Here's to your health, Dad! Cincinnati MDs weigh in on top 9 health issues affecting the men we love

CINCINNATI - It’s time to salute our fathers! Ties, tools, and golf are great Father’s Day gifts, but what we want most for “Dad” is the gift of good health.

To that end, we compiled a list of 9 health issues facing men. And we consulted local experts for plans on how to tackle them. (Is your dad at risk?)

Brent Kinder, MD: Pulmonary, critical care and internal medicine specialist with Mercy Health

1. Lung Cancer: Lung cancer is the #1 cancer-causing death in men and women.

2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): COPD is a chronic lung disease that develops in smokers, making it difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. It gives you shortness of breath and a productive cough.

Both are tremendously large health problems for men in the Cincinnati area.

“Because of the traditional and historical smoking prevalence,” Kinder said, “I would estimate probably anywhere from five to 10 percent of the male population of chronic smokers develop this (COPD) over time in this region.”

Take Action: Stop Smoking. (Or never start.) “That’s the single best thing you can do to limit the damage. Even if you’ve been smoking for 40 years, you can make a tremendous difference in your health, just by quitting,” Kinder said.

Joel Forman, MD: Cardiologist with The Christ Hospital Physicians 

3. Heart Disease

4. Stroke

Take this seriously. Sudden death is often the first presentation of coronary disease, according to Forman. Doctors say heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the United States and stroke is the third leading cause.

Does your dad know the symptoms? With stroke, he might get slurred speech, dizziness, vision problems, and numbness in face, arm, or legs. With heart disease, he might experience chest discomfort, breathlessness, and extreme fatigue with exertion.

5. Diabetes

Men are twice as likely as women to have undiagnosed diabetes, probably because they are less likely to see a doctor regularly, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes increases the risk for serious health problems that affect the eyes, the feet, the skin, the heart, the kidneys, the heart, and other parts of the body.

Take Action: A healthy lifestyle can help fight diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

“Think about how you live your life every day,” Forman said. “Think about physical activity, diet, sleep, and stress reduction.”

Forman said a Mediterranean-style diet can improve your cardiovascular health and diabetes. The diet includes fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (fish, chicken, & turkey), nuts and seeds in moderation, and olive oil.

Avoid the “all too typical” American diet – super-sized portions, fried foods, red meats, refined sugar, and large amounts of salt. Get regular blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checks.And, again, don’t smoke.

Nita Walker, MD: Primary care and general internal medicine specialist with UC Health

6. Depression

It’s common! More than six million men in the United States have at least one episode of major depression each year, according to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Depression can affect a man’s ability to be productive, Walker said. 

“He may not be able to function as well in his job, in his family, and may isolate himself from family and friends.”

Take Action: If you are stressed and overwhelmed, seek help, so that it doesn’t spiral out of control. Consult a primary care provider and start treatment or counseling, if needed. Sometimes, depression can be lessened by adequate sleep and staying away from alcohol, narcotics, and illegal substances. Walker said some employers offer assistance programs where people can get support in a confidential manner.

Dr. Bernard Lenchitz, MD: Primary care physician with UC Health

7. Alcoholism

Alcoholism is six or seven times more common in men than women, according to Lenchitz.

“It’s one of the most difficult diseases to treat and has a huge impact on the entire family,” he said. "Alcoholism can also lead to pancreatitis, cirrhosis, hepatitis, relationship issues, and lost work days."

If a man has more than 15 drinks per week, he’s considered a heavy drinker, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (For women, it’s eight or more drinks per week.)

Take Action: Recognize that you have a problem and talk to your doctor. Lenchitz said newer medications can help with alcohol abuse.

“The irony is that doctors don’t always screen for alcoholism disorders as much as they could.”

8. Obesity

You might not see many men in Weight Watcher’s meetings, but addressing extra weight is just as important for men as women.

The CDC says approximately one in three adults is overweight. And the epidemic of diabetes is clearly related to weight gain, according to Lenchitz.

“Multiple diseases -- cancers, arthritis, joint replacement, heart issues, respiratory issues -- can improve with weight loss.”

Take Action: Exercise more and decrease your calorie intake. Eliminate 500 calories a day, and you can lose one  pound per week. Alcohol and soda are empty calories. Eliminate them.

9. Procrastination & Denial

Many men are not in the habit of seeing a doctor.

“Often, it’s a partner or spouse who convinces them to come in,” said Walker. Meanwhile, women tend to get more routine screenings, as they come in for gynecological exams and baby visits.

Also, men are less apt to come in for minor problems, where women will seek out advice and want confirmation that there is not a real problem.

“Men, more than women, are in some degree of denial and tend not to go to the doctor unless they are very sick, in my person experience,” Forman said.

Take Action: Just do it. Find a doctor with whom you are comfortable. “It can be one of the best things you ever do for yourself,” Walker said.

Also, get regular medical care to help prevent sudden, bigger medical issues later in life, said Forman.

“We all know stories of men who are doing fine and the next thing he’s mowing the lawn and ends up face down in the grass. Those things, to some degree, can be prevented.”

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