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SAFER, STRONGER, HEALTHIER

Men of all ages benefit from visiting doctor, disease prevention

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POSTED May 29, 2012 6:11 p.m.

The sad fact is men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

This is something that Dr. Edmond Ghahramani of Turlock’s Emanuel Physicians Center knows from experience — as a man and a family practice physician.

“They feel tougher,” Ghahramani said when asked why he believes men generally don’t like going to the doctor. “They feel they never get sick, or should tolerate symptoms and pain better than women.”

Ghahramani said that men should definitely take their health more seriously — especially because the male gender tends to have more risky behaviors, like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and poor nutrition.

Other than making an annual visit to a doctor’s office, there are specific things men in each age range should think about for a healthier — and longer — life.

20s

Young men can feel invincible, Ghahramani said, but confidence does not preclude them from heart disease and other genetic conditions. In their 20s, men should start having their blood pressure checked regularly —“especially if a family member has high blood pressure or heart problems,” said Ghahramani.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends men know and understand their numbers — blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and body mass index. These numbers can provide a glimpse into current health status and risk for certain diseases. A change in these numbers can mean a change in health status.

Obesity is another risk that Ghahramani said should be on young men’s radar.

“Just because they’re 20, doesn’t mean they can eat whatever they want,” he said.

30s-40s

At this age, Ghahramani recommends men start getting checked for certain types of cancer — especially if there is a family history of colon or any gastrointestinal cancer. He also encourages men do regular self checks for testicular cancer.

Men should also pay attention to signs and symptoms such as excessive thirst, rash or sores, problems with urination, and shortness of breath, recommends the Centers for Disease Control. These could indicate not only cancer, but diabetes, heart disease or sexually transmitted disease.

50s

This is the age that Ghahramani said men should get routine colonoscopies. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year — and more than 50,000 people die from it. The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older.

Having cholesterol levels regularly checked starting at age 50 is also very important, said Ghahramani, because high cholesterol increases risk for heart disease. High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. Only testing can reveal it.

Exercise is important at any age, but this is the time that many men lax in their physical fitness. The Centers for Disease Control recommends being active for at least 2½ hours a week. Include activities that raise breathing and heart rates and that strengthen muscles. It doesn’t have to be a marathon exercise session — spread activity out during the week, and break it into smaller chunks of time during the day.

60s+

“As we get older, it’s good to have regular check-ups with a physician at least once a year,” Ghahramani said.

When visiting any physician, Ghahramani recommends bringing a full list of all current medications, or bring the bottles themselves. The family physician can make sure that medications prescribed from specialty doctors — and any regular medications — interact well together.

This is the age when men need to think twice before participating in any extreme activities due to a higher risk of falling. Osteoporosis — a thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density — is something women are told to be aware of, but Ghahramani said many men also have this disease, especially those with low-functioning thyroids, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or low testosterone levels.

At any age

For men of any age, Ghahramani recommends updating vaccinations — specifically, vaccines for tetanus, flu and whooping cough. Far too many adults become ill, are disabled, and die each year from diseases that could easily have been prevented by vaccines.

Smoking and alcohol abuse are two things Ghahramani said men should not be afraid to talk to their doctor about.

Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits. Within 20 minutes after smoking that last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continue for years.

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