If you’re a man, you may not want to discuss health issues like an enlarged prostate or high blood pressure, but keeping up with the recommended health screenings and tests could save you from serious health issues later in life. Instead of waiting until you have a problem to visit the doctor, it’s important to take preventive measures now to avoid more serious issues down the road.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, men lag behind women when it comes to preventive healthcare, and this includes keeping current on health screenings. Statistics at www.ahrq.gov show:
• Men are 24% less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year.
• Men are 22% more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests.
• Men are 32% more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes, and are more than twice as likely as women to have a leg or foot amputated due to complications related to diabetes.
• Men are 24% more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization.
Begin Your Journey to Better Health
Your Health Screening Checklist
• Blood Pressure: Since high blood pressure usually has no warning signs and the risk for high blood pressure increases with age, it is important to get checked regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), normal blood pressure readings for adult men are around 120/80. Readings consistently over 140/90 signal high blood pressure. At the next doctor’s visit, try getting the blood pressure in both of your arms checked. According to a study published in The Lancet, readings in each arm are sometimes slightly off, but the difference in those readings can help you find out sooner if you are at risk for health problems.
How often: Men between the ages of 18 and 64 should have a screening once a year. If your readings are high or if you have a family history of high blood pressure, you should have it checked more often, at least twice annually.
• Cholesterol: A high level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), increases your risk of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. This occurs when fat, cholesterol and other substances build up in the walls of arteries and form hard structures called plaques which can block the arteries causing a heart attack or stroke. A cholesterol test can measure the amount of fat (lipids) in your blood. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a healthy LDL cholesterol level is below 130.
How often: The NIH recommends that men between the ages of 20 and 35 have a cholesterol screening every five years. Starting at age 35, men should be tested annually. Men suffering from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or who have had a stroke should have cholesterol tests more often.
• Colon Cancer: According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. Most colon cancer develops from polyps on the inner surface of the colon. There are several test options that screen for polyps including a colonoscopy, a flexible sigmoidoscopy that is performed while awake and inspects only part of the colon; and a high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT).
How often: According to the ACS, men at average risk should start having a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50. If you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, ask your doctor when you should begin screening. If you choose not to have a colonoscopy, a flexible sigmoidoscopy should be done every five years, or a FOBT done annually.
• Diabetes: Diabetes is the body’s inability to produce and use glucose, resulting in high blood glucose levels. Undiagnosed, it can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and more. This condition can be checked with a fasting plasma glucose test that measures blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, levels measured before a meal that are between 70 and 130 are considered healthy. How often: The CDC recommends that men have this test every three years starting at age 45. If you’re significantly overweight, have high blood pressure or other risk factors, such as a family history of the disease, screening for diabetes should begin at a younger age.
• Teeth and Gums: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, men are twice as likely to get oral cancer as women. Visiting the dentist regularly will allow for early detection of oral problems, such as cavities, gum disease and oral cancer, and the chances of a cure are greater.
How often: The NIH recommends men of all ages should go to the dentist at least once a year for an exam and cleaning.
• Eyes: Regular eye examinations are important for early diagnosis and treatment of potential problems that may show no warnings sings. A typical eye exam includes a test for visual acuity, as well as a check of the cornea, eyelids, conjunctiva and surrounding eye tissue to look for abnormalities. Eye pressure to detect glaucoma, a disease that can damage optic nerves, is measured. Normal eye pressures range from 10 to 21.
How Often: According to the American Optometric Association, men between the ages of 18 and 60 should visit an eye doctor every one to two years, or as recommended by a doctor.
• BMI: Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height that is used as an indicator of body fatness. According to the CDC, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 for adults signals a healthy weight. A BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 indicates that you are overweight, and a BMI of 30.0 and above signals obesity. How Often: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults should ask their clinicians to calculate their BMI at their routine checkups.
• STDs: Sexually transmitted diseases have many undetectable signs and symptoms, causing many of them to go unnoticed until serious complications arise. Untreated sexually transmitted diseases can lead to many health issues including reproductive health problems, cancer and HIV infection.
How Often: The CDC encourages HIV testing at least once between the ages of 13 and 64. Ask your doctor what other appropriate STD screenings are right for you based on certain risk behaviors.
• Prostate: According to the CDC, prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in American men after skin cancer. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is the primary method of screening, measuring the level of PSA in your blood. According to the National Cancer Institute, an optimal level is usually considered to be under 4.
How often: Opinion varies as to how often you should be screened, but many physicians recommend that men should have yearly screenings between the ages of 40 and 75.
September Is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder. It surrounds part of the urethra, the canal that empties the bladder. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and this year it comes on the heels of a controversial ruling that recommends against a routine screening that for years has been the benchmark in testing for prostate cancer.
In May 2012, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer. The USPSTF sees little evidence that PSA testing saves men’s lives; in fact, it can lead to complications from the treatment of tumors that would not have killed the patient.
Some urologists disagree with the USPSTF recommendations. “The basis of the prostate screening controversy is entirely linked to the patient’s right to know,” says Dr. James K. Bennett, CEO of Midtown Urology/American Medical Systems in Atlanta.
“As a urologist who battles this disease on a daily basis, I felt that the rug was pulled out from under my feet. More than 30,000 men die of prostate cancer each year in the U.S. - a number that will grow if we give up our best way of detecting this disease early.” says Dr. Scott Miller of Georgia Urology, who started the non-profit organization ProstAware to further educate people about prostate health. “Waiting for symptoms to develop – as the Task Force suggests – almost always leads to diagnosing prostate cancer at an incurable stage.” Dr. Miller suggests asking your doctor these basic questions:
• What type of testing do I need?
• Does an abnormal PSA blood test mean that I have prostate cancer?
• Does a normal PSA blood test mean that I do not have prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer has no early warning signals, which is why undergoing a yearly DRE and blood testing for PSA is so important if you are 50 years or older. Also, men in the high-risk group, such as those with a family history of prostate cancer or of African American ethnicity, should begin screening as early as age 40. However, many men have symptoms that do point to problems with the prostate gland. The American Cancer Society recommends seeing a health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms: difficulty initiating and/or stopping a urine stream, frequent urination, pain on urination, or pain on ejaculation.
Energize Your Journey with Activity and Fitness
Whether you’ve been physically active since your little league days or are thinking about starting an exercise program to shed extra pounds that contribute to a host of health issues, it’s important for men over 40 to be mindful of how the body changes with age to avoid common sports injuries.
Take a Smart Approach to Your Fitness Program
Metro Atlanta chiropractor Dr. Alan Bragman specializes in treating patients with athletic, traumatic and personal injuries. As a former category 3 cyclist and nationally ranked inline speed skater, he knows firsthand the importance of proper training and form when it comes to preventing injury.
According to Dr. Bragman, the aging body experiences cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, hormonal, neurological and other system changes. For example, a condition known as arteriosclerosis occurs when there is diminished blood flow, circulation and elasticity of blood vessels caused by a buildup and hardening of fatty plaque deposits along the walls of the vessels. An aging body also experiences loss of muscle mass, joint flexibility, bone density and nerve cells, as well as a decrease in production of growth hormone, among other changes.
On the bright side, Dr. Bragman says it’s possible to maintain an exceptional level of fitness well into your nineties. “By continuing to train well throughout your life, your performance will decrease very slowly. The key is learning how to do it without getting injured or causing your body to break down from the effort.”
Dr. Bragman points out four important elements for a good fitness program:
1. Strength and resistance training (weight training) to maintain muscle mass and bone density.
2. Stretching and flexibility workouts to maintain flexibility and mobility of muscles, tendons and connective tissue.
3. Cardiovascular fitness and training to maintain a healthy heart and blood circulatory system.
4. Rest and recovery allows the extra time needed for an older body to eliminate metabolic waste that builds up during exercise and to generally recoup from an exercise session.
Dr. Michael Morris, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Lawrenceville office of Resurgens Orthopaedics, specializes in sports medicine. About 250 of his surgical patients each year are men over 40. Knees and shoulders are the most commonly injured joints Dr. Morris treats in older male patients.
“After age 30, genetically and physiologically our bodies decline,” he explains. “It’s an uphill battle to maintain what you have.” (For example, bone density and muscle mass). He adds, “Tendons connect ligaments to bone - they break down and won’t respond as well as in a younger person.”
When injuries can be treated with physical therapy, Dr. Morris says he counsels his patients to take preventive measures to avoid more serious trauma that requires surgery. He recommends a five-step approach, and encourages patients to take the extra time to do what he suggests before and after a sports activity or exercise session for maximum benefits:
1. Warm up by jogging, running in place or using a stationary bike for five to 10 minutes to get blood and oxygen flowing to body tissues, as this gets them ready for more impact.
2. Stretch to get muscles and tendon pre-lengthened. Otherwise, they get overloaded during the activity.
3. Enjoy your game or exercise routine.
4. Stretch again to keep muscles and tendons lengthened as much as possible before they return to a normal state.
5. Apply ice to constrict blood vessels and diminish inflammation.
Dr. Morris also suggests moderating your activity level if you’re doing too much and mixing in other activities if you tend to do the same sport or exercise repetitively.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality - www.ahrq.gov
Alan H. Bragman, DC – www.alanbragman.com
American Cancer Society - www.cancer.org
American Diabetes Association - www.diabetes.org
American Optometric Association - www.aoa.org
Georgia Urology - www.gaurology.com
Centers for Disease Control - www.cdc.gov
DDP Yoga – www.ddpyoga.com
Evolutions Total Wellness – www.evolve-now.com
National Institutes of Health - www.nih.gov
Mayo Clinic - www.mayoclinic.com
Midtown Urology - www.midtown-urology.com
Resurgens Orthopaedics – www.resurgens.com
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - www.hhs.gov
Web MD - www.webmd.com
Check Out Something New - Low Impact, Big Results
Former pro wrestler creates exercise program for regular guys
By Fran Memberg
Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) is no stranger to pain. Being slammed around a pro wrestling mat takes a toll on the body. Injuries are bound to happen, especially if you first enter the ring at an age when normal physiological changes like decreased strength, flexibility and stamina have already begun to set in. At age 35, Page became the oldest rookie in pro wrestling history. Over his 14-year career he sustained several injuries, but was determined to get better and stronger. In the late 1990s, he ruptured the L4 and L5 lumbar discs in his lower spine. “They said, ‘you just can’t come back. If you do you’re going to be crippled,’” he recalls. But that didn’t stop him. He went to rehab. “The first three weeks I was amazed how much it really helped me,” he says. Following a back injury that doctors said would end his career, Page combined yoga, rehab techniques and calisthenics to recover and prove the doctors wrong. Using that regimen, Page developed YRG (Yoga for Regular Guys).
He watched several yoga videos and added the moves to his rehab routine. “I realized it was really helping me, so I thought, ‘what if I take some of these moves and mix them with those rehab moves?’ And then I thought, ‘what about doing push-ups [so] I’m [also] going to be working my upper body?’” he says. “I got the yoga, the rehab and the old school calisthenics. Two months in, I’m feeling better.”
Page, now 56, retired from wrestling and is dedicated to sharing the benefits of DDP yoga with the masses. In the beginning, he teamed up with Dr. Craig Aaron, the “Yoga Doc,” of Marietta, GA., to write a book about YRG. Today he has a DVD of a supercharged version of YRG called DDP Yoga that adds active breathing techniques and power movements for a more challenging and results-oriented workout. The main benefits are body fat loss and improved cardio levels without placing undue stress on joints.
Page himself does the DDP workout five to six days a week. “It’s just such a great cardio workout and I keep my muscle leaner as opposed to big and bulky,” he says. He touts the weight loss benefits of YRG and DDP Yoga, citing stories of devotees who have lost up to 100 pounds. “It was mainly there to inspire people and I never knew it would take off the way it did,” he says, adding that “zero impact” is what attracts many to DDP Yoga. After living in LA for the last ten years, he will soon be calling Atlanta home again. Make sure to look out for the next DDP Yoga class by visiting visit www.ddpyoga.com.