for men detailing checkup and
screening guidelines can be found at menshealthnetwork.org.
Most doctors also recommend that patients create a checklist of questions to bring with them so they won’t forget any concerns they many want to discuss with their doctor. Also, because many men are procrastinators when it comes to their health,
Dr. Pastrana said they shouldn’t wait until arriving at their physician’s office to hurriedly write their questions down, but instead give them some real thought beforehand.
For more information on Baystate Health and its many primary care practices, visit baystatehealth.org