Take Charge & Reduce Health Risks

3 middle-aged men in animated conversation.

Husband, father, grandpa, brother . . . for each of us there is probably at least one special guy in our lives. June is Men’s Health month, and to help keep them healthy, it pays to know – and pay attention – to the major risk factors most prevalent for men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the list of major threats to men’s health is short, and a few positive lifestyle choices can go a long way toward helping men live longer, healthier lives. Making even one or two lifestyle changes – such as avoiding tobacco and eating a healthy diet – can reduce the risk of developing several medical problems.

The number one threat to men’s health is heart disease, followed by cancer, accidents, chronic lung conditions, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and suicide. You cannot control risk factors such as a family history of certain medical conditions, your age or race, but you can take steps to minimize others.

1. Heart Disease

Men can reduce their risk of heart disease in several ways:

  • Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products, and minimize your exposure to second-
    hand smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high fiber foods, and lean protein such as fish.
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat and salt.
  • Work with your doctor to keep chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes under control.
  • Choose a sport or other physical activity that you enjoy, and participate in it on a regular basis.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation if you choose to drink, as alcohol can increase your blood pressure.
  • Find ways to reduce stress.

2. Cancer

Among the types of cancer that should particularly concern men are cancers of
the lungs, skin, prostate and colon-rectum. The CDC advises men to take many of the same preventive measures they should take to reduce their risk of heart disease: Avoid smoking and
second-hand smoke, lose excess pounds, stay physically active, eat a healthy diet and limit alcohol consumption. The CDC also recommends that men protect themselves from the sun when they are outside and see their doctor for routine cancer screenings.

3. Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of fatalities among men. Many of these accidents are preventable. To reduce your risk of being injured or killed, the CDC advises that you wear a seat belt, obey the speed limit, don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and avoid getting behind the wheel when you are not alert.

4. Chronic lung conditions

Chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other lung conditions should concern
men. To reduce your risk of developing these debilitating conditions, avoid smoking, minimize your exposure to chemicals and other pollutants, and minimize respiratory infections by washing your hands frequently, getting an annual flu vaccination, and talking to your doctor about whether you need to be vaccinated against pneumonia.

5. Stroke

The CDC advises men to make healthy lifestyle choices in an effort to reduce their risk of stroke. Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol, live a physically active life, avoid smoking and using other tobacco products, limit your consumption of alcohol, and take steps to control chronic medical conditions including high blood pressure.

6. Type 2 Diabetes

The most common kind of diabetes is Type 2 diabetes. It affects the body’s use of blood sugar and can lead to heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems and other serious conditions if not well controlled. Lifestyle choices are extremely important in preventing this disease. As with many other health conditions, you should eat a healthy diet, get sufficient exercise, and lose excess pounds if you are overweight.

7. Suicide

Men often view depression as a sign of weakness, but depression is a major risk factor for suicide in men, as well as women. Fortunately, this condition is highly treatable. If you feel sad or lose interest in normal activities for an extended period, see your doctor. If you are thinking about suicide, get help! Go to your nearest emergency room or call 911. For information about the outpatient services available at Peninsula for treatment of depression and other conditions visit www.peninsulabehavioralhealth.org.

Parkwest Medical Center encourages men of all ages to take action to reduce their health risks. If you do not have a doctor and need one, please call (865) 374-7275 or visit TreatedWell.com for information about the physicians on Parkwest’s medical staff.


Four Heart-Related Conditions You Can Work to Prevent

Here’s a heart-stuttering statistic: According to the CDC about 610,000 people die of heart disease
in the United States every year–that’s one in every four deaths. Many of those deaths could be prevented. How? Start with being better informed about what it takes to keep your heart healthy. Below are four common heart-related conditions and tips on preventing them.

High blood pressure

Also known as hypertension, about seven of every 10 people having their first
heart attack have high blood pressure. The condition occurs when the force of blood on your artery walls is too high for a long period of time. Why the concern? High blood pressure doesn’t cause any symptoms, but it can still seriously damage the body. In particular, it can raise your risk for coronary artery disease (CAD) and stroke.

High cholesterol

Your body normally produces a certain level of cholesterol, a fat-like substance found in the blood. Cholesterol levels can become too high, though. One major reason: Eating foods with lots of saturated fats and cholesterol. Being overweight is another leading cause. Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol has no symptoms. And it, too, contributes to your risk for CAD.

Coronary artery disease

One of the most common types of heart disease, CAD develops when the arteries that supply heart muscle with blood gradually become filled with plaque, a a substance made of cholesterol,
calcium and fat. As this plaque coats the artery walls, it hardens, narrowing the arteries in a process called atherosclerosis. If the plaque blocks blood flow to the heart, it can cause a
heart attack.

Peripheral artery disease

Like CAD, peripheral artery disease (PAD) develops because of the buildup of plaque on the artery walls. But PAD affects arteries elsewhere in the body – most often those in the legs. Many people with PAD have no symptoms. But some people may feel pain or numbness
in the legs when walking or doing other physical activity.

Preventing these conditions

You can’t change some risk factors for these four heart-related conditions, including
growing older and having a family history. But you can lower your risk with healthy lifestyle choices. Taking steps to prevent even one heart condition, such as high blood pressure, also can help protect your heart from other elated conditions.

Start with the following:

  • Limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol and cut back on salt in your diet. These two steps will help you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
  • Keep your body moving. Regular physical activity, along with diet, could prevent a quarter of heart-related deaths in the U.S. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Know your numbers. Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You should have these numbers checked regularly starting at age 20. Your blood pressure should be below 120/80. In general, your cholesterol level should be around 200 mg/dL or lower. HDL (“good”) cholesterol should be greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL.
  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles your risk for CAD and is a key contributor to high blood pressure.

To learn more about heart disease and the steps
you can take to protect yourself, go to TreatedWell.com/cardiacservices, or for physician referral, call (865) 374-PARK.