Be Proactive, Embrace Prevention, Select Providers

Men are missing the mark when it comes to managing their personal health. As a result, they are missing opportunities to find and deal with medical problems in their early stages. This is when many conditions are more treatable and less threatening to overall health.

doctor in white lab coat talking with male patient in blue sweater.

What are they thinking?

Men’s tendency to seek healthcare services only in “crisis” situations—and to see themselves as strong and healthy enough to skip checkups and recommended screenings— is no surprise to psychologists. Numerous studies have concluded that men of all ages are less likely than women to seek help for problems. This includes physical and emotional health issues. Some experts say this is a learned behavior. Many men are raised to act tough and independent, so they stay in control and hide their vulnerability. Therefore, they come to view themselves as protected from disease. Men also may fear that others will interpret their non-emergency healthcare provider’s visits as unmanly or weak. This is especially so if the men around them also avoid preventive medical care.

Screenings men can’t live without

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force and other medical organizations encourage men
to go through regular health screenings to find serious health problems early. Men should ask their healthcare provider about tests for the following:

  • High cholesterol. Beginning at age 35, men should get their cholesterol checked
    regularly—at least every five years. Men younger than age 35 could benefit from cholesterol testing if they smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or have a family history of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. All men should get their blood pressure checked at least every
    two years, or more often if recommended by a healthcare provider.
  • Diabetes. Men should schedule a blood glucose test for diabetes if they have elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure. They should also have this test if they notice signs of diabetes. These include frequent thirst and urination, extreme tiredness, and
    blurred vision. Healthy men should get screened every three years. This should start
    at age 45.
  • Colorectal cancer. Screenings should begin at age 50, or earlier if there is a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or a family history of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer screening can be done either with an annual fecal occult blood testing or colonoscopy every 10 years. Speak with your healthcare provider about the right method of screening for you.
    The age at which you begin screening depends on several things. This includes family history and your ethnic group. You and your healthcare provider will decide which screening method (physical exam or blood test), if any, is best for your situation.

Time for a new attitude

Cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, stroke, and diabetes are among the leading causes of death for American men. The risk of developing these conditions can be reduced
with a combination of a healthy lifestyle and regular medical care. Many disorders, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are “silent” illnesses. They do not cause telltale symptoms that may lead to a healthcare provider’s visit. Routine checkups and screenings are critical for detecting hidden problems and staying healthy.

Make the appointment

Need help in finding just the right doctor? Parkwest Medical Center has physician referral specialists who can talk with you, help you understand your options and put you in touch with the right physician for you and your family’s needs. Call (865) 374-PARK. to speak with your personal physician referral specialist today!

RLS: A Serious Health Risk for Men

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an aptly named disorder. If you have RLS, you feel a constant urge to move your legs when sitting or lying down. You may have strange sensations—tingling, throbbing, or creeping—in your lower limbs. These symptoms—often worse at night—can seriously affect a man’s health, recent research reveals. RLS is more than just a movement disorder – RLS can be disabling. Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, it’s linked to many other health problems. For example, people with the condition are more likely to have diabetes and depression. They also appear to have a higher risk for stroke.

The impact of RLS may extend beyond that. In a study published in Neurology, researchers
looked at the health of more than 18,000 men. Study participants ranged in age from 40 to 75. They filled out periodic questionnaires over eight years. Those with RLS reported lower levels of physical function as they aged. Essentially, they were more likely to have a disability.

Other recent research uncovered an even more troubling trend. Researchers found that those with severe RLS symptoms tended to die at a younger age. This finding remained even after the
researchers adjusted for age, weight, and other lifestyle factors. The way the disorder disrupts a person’s sleep may be partially to blame.

Tips for coping

In most cases, health experts don’t know exactly what causes RLS. It may be
a neurological problem. The brain may not properly send movement signals. The result:
involuntary muscle activity in the legs. For some people, the condition may be genetic. It tends to run in families. Others may develop RLS because they have low iron levels in their blood. The disorder has also been linked to certain drugs, such as medicine to prevent nausea. In these instances, increasing iron levels or changing your medication may help ease symptoms.

Lifestyle changes may also help relieve RLS. Below are some ways to cope:

  • Focus your mind. Activities like reading, writing, or doing a crossword puzzle can distract you from your symptoms.
  • Try heat or cold. Taking a warm bath or cold shower may help. Some people also feel better after applying a heating pad or cold pack to their legs.
  • Move more. Walking, jogging, and other light to moderate activities are good ways to ease RLS. But avoid exercising too close to bedtime. It can disrupt your sleep.
  • Build a better bedtime routine. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid substances thatmay trigger your symptoms. These include alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.’
  • Relax your body and mind. Try yoga or meditation. Massage may also work.
  • Stay active on the job. Hold meetings or take phone calls while standing or walking. You may also benefit from a treadmill workstation.

If these strategies don’t work, talk with your doctor and consider a referral to the Sleep Disorders Center at Parkwest. To learn more about sleep disorders visit TreatedWell.com/parkwestsleep or referral to the sleep center call (865) 373-1974.