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On Father's Day, Give Dad Gift of Health

Staying healthy is part of being a good dad, expert suggests

FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- This Father's Day, as dads unwrap their new ties and other tokens of gratitude, they might think about giving their families and themselves another kind of gift: a promise that they'll watch their health, suggests a family doctor at Loyola University Health System.

On average, men die younger than women and are more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, stroke and AIDS. But men are also much less likely than women to see their doctor, according to Dr. Aaron Michelfelder.

"Do your best to stay healthy. It's big part of being a good dad," he said in Loyola news release.

Men should visit their doctor at least once a year for a check-up and routine screenings, Michelfelder recommends.

"The earlier we diagnose such conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer, the more successfully we can treat them," he said.

Michelfelder also suggests regular screening tests for certain conditions:

  • Body-mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight, should be checked yearly.
  • Men should start getting screened for colorectal cancer, beginning at age 50. Screening tests include colonoscopy, in which a doctor uses a tiny lighted tube to examine the colon (every 10 years), a fecal occult blood test (annually), and a fecal occult blood test with sigmoidoscopy (every five years).
  • A dental checkup at least once a year, but ideally every six months. Oral health problems can affect other areas of the body. Severe gum disease, for example, is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease.
  • A fasting blood test should be given to men with risk factors for diabetes such as a family history of the disease, being overweight, or symptoms of diabetes such as increased thirst and unusually frequent urination. The test measures the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
  • Every male over age 18 should have his blood pressure checked at least once a year.
  • Men who report a hearing problem or work in a high-noise environment should have their hearing checked.
  • Cholesterol screening should be conducted on men aged 20 to 35 with cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes. Men over age 35 should be screened once every five years if the results are normal, and more often if they have borderline levels.
  • Men aged 50 or older should get annual PSA tests and digital rectal exams.
  • Ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm -- an unusual swelling in a blood vessel of the body's largest artery -- should be done on men aged 65 to 75 who have ever smoked. If detected before it ruptures and causes life-threatening bleeding, it can be repaired.

Michelfelder also screens men for smoking, depression and alcohol abuse. He advises them to control their weight, get enough exercise and avoid risky sexual behavior.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers health tips for men.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, June 14, 2010, news release.

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