June brings both Father’s Day and Men’s Health Month, making the timing perfect for adult children to have a talk with their aging dads to make sure they’re taking care of themselves and will be around for many more Father’s Days to come.
“Men are notorious for skipping their annual checkups and sometimes need a little nudging to set up a doctor’s appointment,” says Pawan Grover, M.D., (www.inovospine.net) a surgeon and patient advocate.
“But those checkups are very important because so many serious health problems can be headed off with a little preventive care.”
Screenings and yearly physicals help to detect prostate cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular problems or other conditions that can be treated if discovered early enough.
Fortunately, the majority of American men do touch base with health professionals, even if not at the rate women do. A 2014 survey by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 61.5 percent of men said they had been in contact with a physician or other health professional within the last six months, although that could just be a phone call. That compares to 74 percent of women.
But 13.7 percent of men hadn’t had any contact in more than two years, as opposed to just 5.7 percent of women.
That’s where adult children can step in, Grover says.
“They should let dad know about their concerns and that they want the best for him,” he says. “Tell him you want him to still be around to play with the grandkids and you want all of you to be able to enjoy life together for as long as possible.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers guidelines on what should be checked and when, including:
• Blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked once every two years. High blood pressure, if not brought under control, can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney problems, and heart failure.
• Cholesterol. Starting at age 35, have your cholesterol checked every five years. You might want to start even younger, though, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, if heart disease runs in your family, or if you smoke.
• Diabetes. Get screened for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or if you take medication for high blood pressure. Diabetes can cause problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves, and other body parts.
• Colorectal cancer. Testing for colorectal cancer needs to begin at age 50 and even earlier if there’s a family history of the disease.
“Men who put off doctor’s visits need to realize they may be causing themselves long-term harm,” Grover says. “They probably think, ‘Nothing is wrong so why should I go to the doctor?’ But it’s not a good idea to wait until those underlying health problems start showing themselves.”