June is National Safety Month, National Candy Month and National Dairy Month—the list is long. But more importantly, June is National Men’s Health Month.
Most men generally avoid the doctor. Whether it’s from lack of time management or fear, the stereotype is confirmed by doctors everywhere.
“It’s very true,” said Dr. Eric Hazbun, a board certified family physician at Sacred Heart. “Part of the reason is because they feel invulnerable—kind of like ‘I don’t want to stop and ask for directions.’”
Some men also adhere to the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” motto.
“We tend to see issues that should’ve been addressed earlier,” Hazbun said.
That’s why the Men’s Health Network, a non-profit organization, provides men (and their concerned family) with information about free clinics, screening guidelines and tips to raise awareness in your local community.
“The stereotype exists, because it is reality, a fact that men do avoid doctors,” said Kimaya Dixit, communications associate at Men’s Health Network. “Men are taught from their childhood that big and tough boys don’t cry.”
Preventing major health issues isn’t always as time consuming or invasive as one might think. Young adult men (and women) should make appointments for cholesterol by the age of 20 and after that only every five years, the same for diabetic screenings.
Multi-vitamins are recommended, but certainly not a cure-all. Preventative screenings and looking out for your overall wellness is important at every age, however it is typically middle age that the human body starts to need more upkeep, meaning you can’t put it off any longer. And men are no exception to the rule.
“If someone is in very good health, it is age 40 that they would typically need to start seeing the doctor yearly,” said Hazbun. “By that age you start to see the problems of middle age—prostate cancer, colon cancer.”
Even doctors have to see a doctor.
“I’m 39,” Hazbun said. “I’m not looking forward to next year.”
Once men hit that magic number, 50, they need to begin prostate cancer screenings. African-American males, for reasons that are undetermined, are at a higher risk for prostate cancer than white males. It is even less common in Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American men. The screening process is either a digital rectal exam (DRE) or prostate specific antigen test (PSA).
“Men should get rectal exams, PSAs and colonoscopies every year after 50,” Hazbun said.
DREs and colonoscopies may not be pleasant, but they could be lifesaving.
“A lot of men are very reluctant, they think ‘I’m not sticking a camera…’” Hazbun said. “But colon cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death.”
Males are also at risk for heart disease, which Hazbun said doctors fight on a daily basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds can develop the condition. Getting your cholesterol checked and checking your blood pressure every five years after 25, the same for sugar, will help maintain heart health.
There is no one screening to determine if someone has heart disease, instead it is up to the individual to see their doctor and discuss any and all abnormalities.
“The symptoms related to heart disease are chest pain and tightness. Those symptoms need to be evaluated,” Hazbun said.
Don’t Be Afraid
Doctors are not mind readers, asking questions is key to making the most of your doctor visits, especially for men who wish to keep those visits few and far between.
“Male patients will tell me, ‘I’m here because of my knee pain,’ and after the visit, I’ll walk to the door and they’ll say ‘Oh, by the way doc,’” said Hazbun.
That last minute question is usually related to erectile dysfunction.
“Erectile dysfunction is usually a sign that something else is going wrong and could be linked to prostate issues or even heart disease if they’re not getting adequate blood flow to the penis,” Hazbun said. “Shame can keep people from finding major issues.”
Dr. Ken Mitchell has spent his past five years as a doctor focusing on weight loss and wellness. He also treats menopausal and andropausal patients with hormone therapy.
Andropause isn’t as common of a term as menopause, and that may be because men go through andropause at a gradual rate or maybe it’s because they aren’t open enough about the changes they go through in mid-life.
“They don’t hang out and talk about personal issues,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said andropause can cause a decrease in energy, interest and memory.
“There’s no mojo, no get up and go,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell’s answer to men who get past the embarrassment of bringing up the subject is testosterone replacement through creams, gels and shots, which have the most lasting effect.
“It’s not mainstream medicine and the risks are minimal,” Mitchell said. “You can replace testosterone and you can do it safely.”
Testosterone levels range from 2 to 800, the average middle aged man should be at about 500 Mitchell said. With the hormone therapy, men receive a boost of 800 giving them a blast of energy. However, there’s not a huge market for it.
“I have a high no-show rate,” Mitchell said. “They’re tough sales.”
“It’s a story about nutrition”
Whenever you ask a physician about wellness—whether it’s male or female—you’re not going to be able to dodge the “eat right, exercise” lecture. It’s the number one advice for anyone seeking to map out a wellness plan.
“Exercise helps prevent, across the board, every disease even cancer,” Hazbun said. “Exercise and diet is the bottom line.”
Thirty to 40 minutes of exercise and a diet rich in fiber, 20-25 grams per day, is recommended. For specific guidelines, Hazbun suggests the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, which you can find at nih.gov.
Exercise is important for bodies of all ages, but Lorenzo Aguilar, head fitness trainer at Anytime Fitness, points out, after 25 it’s even more important.
“Generally in males, and females, around 25 is when metabolism begins to slow down,” he said. “Every 10 years it slows down another 10 percent due to muscle atrophy.”
Whether the belly is full of beer or burgers, men tend to store most of their fat in the midsection.
“It’s not good,” said Aguilar of the beer gut. “It’s visceral fat. It lives in the organs and releases toxins.”
There is no quick fix, drinkers could sip wine and skip high calorie mixed drinks, but some work has to be done. Aguilar recommends exercises like overhead squats, pull ups, planks, and back extension to help muscle imbalances.
“A lot of guys have back pain,” Aguilar said. “They should focus on postural and core exercises, abs, butt and shoulders. As men age, these stabilizer muscles ten to atrophy first, which cause muscle imbalances. Once you have proper alignment, then you can work on chest and biceps. You get a better benefit.”
Aguilar points out, that men tend to skip the recommended 30-minute cardio after their 30-minute strength and core training.
“Very few males do enough cardio,” he said.
Encourage Women to Encourage Men
When the facts aren’t enough to get men to be more active in taking care of themselves, women are called in for reinforcement.
“We encourage women to expand on their traditional role as the family’s health care leader and activist for enhancement of health care services,” Dixit said. “Women are the ones who can get men to the doctors offices as they schedule appointments and push their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, etc.”
Men’s health isn’t about forcing someone to do something they should do, but more about ensuring that loved ones are healthier, and therefore around much longer.
“Men’s health to us should mean healthier, fuller, longer and happier lives for our brothers, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, uncles and sons,” Dixit said.
DR. ERIC HAZBUN
WHERE: Sacred Heart Medical Group at Perdido Bay, 13139 Sorrento Road
DETAILS: 416-0020 or sacred-heart.org
MEN’S HEALTH NETWORK
DR. KEN MITCHELL
WHERE: 910 Royce St.
DETAILS: 444-4997 or mediweightlossclinics.com/locations/pensacola/
For Hormone Therapy, 791-6010 or pelletmd.com
WHERE: 100 S. Alcaniz St.
DETAILS: 469-1144 or anytimepensacola.com