Ask The Doc - Men's Health

Monday, June 15, 2015

Question: As a male in his late 20s, what should I be doing to help maintain my health?  

By Dr. Katherine Burrows, DO, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Columbia St. Mary’s Grafton Medical Center

Maintaining your health is important as it allows your body to function normally and helps prevent future health disorders. This is especially true for men in young adulthood, a time when healthy decisions can have a lasting impact on your life to come.

Recommendations for health screenings vary by the man’s age and disease risk factors. A man in his 30s, for example, is at lower risk for heart disease and colon cancer than a man in his 50s or 60s, but at much higher risk for things like testicular cancer. Every man is unique in terms of health status, risk factors and family history, thus what follows is a general guideline for health maintenance recommendations.

All patients, regardless of age or risk factors, should have a physical performed by their primary care physician every year. At this visit, you should undergo a complete physical exam, which includes screening for elevated blood pressure, obesity, depression and alcohol or drug abuse.

Your annual routine check-up is also the perfect time to have your immunizations updated. Routine immunizations are an effective way of preventing infectious diseases. All patients should receive a tetanus shot at least every 10 years plus an annual flu vaccination. If you’re not immune to varicella, the virus that causes chickenpox, you should be vaccinated for this as well. That’s a two-shot series, separated by a minimum of three months, and then you’re set for life.

Starting in their early 20s, men should be screened with a cholesterol panel to serve as a baseline – it’s not too late for you to start that. Repeat cholesterol testing can be done based on this baseline value as well as any other cardiac risk factors you may have.

At age 50, routine colonoscopies are done to screen for colorectal cancer. Around this same time, you can be screened for prostate cancer. However, the risks and benefits of this screening are quite individualized and should be discussed further with your doctor.

The shingles immunization is approved for men over the age of 50, although most physicians wait a few years before administering it as the vaccine is only believed to be effective for around 10 years. Other immunizations, such as the Hepatitis B vaccines, are administered to patients at high risk of the disease.

Men over 65 years old should receive the new Prevnar 13 pneumonia vaccine, followed one year later by the traditional Pneumovax. These are two different products that when used together can significantly decrease one’s risk of bacterial pneumonia.

Regardless of your age, a healthy diet and active lifestyle are key to preventing a number of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and several different types of cancers. Men should strive to maintain a body mass index (BMI) less than 25. BMI is a calculation that compares your height to your weight. A man is considered to be at a healthy weight if his BMI is between 18 and 25. Men with a BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight and those greater than 30 are categorized as obese.

A healthy diet is the first step to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Your diet should include five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables per day and be rich in lean meats, limited in saturated fats, and include healthy fats like those found in olive oil, almonds and avocado. Try to stay active by exercising more than 150 minutes per week, or by wearing a pedometer and striving for 10,000 steps per day.

Some of these recommendations may seem daunting at first. But if you set small, reasonable goals for yourself, small changes will add up over time and lead to significant reductions in future health concerns.

Dr. Katherine Burrows is an internal medicine and pediatrics physician at Columbia St. Mary’s Grafton Medical Center. For more information, call 262-376-1934.

This article appeared in the June 11 issue of The Ozaukee News Graphic.



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