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Give dad the gift of health

Men are much less likely than women to see their doctor, but staying healthy is a big part of being a good father

PHOTO: AFP

WATCH YOUR HEALTH Get enough exercise

Another Father's Day has gone by, and long after dads have unwrapped their new ties and other tokens of gratitude, its time to think about giving their families and themselves another kind of gift: a promise that they'll watch their health, suggests a family doctor at Loyola University Health System.

On average, men die younger than women, and are more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, stroke and AIDS. But, men are also much less likely than women to see their doctor, according to Dr. Aaron Michelfelder.

Regular check-ups

“Do your best to stay healthy. It's a big part of being a good dad,” he says. “Men should visit their doctor at least once a year for a check-up and routine screenings. The earlier we diagnose such conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer, the more successfully we can treat them.”

Michelfelder also suggests regular screening tests for certain conditions.

Body-mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight, should be checked yearly.

Men should start getting screened for colorectal cancer, beginning at age 50. Screening tests include colonoscopy, in which a doctor uses a tiny lit tube to examine the colon (every 10 years), a faecal occult blood test (annually), and a faecal occult blood test with sigmoidoscopy (every five years).

A dental check-up at least once a year, but ideally every six months. Oral health problems can affect other areas of the body.

Severe gum disease, for example, is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease.

A fasting blood test should be given to men with risk factors for diabetes such as a family history of the disease, being overweight, or symptoms of diabetes such as increased thirst and unusually frequent urination. The test measures the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Every male over age 18 should have his blood pressure checked at least once a year.

Men who report a hearing problem or work in a high-noise environment should have their hearing checked.

Cholesterol screening should be conducted on men aged 20 to 35 with cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes.

Men over age 35 should be screened once every five years if the results are normal, and more often if they have borderline levels.

Ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm — an unusual swelling in a blood vessel of the body's largest artery — should be done on men aged 65 to 75 who have ever smoked.

If detected before it ruptures and causes life-threatening bleeding, it can be repaired.

Michelfelder also screens men for smoking, depression and alcohol abuse.

He advises them to control their weight, get enough exercise and avoid risky sexual behaviour.

NYT NEWS SERVICE

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