Don’t forget, Father’s Day is Sunday, June 17. Whether or not you have that perfect tie, power tool or set, or golf clubs picked out, there’s something else you can do to show dad you care — ensure he’s taking care of his health. June is Men’s Health Month and the perfect time to get dad (grandpa, brother, etc.) thinking about men’s overall health. We caught up with Patrick L. Murphy Jr., M.D., a family medicine physician at Alabama Medical Group to learn ways to help our men live long, happy, and healthy lives. / By Amber Wielkens
On average, males schedule less than half as many physician appointments for prevention than females. Statistics also show that men live about five years less than women and have higher death rates of cancer, heart disease, suicide, and diabetes. Want to see these stats change? Dr. Murphy says, “Prevention needs to be a priority and good health habits start with you — the individual. It’s easy to take control of your health, starting with scheduling a checkup with your primary care physician (PCP).”
Taking care of your health begins with your lifestyle. Dr. Murphy shares, “The everyday choices we make are the most important. Manage your weight, mainly eating fresh fruits and vegetables with lean meats and proteins. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats. Make a goal of cardiovascular /aerobic exercise two-and-a-half hours a week and add two to three days of weight training that incorporates all muscle groups. These are some of the basics most people should strive for unless counseled otherwise by your physician.
A wellness checkup is the easiest way to get a snapshot of your overall health. It also reduces disease and death across the board and increases longevity of life. If it’s just this simple, why do men not schedule annual checkups? Dr. Murphy says, “I think it’s a social stigma — you are the head of the household, you make the decisions, and if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality. Even if our cars aren’t broken, don’t we still take them in for routine maintenance? We should do the same with our bodies and minds. Even if we are healthy, having a routine wellness checkup can help tweak a few things for optimum performance or identify and treat problems early before they progress into something more serious.”
Everyone should have an annual checkup regardless of how “healthy” they feel. People ask, “I’m healthy, so why do I need to go to the doctor?” Dr. Murphy’s answer? “Yes, you may currently be healthy, but my job is to keep you that way. Primary care by definition is to prevent illnesses and diseases before they occur and we are trained to identify risk factors to help prevent certain diseases from ever developing.”
Early detection is key. Dr. Murphy says, “I go by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for average risk patients. If a patient has other risk factors like a certain diagnosis or family history, some screenings may be performed earlier.” Here are just a few of the routine screenings that are recommended, but there are many more:
Don’t have a PCP? No problem! Alabama Medical Group makes finding a primary care physician easy for you. Dr. Murphy says, “Collaboration with my peers and having numerous specialties in our practice is a great resource. We are able to expedite care for patients in need and I enjoy the inter-specialty coordination and education we receive from one another.”
Dr. Murphy recently had a case demonstrating the urgent need for checkups. “A person in their early 20s came to my clinic. They were ‘completely healthy,’ However, during the first visit I actually diagnosed the patient with Type II Diabetes. If this person had not scheduled a routine checkup, this may have gone unnoticed for years and caused a multitude of associated health problems. By controlling the diabetes early, we have greatly reduced my patient’s risk of developing complications such as stroke, heart attack, kidney failure leading to dialysis, blindness, amputations, and death.”
Men’s mental health is equally as important as their physical health. “Many men feel like depression is something they should be able to deal with themselves or that they are ‘weak’ or ‘failing’ in some way if they feel depressed. We tend to not want to discuss these types of issues. The problem is when things get bad enough, and if they attempt suicide, men tend to use more lethal means than women, which is why the suicide rate is higher. I screen my patients yearly for depression, but many times family members will bring me their concerns about a patient. This early recognition can help prevent unwanted outcomes.”
In short, we as women need to encourage the men in our lives to take their health seriously. Congressman Bill Richardson put it best, stating, “Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.”
For that special man in your life – your father, spouse, partner, or son – make sure they are healthy and able to celebrate many more Men’s Health Months. Make prevention a priority and schedule his annual wellness checkup at Alabama Medical Group today.