As part of Men's Health Week, the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) Office of Public Health (OPH) challenges all fathers and men to embrace a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables and, most importantly, routine health screenings and early treatment for disease.
Each year, the week leading up to Father's Day is designated National Men's Health Week. Father's Day is the perfect time for dads and men to make a commitment to improving their health and for people to talk to the men in their lives about participating in screenings for common diseases. Despite advances in medical technology and research, men continue to live an average of five years less than women. This reinforces the need for increased public education on men's health.
"If they don't do it for themselves, dads should live healthier for their children and grandchildren," said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "Men who are educated about the value of preventive health will be more likely to participate in health screenings and live healthier lifestyles, which will result in reducing rates of mortality and disease and allow these dads to be around for their children and grandchildren."
"The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is dead on," said Assistant Secretary for Public Health J.T. Lane. "Preventive services prevent heart attack, stroke, cancer and other diseases and save lives, not to mention saving money on health care."
More than 70 percent of men 18 and older in Louisiana are either overweight or obese. These conditions greatly raise the risk for chronic diseases and even death. Heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes are among the leading causes of death for men. In the United States, seven in 10 deaths are due to chronic diseases such as these, accounting for 75 percent of medical cost. The first steps in combating chronic conditions are to have screenings, which can lead to early detection of diseases, when chances of a treatment and cure are better.
Men should have the following recommended screenings:
- Cholesterol - Once you turn 35 (or once you turn 20 if you have risk factors like diabetes, history of heart disease, tobacco use, high blood pressure, or BMI of 30 or over), have your cholesterol checked regularly. High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.
- Blood Pressure - Have your blood pressure checked every 2 years. High blood pressure increases your chance of getting heart or kidney disease and for having a stroke. If you have high blood pressure, you may need medication to control it.
- Cardiovascular Disease - Beginning at age 45 and through age 79, ask your doctor if you should take aspirin every day to help lower your risk of a heart attack. How much aspirin you should take depends on your age, your health, and your lifestyle.
- Colon Cancer - Beginning at age 50 and through age 75, get tested for colon cancer. You and your doctor can decide which test is best. How often you'll have the test depends on which test you choose. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to be tested before you turn 50.
- Other Cancers - Ask your doctor if you should be tested for prostate, lung, oral, skin, or other cancers.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases - Talk to your doctor to see whether you should be tested for gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, or other sexually transmitted diseases.
- HIV - Your doctor may recommend screening for HIV if you have engaged in high risk behaviors or had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.
- Depression - If you have felt "down" or hopeless during the past 2 weeks or you have had little interest in doing things you usually enjoy, talk to your doctor about depression. Depression is a treatable illness.
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm - If you are between the ages of 65 and 75 and have smoked 100 or more cigarettes in your lifetime, ask your doctor to screen you for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. This is an abnormally large or swollen blood vessel in your stomach that can burst without warning.
- Diabetes - If your blood pressure is higher than 135/80, ask your doctor to test you for diabetes. Diabetes, or high blood sugar, can cause problems with your heart, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves, and other body parts.
Men can commit to becoming and staying healthier by engaging in these behaviors:
- Eating a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains and avoiding sugary drinks;
- Maintaining a healthy weight;
- Seeing your doctor regularly - as recommended;
- Exercising regularly -at least 2 ½ hours a week or 30 minutes a day for five days a week;
- Monitoring your blood pressure;
- Not smoking;
- Limiting alcohol use;
- Checking cholesterol levels at least once every five years;
- Managing diabetes;
- Taking your medications.
During the month of June LDH is conducting educational outreach and health screenings statewide, in hopes of helping men commit to living healthier and longer lives.