Remembering to prioritize your physical and mental health can be challenging, especially while balancing work, social life, and family. Despite this, it is important for men to follow some basics in order to remain healthy and prevent future illness.
1. Attend Annual Physicals
Given the high likelihood of prostate and colon cancer in men, it is important to schedule annual physicals. In addition to prostate cancer, colorectal cancer is more common in men. While men and women are essentially equally at risk for colon cancer, men are more likely to get rectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both prostate and colorectal cancer screenings can be critically important, as the earlier those diseases are detected, the better the chances of successfully treating them.
With patients under 40, I inquire if they are experiencing any typical prostate cancer symptoms, including multiple trips to the bathroom at night to urinate; general frequency and urgency associated with urinating; and hesitancy or weakening of the urine stream. Other concerning indications include unexplained fevers and/or unintentional weight loss.
With patients over 40, I recommend conducting a Prostate Specitic Antigen (PSA) screening and a digital rectual exam. Although some patients are more restant to these procedures that others, there is value in conducting these screenings and catching these illnesses early on.
With colon cancer, since we are finding an increase in cases of younger men, the recommended age for a colonoscopy has been lowered from 50 to 45. In addition, if an individual has a family history of colon cancer, it is recommended that a screening be done 10 years prior to when that family member’s diagnosis took place.
2. Active Lifestyle
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. This type of exercise includes any activity other than sitting at a desk – including, but not limited to, household chores or going for short walks.
Another option to maintain an active lifestyle is 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. This type of exercise includes a more intense regimen like jogging, swimming, playing racquetball, etc. With both of these options, the overarching goal is to remain active regardless of the ways in which that activity is accomplished.
3. Balanced Diet
Maintaining a balanced diet and consuming the appropriate amount of calories can be difficult, given the multitude of different diet options and discussions around calorie intake. Daily calorie intake recommendations are 2,400 for those aged 21 to 40; 2,200 for those aged 41 to 60; and 2,000 for men aged 61 and older. To lose one pound a week, those numbers can be decreased by 500 calories.
I recommend accurately counting your calorie intake. It is important to be honest with your physician and yourself when calorie counting, as innacurate reporting does not help your physician – or, more importantly, yourself.
A diet that I and many other physicians recommend is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods and healthy fats. Additional details can be found here.
4. Monitor Mental Health
Checking up on the mental health of my patients is a priority. Every time I see a patient, I always inquire about feelings of depression, anxiety and stressors in their lives. Given the still-present stigma around their emotional needs, it can be hard for some men to openly discuss their mental health with their physician. Despite this, it is imperative to have these discussions with your physician, instead of allowing an illness to remain untreated.
Again, it is vital to prioritize receiving your annual physical and age-appropriate screenings as a preventative measure to remain safe and healthy. If you have not already done so, I urge you to schedule any visits that you may have let slip by; your doctor, and your body and mind, will thank you.