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Father’s Day Special—savings include lives and limbs

Consumer Reports News: June 13, 2008 07:19 PM

Many men—and especially those of you who read Consumer Reports—take great care of their cars. You know that, if properly serviced at specified intervals, they can last a very long time. You check the engine oil monthly, wash the body every week, service the brakes and rotate the tires. You take your automobiles in for regular tune-ups and for repair at the first sign of trouble. So why should the average male—be he husband, father, brother, or son—treat his body with any less care?

In an American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Harris Interactive survey of over 1,000 men taken last June, more than half admitted that they hadn’t seen their primary care physicians for a physical within the past year. Thirty-six percent admitted that they put off going to a doctor until they got really sick and 23% thought that because they were healthy they have no reason to make an appointment.

But by avoiding the doctor you just lose the opportunity of catching problems early. Conditions that could have been prevented—kidney damage from high blood pressure, heart disease from high cholesterol, or circulation problems from diabetes, to name a few—may become life-threatening when discovered late. Many diseases are "silent" and, if you wait until you get sick, it may be too late.

It's often your wives who make your doctors' appointments and push you to get health problems checked. If you're a man who hasn't been seeing a physician regularly, don't wait for a concerned partner—or a health crisis—to force the issue.

  • Get a checkup. That's an essential first step. In addition to a thorough medical history and a look at your health habits, a good initial checkup includes a range of screening tests and procedures.
  • Know your body. Like your car, learn how it works, particularly the heart and circulatory system, the urinary and reproductive systems, and the digestive tract. Becoming more familiar with your body and its functions will make discussions less intimidating - and may even impress you enough to motivate yourself to take better care of it.
  • Know the risks. Learn the risk factors and warning signs of the most common and serious medical problems for men: coronary heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes. If you notice a possible warning sign, don't shrug it off. For instance, erectile dysfunction may reflect underlying coronary disease; constipation could be an early symptom of colo-rectal cancer.
  • Don't be shy. Problems with urinary and sexual function are common. If discussing such problems embarrasses you, just remember that there's nothing you can tell your doctor that he or she hasn't heard before. Besides, there's often a very good chance you can be helped. By staying mum, you cheat yourself.
  • Take care. Pay attention to the many steps you can take to improve your health—a list that's probably familiar to you by now, but bears repeating, since men tend to be reluctant converts: Stop smoking. Drink only in moderation. Eat less fat and more fruits and vegetables. Lose weight if you need to. Wear your seat belt. Start an exercise program, or at least become more active. Make this Father's Day a time to resolve to take care of yourself.

Orly Avitzur, M.D., medical adviser, Consumers Union

See our special guide for Father's Day gifts ideas.


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