Give Dad the gift of health for Father's Day

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Does dad really need another tie this Father's Day?  This year, instead of giving dad something traditional, consider giving him the gift of health by encouraging him to make changes that will add years to his life and life to his years. 

It is well established that men are not big fans of visiting their doctor for routine health matters and check-ups.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control states women are 33 percent more likely than men to visit the doctor, although this difference does narrow a bit with increasing age.  A quick review of the five big health issues facing men might highlight the perfect gift for dad this Father's Day.

Prostate Cancer
Screening for prostate cancer is the key to catching this disease in the early stages and simple tests can be performed quickly and easily by your doctor using a blood test and/or digital rectal exam. 

Current guidelines suggest annual prostate screening for men at age 50, and if your doctor considers you at higher risk, then annual screening should begin earlier.  Some links have been shown between prostate cancer and dietary habits, so decrease your risk by eating foods high in antioxidants such as green vegetables, green tea, and tomatoes. 

Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for all disorders affecting the heart and blood vessels, including angina, high blood pressure, and stroke.  It is the leading cause of death among men. In fact, one in three men has some form of the disease. 

The best preventive measures are to quit smoking, exercise, eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and control stress and anger.  Regular health screenings are extremely important and should include monitoring blood pressure and periodic cholesterol and blood sugar checks. 

Unfortunately, many men treat their health as a low priority when trying to juggle careers and family life, and many men stop visiting their doctors regularly between the age of 20 and 45.  Make a difference and encourage the men in your life to seek regular medical screenings.

Suicide and Depression
Real men don't cry, right?  From childhood, societal influences teach men to control their feelings.  Decades of research shows men are diagnosed with depression only about one-tenth as often as women. 

However, new research suggests that men are very good at hiding their feelings and depression in men may be far more common than we previously knew.  Depression touches every race, income level, and age.  Each year, at least seven percent of men in the U.S. suffer from depression _ that's 6 million!  If you think you're one of them, be a real man and seek help.  

In the U.S., approximately 8.7 million men over the age of 20 have diabetes and some experience no signs or symptoms.  Symptoms in other men may be so mild they go unnoticed for many years and still others may have more serious complications, but not be aware that diabetes is to blame. 

The best defense against this disease is to know the warning signs.  Symptoms of diabetes may include increased thirst, hunger, urination (especially at night), fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision, and skin sores that do not heal. 

Early detection is accomplished in cooperation with your doctor and may include blood sugar testing.  Eating healthy and watching your weight can frequently prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.  Early intervention is the key to a long, happy, and healthy life!

Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is a major health concern in men, as evidenced by its rank as the second most common cancer after prostate cancer.  Even though it ranks second in frequency, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death in men.  In 2009, approximately 116,090 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in men, and more than 89,000 will die from the disease. 

More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.  The good news is the vast majority of lung cancer cases can be prevented by not smoking.  This year, help dad kick the habit - stop smoking!

It is widely known that men have shorter life expectancy than women.  Currently the difference is about five fewer years; however, there was only a one year difference back in 1920.  Together we can reverse this negative trend through better awareness of the health risks men face, earlier intervention and preventive measures, as well as making regular visits to your doctor.  This year, give dad the best gift of all - the gift of good health!