CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-9917
Release: June 14, 1999
Men encouraged to take preventive health care steps
Editor's note: June 14-20 is National Men's Health Week
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Nationwide, only about four of
11 adults visiting physicians are men, although they die on average seven
years earlier than women. Many men could live healthier and longer by regularly
visiting a physician for basic treatment and examinations -- before symptoms
This is the message the National Men's Health Foundation
and U.S. Congress want to share with men and their families by designating
the week leading up to Father's Day, June 14-20, as National Men's Health
Week. Preventive care is also a message physicians with University of Iowa
Health Care try to get across to men year-round. But what keeps men from taking
a more active role in their own health care?
"Women do a good job of coming in for annual exams,
but men rarely come in on a scheduled basis unless something is bothering
them," said Daniel Fick, M.D., UI associate professor (clinical) of family
medicine. "Many men won't take time off work for a preventive health care
appointment. They may not seek preventive care because deep down they're worried
about being lectured that the way they're living isn't healthy."
Fick recommends that men get a baseline physical from
a primary care provider with whom they can make a plan for ongoing preventive
"The baseline assessment will determine how often
you need to come back," said Fick, who notes that not everyone needs a yearly
"Someone who smokes and has high cholesterol and high
blood pressure may need an annual exam, but a non-smoker in his early 40s
who is healthy doesn't need to come in as frequently," he said. Recent headlines
may confuse many people about the need for exams to check for prostate cancer.
Fick says the prostate-specific antigen test should be administered depending
on age and symptoms of prostate enlargement. He routinely does not use the
PSA test for patients in their 40s or younger. While many men focus on prostate
cancer concerns, there are other factors affecting their
health that often miss their attention. Fick points to
the stress and poor nutrition that accompany working late, attending many
business meetings, adhering to tight deadlines or grabbing food on the run.
"The skills that have allowed a lot of men to be successful
on the job don't reward them when it comes to their health," he said. He adds
that men frequently smoke or drink too much.
Fick tries to help his patients understand that their
lifestyles can catch up with them and cause serious problems. At the same
time, he tries not to overwhelm them with too many recommendations at one
time for changing their behavior.
"I try to focus on one or two problems they don't
view as a threat, such as smoking," he said. "They may not feel the negative
effects at 40 or 50, but it can kill them."
He urges men to cut out tobacco use entirely and keep
moderation in mind when it comes to food and alcohol. It's also important
to exercise regularly and find healthy ways of managing stress, he adds.
Men in their 30s and younger are at greatest risk
of dying from accidents, suicide, homicide or AIDS. Once men reach their 40s,
they are at increased risk of dying due to a heart attack or cancer.
At the UI, research in areas such as prostate cancer
and heart care are helping bring more effective treatments to men, but prevention
beginning in the younger age groups is one of the best ways for men to keep
To help men make a plan for healthy living, the National
Men's Health Week Foundation is
offering a free "Men's Maintenance Manual," developed
in cooperation with the American Academy of Family Physicians. For a copy,
call (800) 955-2002 or make an on-line request at www.menshealth.com.
As with all medical care, first consult your personal
physician before making changes in your health management, such as beginning
an exercise program.