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June 12-18 is Men’s Health Week

Addressing your health can be scary, but avoiding it altogether can be deadly.

According to a recent National Health Interview Survey of 33,075 adults, 24.3% of all men over 18 years of age had not seen a doctor in the past year compared to 12% of all women in the same group. The survey interestingly showed that once a man was seen by a doctor—and a diagnosis that needed further treatment was found—he seemed more willing to commit to the necessary follow-ups.

It would appear the trick is to convince men of the importance of making that initial visit to the doctor.

The list of top threats to men’s health is surprisingly short: Heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Heart Disease

Heart disease comes in many forms. All can lead to serious or fatal complications if undetected. The American Heart Association (AMA) reports that more than one in three adult men have some form of cardiovascular disease. Of those men, African-American men account for 100,000 more cardiovascular disease deaths than Caucasian men.

Stroke is another issue that targets more than three million men each year. The AMA warns that high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, is common in males under the age of 45. Routine checkups can help keep your heart healthy and strong.

Your doctor can calculate your risk for cardiovascular disease based on several risk factors, including your cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoking habits.

If heart disease runs in your family or if your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are high, your doctor will recommend medications to lower these levels. He may order a cardiac stress test if concerns with heart disease arise. Ask if a daily aspirin might help as well.

Cancer

According to the CDC the leading causes of cancer death in men are lung cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Nearly a quarter of people with lung cancer do not have symptoms from advanced cancer when their lung cancer is found. While symptoms may vary, the CDC lists the following as common symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath;
  • Persistent coughing;
  • Wheezing;
  • Coughing up blood;
  • Chest pain;
  • Fever; and
  • Weight loss.

While there are some people who never smoke and who get lung cancer, the majority of those who get lung cancer smoke. One of the most important things you can do for your health is to quit smoking.

While preventing prostate cancer may not be possible, early detection does save lives. Discuss with your doctor whether you should have a prostate cancer screen and look for the following symptoms, as listed by The Prostate Cancer Foundation:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night.
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine.
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
  • Painful or burning urination.
  • Difficulty in having an erection.
  • Painful ejaculation.
  • Blood in urine or semen.
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

According to the CDC, colon cancer cannot be prevented, but early detection can save lives. Start screenings at 50 years of age—earlier if you have a family history or other risk factors. Men with colon cancer have no symptoms in the early stages, but signs and symptoms include:

  • A change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool for more than a couple of weeks.
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool.
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain.
  • Abdominal pain with a bowel movement.
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Testicular cancer occurs more commonly in younger men (age 20 to 54). The American Cancer Society reports that common signs of testicular cancer include:

  • Painless lump or swelling of the testicle;
  • A change in how the testicle feels;
  • A dull ache in the groin or lower abdomen;
  • Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum;
  • A build-up of fluid in the scrotum;
  • A scrotum that feels heavy or swollen;
  • Bigger or more tender breasts.

The Illinois Department of Public Health offers the following tips to help prevent cancer overall:

  • Have regular preventive health screenings.
  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke and other tobacco products.
  • Eat a healthy, varied diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
  • Limit your exposure to sun and use sunscreen.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Be aware of potential cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) in your home and workplace, and take steps to reduce your exposure to these substances.
  • Know and review your family’s medical history.

Accidents

Unintentional injuries—accidents—are a leading cause of death for men and Americans of all ages. The CDC reports that an average of 100,000 people die from unintentional injuries each year. Many of these incidents can be easily prevented, especially those injuries caused by falls, fire, or impaired driving.

Studies show that men are 49 percent more likely to die from a fall than a woman. The CDC offers these tips to help reduce the chance of a dangerous fall in older adults:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise programs like Tai Chi increase strength and improve balance.
  • Drink only in moderation.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to reduce side effects and interactions.
  • Have your eyes checked at least once a year.
  • Improve the lighting in your home.
  • Reduce hazards in your home that can lead to falls.

Residential fires account for an alarming number of deaths each year and an average of 14.000 people or injured by fire each year. The CDC relates that most of these deaths and injuries occur in homes without working smoke detectors. Most residential fires take place in the winter months due to malfunctioning heating units. Bottom line: Check to make sure your smoke detectors are in working order and replace batteries twice a year.

When it comes to fatal car crashes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says male drivers are almost twice as likely as female drivers to be intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. Driving while distracted or tired increases your likelihood of being involved in an accident as well. Using a cell phone or other electronic device can be hazardous while driving and should be avoided.

Lung Disease

Many respiratory diseases start with an innocent “smoker’s cough.” Over time, that cough can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as lung cancer, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These diseases frequently exist together and are conditions that cause a blockage of airflow that interferes with normal breathing.

The American Lung Association reports that approximately 60,000 men die of COPD each year. While on-the-job hazards, such as exposure to asbestos, can increase your risk, smoking remains the leading cause of nearly all lung diseases.

Early detection of COPD might change its course and progress. A simple test, called spirometry, can be used to measure pulmonary (or lung) function and detect COPD in anyone with breathing problems.

Stroke

A stroke occurs when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts says the CDC. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.

It’s important to learn the signs of a stroke. They are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body;
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech;
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination; and
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you or someone you know develops any of these problems, call 911. Immediate treatment in the emergency department with clot-busting medication can save lives and prevent disability.

Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help you prevent stroke. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy weight. Increase your physical activity, quit smoking, and reduce your consumption of alcohol to further reduce your risk of stroke.

The best way to take care of yourself and those you love is to actively take part in your health care. Educate yourself on your medical conditions and participate in decisions with your doctor. Remember, when you get preventive medical tests, you’re not just doing it for yourself—you’re doing it for your family and loved ones as well.

Don’t wait to visit the doctor until something is seriously wrong. Your doctor can be your best ally for preventing health problems. Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations if you have health issues, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Also, ask your doctor about when you should have cancer screenings, immunizations, and other health evaluations.

Coastal Carolina Health Care (CCHC) offers primary and specialty care services with offices located in New Bern and Morehead City. CCHC is physician owned and operated and always welcomes new patients. Call our Patient Information Line today at (252) 633-4111 or visit www.cchchealthcare.com.

(Sources: The Mayo Clinic; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; American Heart Association; Cleveland Clinic; American Lung Association; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; The Prostate Cancer Foundation; National Health Interview Survey; Illinois Department of Public Health; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and Healio Family Medicine.)