June is Men’s Health Month

Monday, June 5, 2017

by Richard DeFord

Fitzgibbon Hospital

June is recognized as Men’s Health Month by health organizations and was anchored by Congress in 1994 with the establishment of Men’s Health Week, also in June. The month’s focus encourages men to take charge of their health before it becomes an issue for them.

“Typically at age 35, a man should start seeing their doctor every year for a physical, which will include a check of their blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol,” said Matthew Oxford, M.D., board-certified family practice physician at Marshall Family Practice. Dr. Oxford will establish his clinic full-time at the Akeman McBurney Medical Clinic in Slater, beginning Monday, June 19. “By starting annual visits at age 35, it gives us an opportunity to establish a baseline for their blood pressure and other health indicators before they become more of a problem later on.”

During an initial visit, your physician will ask about risk factors for health issues including diseases that run in your family such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. As part of that initial visit, your physician will also gauge lifestyle including activity level, use of tobacco or alcohol or other factors that may lead to disease in the future.

“Asking these questions gives us a heads-up in how to address preventative care with our patients,” said Oxford.

One of the best things an individual can do to lower their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and other health issues is to exercise, but Dr. Oxford is quick to mention that this exercise doesn’t have to be burdensome.

“The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week, on top of your regular work, even if that job is a physical job. That doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy shoes and join a gym. But it is important to elevate your heart rate with a good starting point being 30 minutes a day, five days a week,” said Oxford.

One disease that affects men is type 2 diabetes which can be months or years in the making. In fact, many men may not even have symptoms of type 2 diabetes until the disease becomes a problem. Dr. Oxford says that is why it is so important for the annual checkup.

“The reason why you go and see your physician is to be able to mitigate these issues before they become a problem for you, even if you don’t think you have a problem. Sometimes we can see the onset of diabetes coming on gradually and if we catch it early, it is much easier to change some behaviors that might prevent you from becoming fully diabetic,” said Oxford.

Before an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, they might notice that they have some changes in vision. They may experience excessive thirst and urination. Yeast infections in the folds of the skin are also common, however, it is important to realize you can still have diabetes without having the above mentioned symptoms, which underscores the need for the annual visit with your physician.

In addition to heart disease and diabetes, both of which trend higher than national and state average in Saline County, men also struggle with smoking, which can lead to complications that many are not even aware of.

“One of the risks of smoking is called abdominal aortic aneurism which, if it is not detected and fixed before it ruptures, will be fatal. It is recommended that any man between the ages of 65 and 75, who has smoked 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, be tested for it,” said Oxford. “The test involves using an ultrasound machine to look at the structure of the abdominal aorta to discover a potential area of concern. The good thing is that Medicare covers the one-time test.”

Smoking is a challenging addiction to break, like any addiction. But Dr. Oxford says there are three important parts of kicking the smoking habit.

“First, you have to want to quit. Once you have made up your mind on that, then we deal with the nicotine addiction. We can help with some nicotine replacement items like gum, patches, and even medications if needed,” said Oxford. “The third part is the habit and behavioral adjustment. “When I drink coffee in the morning, I want a cigarette,”, “when I get in the car, I want a cigarette,”, “when I eat lunch I want a cigarette,”, “I’m happy, I want a cigarette,”, “I’m mad, I want a cigarette.” You have to have a plan for that. Some people chew on toothpicks and some people are even using these fidget spinners to help with those thoughts.”

There are those who have success in stopping smoking by quitting cold turkey, but Oxford says that making changes in your lifestyle doesn’t have to be so dramatic.

“I have had patients who set a date to quit, and they smoke up all their cigarettes leading up to the day they choose. It is like they are going to jump off a cliff and they hit rock bottom,” said Oxford. “I tell people to decide to try it for a day and see how it goes. Maybe you make it through the whole day and maybe you don’t. It is the same way with exercise. You decide today that you are going to wake up and brush your teeth and eat breakfast. You go through your day with a little checklist in your head. Well, add exercise to the checklist. Add “don’t smoke,” said Oxford. “Maybe you will be successful in achieving it today, maybe you won’t but that is a better approach than “Friday is doomsday.”

Dr. Oxford is moving his practice, full-time, to the Akeman McBurney Medical Clinic in Slater. Akeman McBurney Medical Clinic is located at 420 West Front Street in Slater and you can call 660-529-2251 to make your appointment.