When Richard Dyer needed a physical to obtain VA benefits, he was surprised to find he had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and pre-diabetes type 2.
He had been feeling sluggish, drained of energy and seemed to be fighting a constant minor cold or flu he couldn’t quite knock off. But he brushed off the symptoms as signs of aging since he was nearing 60.
“I figured it was all downhill from here,” he said with grin.
Dyer isn’t alone when it comes to ignoring signs of problems or avoiding a trip to a general practitioner for a yearly physical. Men, and particularly single men, are more likely to skip regular doctor visits until a significant symptom interferes with their daily activities.
Health officials say that can be can be deadly.
National Men’s Health Week begins Monday and is intended to bring awareness to health issues affecting men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top 10 deadliest health issues for men include heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, suicide, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease and influenza.
According to American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading case of death among American males, killing 307,225 men in 2009. It is estimated that 8.5 percent of white males, 7.9 percent of black males, and 6.3 percent of Mexican Americans have coronary heart disease.
Most startling is that half to those men who die from heart disease have no previous symptoms.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
Excessive alcohol use
According to the American Cancer Society, the main types of cancers suffered by males include prostate, colon, lung and skin cancers.
Prostate cancer risk increases as a man gets older, typically occurring in males over the age of 65 and having one or more relatives with prostate cancer increases the risk.
Men beginning at age 45 should discuss their specific risks with their doctor and determine if they should begin testing. Some harm from testing might outweigh the benefits in some cases.
Colon cancer can develop in males and females, typically found in ages 50 and older. Those with a personal family history of colon cancer or who have polyps in their colon or rectum or suffer from inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends testing for polyps and cancer should begin at age 50. They might include a Flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy, a double-contrast barium enema or a CT Colonography (visual colonoscopy).
Lung cancer is caused 80 percent of the time by smoking, although even nonsmokers can develop the disease. Those at risk because of smoking or a history of smoking or who live with a smoker should be tested even if symptoms are not present.
The best defense against cancers of any type is early detection before it spreads.
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death of Americans. According to the American Stroke Association, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Risk factors include:
High blood pressure
Unhealthy lifestyle without healthy diet and exercise
Stroke is not age discriminatory. It can hit at any age if the risk factors are present.
Type 2 diabetes, also referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form, affecting as many as 90 to 95 percent of those living with diabetes. Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may include:
Frequent thirst and hunger
Unusual weight loss or gain
Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
It is important for everyone to become mindful of their body’s “normal healthy symptoms”, stay proactive in maintaining good health by making healthy choices, and maintain regular well checkups to set a baseline for optimal health. Men are typically less comfortable discussing health topics, which could put them at an increased risk for certain diseases that might have been avoided.
Dyer has become proactive in his own health by watching his cholesterol, blood pressure and following a fitness and nutrition plan. A reversal of his main symptoms was experienced almost immediately after making significant changes, he said.
“I feel younger than I have for quite a few years.”