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Preventable men’s health problems

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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- June is Men’s Health month which promotes a variety of activities males can do to have healthier, more active lifestyles.

It’s no secret men often ignore medical issues and put off going to the doctor. However, to help live a long and healthy life, getting regular check-ups can make a difference.

“The current trend is most men live to be 76, [while] most women live to 80-something and 50 percent of these deaths are preventable,” said Joseph Lukan, 59th Surgical Operations Squadron urology nurse consultant. “Men have classically had a reluctance to seek help because of the traditional ‘I am a tough guy’ [mentality].”

Men have various medical screenings available to detect issues early on.

“The rule of thumb is you want to get a prostate exam done every year after the age of 50,” said Lukan. “Screening should start at 40 if your dad or brother has had prostate cancer.”

The American Heart Association recommends screening cholesterol levels every four to six years starting at age 20. Also, the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society recommends screening for diabetes and cancer starting at age 45.

While screenings are important, when it comes to caring for one’s health, it’s about caring for the body as a whole.

“A lot of the time people have this misconception that they’re coming in just to be treated for their knee or their shoulder, but we’re not just treating pain,” said Capt. Logan Davis, 59th Surgical Operations Squadron orthopedic resident. “We’re treating the person and helping them get back to the things that make them truly happy, whether it’s a sport, playing with their kids or just being able to do their hobby. In reality those functional things are going to mean more to the patient.”

Along with receiving treatment when needed, it’s important to stay physically active.

“I’m a really big fan of cardio in disguise so I like playing sports,” said Davis. “Even walking for extended periods can really boost your overall health. Another thing I enjoy doing is cycling. It’s good to boost your cardiovascular health as well by challenging your heart to work harder and training your muscles and joints can help prevent future injuries.”

While improving cardiovascular health, staying active can also help with weight control which also impacts men’s health.

“For men, if your waistline is more than 40 inches, all that abdominal fat is gobbling up your testosterone and converting it into estrogen,” explains Lukan. “Now you’ve got this vicious cycle where you have no energy and don’t work out.”

Along with a multitude of health problems, physical activity helps combat loss of bone density as patients age.

“Some of the best stuff you can do for promoting bone density is leading an active life, anything from running, hiking to weight-lifting,” said Davis. “Our bones respond to the loads that we ask them. People who jump, or lift a lot of weights, their bones become stronger naturally over time.”

Along with physical benefits, exercise can also have a positive impact on mental health.

“All of these things overlap with each other,” said Davis. “The more physically active we are, the more endorphins our body releases. Exerting ourselves in a way we enjoy boosts our mental health, and boosts our immune system by decreasing some of the hormones like cortisol.”

Oftentimes people don’t prioritize their mental health, but it plays a large role in leading a healthy life.

“Human beings are not necessarily equipped to be able to cope or handle terrible events and, unfortunately, post-traumatic stress disorder is very common,” said Maj. John Blue Star, 59th Medical Operations Squadron clinical health psychologist. “Some reasons that people may experience distress and difficulty occur after [various events such as] seeing combat, a loved one being injured or killed, being in a car accident, or sexual abuse or assault. All of these have the potential of having an impact on your mental health. It’s important to be able to experience sadness, loss, regret, happiness or joy, but especially after a trauma it might be harder to feel [healthy] feelings and easier to feel [unhealthy feelings], and then we can get stuck. Many can benefit from coaching and mental health treatment.”

It’s important to address health problems as they arise because what may have started out small, if left ignored, can grow into something more serious.

“There’s a reluctance to go in and get seen because a problem becomes real,” said Davis. “If you wait too long then it might actually be more of a problem so that can make things a little harder in long-term recovery. The sooner that we can be seen can usually prevent more problems developing downstream.”

Please visit your physician annually or monitor your health with a physician.