By Dr. Willie Ong (Internist and Cardiologist)
All men over 40 need a yearly check-up (this goes for the ladies too). For those who are overweight or those with a family history of heart disease, diabetes or early deaths, you need to see a doctor even if you’re not yet 40. Listed here are the ten most important health tips for men.
Almost sixty percent of Filipino males smoke. And many start at 13 to 14 years of age. This explains why lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the Philippines. Studies show that 80% of lung cancers are due to smoking. Smoking can also cause cancers of the oral cavity, throat cancer and prostate cancer. Smoking kills. And it kills painfully. So I urge everyone to find a way to quit smoking.
Check your prostate.
If ladies worry about breast cancer, then men should be concerned about their prostates. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in males. To help detect prostate cancer, you may check the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, especially for those over 40. In addition, your doctor can insert a finger in the rectum to see whether your prostate is enlarged. This sounds uncomfortable but it’s part of the check-up. In men over 60, it is common to have urinary problems, such as straining and frequent urination due to an enlarged prostate.
Get a cancer check-up.
A complete cancer check-up includes checking your thyroid, lymph nodes (nodules under the armpits), oral region, skin (look for black marks) and testicles for any suspicious masses.
Colon cancer is another common cancer. You should watch out for changes in your bowel habits, stool consistency such as stools becoming smaller or thinner than usual. Blood in stools always needs a quick check up. A CEA test can help detect bowel cancer.
After 50 years of age, a stool occult blood test is done yearly. To better visualize the colon, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy is recommended after the age of 50.
Limit or avoid alcohol.
Red wine is good for the heart right? A teeny-weeny sip of wine perhaps? But not if you drink the whole bottle. Too much wine can destroy your liver and brain cells. You become forgetful, moody and dependent on alcohol. Alcoholics are also prone to falls and fractures. And if you’ve never had an alcoholic drink, I will definitely not advise you to start the habit.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Engage in aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Lessen your salt intake and fat intake to maintain your ideal body weight. Practice proper dental care with regular toothbrushing and flossing.
Know your BP.
Checking your blood pressure regularly is a simple way to care for your heart. If your BP is greater than or equal to 140 over 90 mmHg, then you have high blood pressure. If your BP is higher than 160 over 100 mmHg, then you are at serious risk for a stroke or heart attack. Please get a check up now. For those with BP below 140/90 but higher than 120/80, you should be careful and monitor your BP. Maintain a healthy lifestyle to attain an ideal BP of 120 over 80 mmHg.
Limit work stress.
It’s been proven that chronic stress harms the body. Tension elevates the blood pressure and makes the blood thicker. Although we don’t want to endorse a lazy lifestyle, too much stress can hurt your body organs like the heart, brain and stomach. Take it easy sometimes.
Resolve family and relationship issues.
Stress does not only come from work. Family stress, guilt, anger and conflict can lead to sleepless nights and high blood pressure. Too much jealousy and hate poison the mind and cause sickness. Some experts believe that cancer arises from these negative emotions too.
For persons above 50 and those with chronic medical conditions, influenza and pneumonia vaccinations are lifesaving. Just like infant vaccinations, the recent advances of medical science now offer protection for adults. Pneumonia vaccine is given every 5 years while flu vaccine is given yearly.
Get a basic laboratory exam.
These are the basic laboratory exams:
- Blood exams: Complete blood count, creatinine (check the kidneys), uric acid (check for gout), cholesterol (high fat diet), fasting blood sugar (check for diabetes), and SGPT (check the liver).
- Urinalysis: Check for urinary infections and kidney problems.
- Electrocardiogram: Check for heart problems.
- Chest X-ray: Check for lung and heart problems, particularly for smokers.
Check-ups are done yearly. Statistics show that regular check-ups can add an average of three years to your lifespan. Life is short and let us not make it shorter by our stubbornness and fear of doctors. I sincerely hope I have convinced you to visit your favorite doctor.