Men's Health Awareness Month

By the age of 85, women outnumber men in the U.S. 2.2 to 1; this rises to 3 to 1 if they reach their 90s according to the CDC. Dr. Eric Svestka a SIMED Primary Care physician gives us some valuable advice on how men can take some steps to make healthier lifestyle choices.

What are some of the most common men’s health issues?

The most common issues we are going to talk about today are the ones we hear most in the news. The ones that we usually see family members and friends experience are the most common ones.

What are nutrition guidelines for men, and how do they change as men age?

The nice things about the guidelines is that they stay the same throughout the course of life. The problem is as men age in particular their energy expenses and calorie tend to decrease; we are not as active as we were in our 20's and 30's. Some good rules of thumb are to make sure you are getting at least one vegetable and fruit with each meal. You also want to keep portion size under control, some things we can think of for example would be meat. Meat is one of those areas where we seem to over eat. A deck of cards is the portion size of a healthy serving of meat. Then when it comes to pastas and things like that (carbohydrates), something the size of your fist is a good serving size there. Whenever you go out to eat you’re almost always getting double or triple the serving size that you should. So one of the things I have my patients do is when you order your food ask for half of the food to be boxed before it even comes out to the table so you don't even see it. Then you feel fuller and you have a free meal the next day.

What can men do to keep from experiencing high levels of stress?

Stress is one of those funny things a little bit is good and helps you perform at your top level but too much you start to feel overwhelmed or you begin to feel like you’re losing control of your situation that's when it begins to be negative on its impact. The main thing is really a support system, so support at work and at home just having someone you can talk with. Also staying connected socially so that you’re able to get away from your work. Talk with friends and other people see that people, are having issues with work and life and all those different endeavors. One of the main things you want to avoid actually are unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, those things. Sometimes it can seem like I'm done with my day it would be nice to have a beer or two to unwind, and yea a beer or two is alright but you have to be careful that doesn't become your new crutch on how you get through the day and then two becomes three and we go on from there.

What is low testosterone, and what are the symptoms?

Low testosterone is a pretty common problem for men about two to six million men in the United States suffer from this. It is really something that can be part of the normal aging process as you go through life your testosterone levels will start to go down. The signs and symptoms that it can be problem for you can be varied so it can be something as simple as feeling tired, maybe you get fatigued more quickly when you’re doing activities or exercise, you can be more irritable. Actually depression is one of the signs of low testosterone. Then you come to some of the more obvious things like erectile dysfunction or having a low libido those types of symptoms.

What are some of the top issues my doctor might address during an annual well-check visit?

So during an annual well check visit your doctor will try to cover all these bases so it is usually a lot of questions and answers. They will go over everything such as the preventative stuff so we are talking cancer screenings, recommendations for you with your family history, vaccines, body weight, blood pressure, look at some general labs, sugars, cholesterol those types of things and help you get a picture of the next 10 years of what things we can do to help keep you as healthy as possible and to decrease any of your risks. So that's what a lot of the annual visit would be about.

What health problems does having a sedentary lifestyle put men at risks for?

Sedentary lifestyle we all are victims to it. Everything is becoming technological. You don't have to get up to change the TV, you don't even have to get up to talk to people anymore. We Skype we do all these different things. So we're really engineering activity out of our lives. Even bicycles have motors and their so efficient now it's pretty easy. The main problems is weight gain. If you’re not being as active you’re not getting your heart rate up and getting it to work hard. It is not allowing the body to develop some of the physical fitness it needs, the muscle mass and all those issues. The main problem we see here are the blood pressure, cholesterol, sugars going up but actually we have a lot of studies linking decreases in exercise and activity levels to cancers and heart disease.

What medical effects can low testosterone have on a man’s physical and mental well- being?

The medical effects are similar to the symptoms that you’re having. So physically it can be harder for you to exercise, maybe you go out to exercise and then you feel tired for the next couple of days or maybe you get injured more easily you’re not recovering quite as well. So if your battling with those issues all the time it becomes hard to do the things we want to do, to get exercise that is recommended for men in particular. Mentally you can feel signs of irritability and depression. If it is truly a hormonal level that is making it hard for you to kind of brush things off or see the sunnier side of life we have something that can help treat that. So that is why when you are going to see your doctor he is going to ask you a lot of questions probably check some of the labs to make sure other things are not at play. Either things like your thyroid or other issues as well. But if it does turn out to be low testosterone then you can have a conversation about whether it would be beneficial for you to get that treated.

What can we do to combat a sedentary lifestyle?

Honestly it is all about being intentional, it is very hard as we said earlier life is set up to be sedentary. So keep in mind some of the guidelines that recommended like men get two and a half hours, that's a hundred and fiftyminutes of aerobic exercise. That is your walking, swimming, biking, any of those types of things every week and you also want to get at least two days or more muscle strengthening. You don't have to do them at the same time, you can break it up, but those would be some of the really important things. So getting a schedule, or friend, a work out buddy or two, somebody that will help keep you accountable. Because it is always easy to convince yourself at six in the morning that those extra 30 minutes of sleep is going to do me better than that 15 minute walk, so someone there that is going to help push you through and these activities levels are not anything too strenuous. The guidelines say just moderate intensity for most men that's just getting your heart rate up to 60 to 90 beats. But before you start any of these activities you should touch base with your primary care provider just to see if there would be any issues that would either prevent you or that you need to build up to more gradually.

If you are interested in learning more about these issues, or any other men's health issue request an appointment with Dr. Svestka or on of our other SIMED Primary Care providers, an appointment online.