Did you know that many of the major health risks men face can be prevented and treated with early diagnosis? Atrium Health’s Jason Fishel, MD, talks about why it’s important for men to see their doctor and take control of their health.

Mens Health | 10 months ago

Speak Up, Be Proactive: A Guide to Men's Health

Did you know that many of the major health risks men face can be prevented and treated with early diagnosis? Atrium Health’s Jason Fishel, MD, talks about why it’s important for men to see their doctor and take control of their health. 

We get it, men typically don’t love seeking medical help. But it’s so important for men to understand preventable health problems and to have those diagnosed and treated early.

Jason M. Fishel, MD , an internal medicine physician at Atrium Health Mecklenburg Medical Group wants men to take control of their health and get screened — even if this isn’t always their first instinct. As men enter middle age at around 40 years old, it becomes even more important to keep an eye on your health.

“Men can sometimes have a more stoic attitude about their health,” says Dr. Fishel. “But it’s important to speak up and build a close, trusting relationship with your primary care physician.”

What to discuss with your physician

Dr. Fishel recommends that men go to their primary care physician for a physical annually. During this physical, it’s important to have your blood tested and your vital signs checked. A physical gives you an open forum to discuss any symptoms you might have, such as chest pain, decreased tolerance for exercise, breathing issues, sleeping issues or any other concerns you have.

A physical is also a chance to discuss your family medical history. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, prostate cancer or colon cancer, you’ll want to make this clear to your physician as this history can affect when you get screened for these diseases.

“If you have an immediate family member, such as a brother or father who had prostate cancer, you’ll want to be screened at around 40 or 45,” explains Dr. Fishel. African-American men also tend to have a higher risk of prostate cancer and should consider getting screened at a younger age.

You’ll also want to be aware of early colon cancer screening. If, for instance, your immediate family member was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 55, you’ll want to get screened 10 years younger, at 45.

Another area of concern that sometimes goes ignored is anxiety and depression, says Dr. Fishel. Men are just as likely to struggle with these conditions despite being reported less often. Your physician is there to have an open, non-judgmental dialog with you — so always let him or her know if you’re experiencing a change in mood, high stress levels or a change in appetite or sleep habits.

Kick bad habits, start good habits

What happens in the physician’s office is crucial for your health. But what happens outside of the clinic and in your everyday life can be where a healthy lifestyle begins. And when it comes to health concerns for men, heart disease is at the top of the list — which makes maintaining a healthy body weight and normalizing your cholesterol so crucial.

When it comes to eating, Dr. Fishel recommends the Mediterranean diet, which is a diet high in healthy fats, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. In general, avoiding added sugars, particularly in beverages, is another way to keep your weight under control.

In addition to changes in diet, getting regular exercise is also important. “In general, cardiovascular exercise is anything that causes a sustained elevation in heart rate,” says Dr. Fishel. “For those of us who aren’t marathon runners or mountain climbers, even walking around the block can count as good exercise.” It’s recommended that you get 150 minutes of exercise on a weekly basis — and keep in mind that these workouts need not be divided equally throughout the week.

The testosterone question

One question that Dr. Fishel has been getting more and more involves low testosterone. With more direct-to-consumer products on the market that look to address this issue, it’s on the minds of many men.

Common symptoms of low testosterone include changes in energy, changes in sex drive and changes in muscle mass. Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have a low testosterone level, but it’s worth checking your blood if you have concerns.

“Sometimes men are hesitant to discuss these kinds of issues with a doctor,” said Dr. Fishel. “But this isn’t an issue that you have to deal with on your own. Have an open discussion with your physician, and they can refer you to a specialist who can help you.”

And remember: This is the case with any health concern a man might be having. Your care team is there to hear your concerns, support you and get you the help you need — which is a process that becomes all the more important as you reach middle age.