This article was written by Health Initiative for Men Physician Champion Dr. Shaun Najarian.
June is Men’s Health Month and I am honored to have the opportunity to be working with The Health Initiative for Men (HiM) at Griffin Health to help promote awareness of important men’s health issues.
The goal of HiM is to encourage men to see their physician annually, and to be screened for various diseases that respond better to treatment if detected early. The initiative was started in 2011 as a response to data which indicated that men in the Lower Naugatuck Valley have significantly higher rates of mortality than men in Connecticut on average for both prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.
Ansonia businessman Frank Michaud and his wife, Judy, established a special "Health Initiative for Men Fund" at the Valley Community Foundation which enabled Griffin to host free men’s health screening events and share the “Men’s Health Tune-up Checklist” throughout the Valley. Men are encouraged to bring the Tune-up Checklist to their primary care physician and discuss what screenings they may need.
There are so many reasons we should promote men’s health.
A recent survey by the Cleveland Clinic showed that 65 percent of men avoid going to the doctor and 37 percent withheld information for fear of a potential diagnosis.
In 2018, the life expectancy for men in the United States was 76.2 years, around five years less than that of women. Men are often more likely than women to participate in behavior that puts their health at risk, including smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol, making unhealthy or risky choices, and putting off regular checkups and medical care. This highlights the need for men to be educated on basic health and encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles.
Early detection and prevention is the key to staying healthy.
Now more than ever, one of the most important ways men can take care of their health is to see a doctor for regular checkups even if they feel healthy. This is essential because some diseases and health conditions don’t have symptoms at first.
There are certain screenings that every man should have:
Cholesterol - Men over 35 should get their blood cholesterol checked. Men who have high blood pressure, diabetes, smoke, are overweight, or have early cardiac family history should start this screening even earlier.
Prostate Cancer - It is important for men to have prostate cancer screening, which includes both digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A majority of men will start this screening at age 50, but men with urinary symptoms or family history should start this screening earlier. Prostate cancer screening should be part of a discussion with your primary physician to determine which tests are most appropriate for you.
Colon Cancer - Colon or rectal screening for men should happen by age 50, but definitely even sooner with abdominal symptoms or family history of colorectal cancer. There are multiple colon cancer screening options including the newer home mail in stool kits and colonoscopy.
Depression - In addition to physical disease, mental health issues are common among men in the U.S., with suicide ranking the seventh leading cause of death. If you are experiencing a depressed mood, fatigue, lack of interest, experiencing changes of appetite, weight or sleep, trouble concentrating, having suicidal thoughts, feeling guilty or bad about yourself, please see your primary physician right away for a depression screening. Your doctor might use the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9 to help screen for depression.
Obesity - Your doctor will calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to screen if you are overweight or obese. This includes calculation of your height and weight. A BMI above 25 is overweight and a BMI greater than 30 is obese. Measuring waist circumference might also help determine if you are overweight or obese.
Diabetes - Diabetes has become an epidemic in the United States, and men are no exception. The mainstay screen for diabetes is hemoglobin A1C blood test. If you have high blood pressure you should get screened for diabetes. Also if you have symptoms of diabetes, including excessive thirst and frequent urination, you should get screened for diabetes.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm - For men aged 65 to 75 years old who have ever smoked, the US Preventative Services Task force recommends screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). If an abdominal aortic aneurysm goes undetected and ruptures, it can be life threatening.
Blood Pressure – Last, but not least is checking blood pressure. Blood pressure is important to check because if high blood pressure is undetected it can lead to stroke or heart attack.
In addition to receiving critical health screenings, seeing a doctor give men a chance to learn more about their health.
A healthy eating pattern and regular physical activity can help men control their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and weight. By keeping these numbers in the normal range, men can lower your risk of serious health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. To improve their well-being, men should not be embarrassed or disinterested in talking about their health. The best start is to talk to family members to find out which diseases run in their family.
I encourage all men to check out the helpful health information on the HiM website – griffinhealth.org/him. Or better yet, come see me in Shelton at the Family Healthcare Center. Call (203) 929-7335 to make an appointment, or visit gfp.griffinhealth.org to find a primary care physician in the Valley.