JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
June is Men’s Health Month, a time to encourage men to “take the bull by the horns” and focus on their health and wellness.
“This month is an opportunity to educate, empower and energize men to make healthy choices and to focus on preventable health problems,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Travis Batts, medical director, Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center’s Cardiology Department. “As much as I enjoy seeing patients, I would much rather see them walking around healthy and happy than in my cardiac catheterization lab.”
Research indicates that men sorely need the encouragement. According to a 2022 Cleveland Clinic survey, more than half of the male participants said they don’t go for regular health screenings and over half are unaware of their complete family history, to include cancer and urological issues. Additionally, about one-third have never been screened for prostate, bladder, or testicular cancer.
In the 2019 version of this survey, 72 percent of men indicated they would prefer to do household chores, such as mowing the lawn or cleaning a bathroom, rather than go to a doctor.
Why the rampant doctor dodging among men? The survey indicates it’s due, in part, to men’s embarrassment about discussing sensitive issues such as sexual or urinary troubles or reluctance to change their diet or lifestyle.
“It’s not easy to talk about erectile dysfunction or difficulties urinating, but well worth it since there are so many treatment options,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Christopher Allam, program director for the urology residency and urology consultant to the Air Force surgeon general.
“In other words, don’t be shy about sharing your symptoms.”
“Men are notoriously stubborn when it comes to healthcare,” added Army Col. (Dr.) Anish Patel, a gastroenterologist and director of Brooke Army Medical Center’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center. “But we don’t want someone to suffer in silence or avoid routine care that can help detect and prevent issues from snowballing.”
Risk factors for the leading causes of death for men -- which include heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries – can, in many cases, be reduced or prevented. When educating men about their health, Batts focuses on what he calls his “three Ps”: preventive, practical and performance based.
To start, Batts would like to see men take preventive measures before potentially fatal symptoms start. While risk factors such as age and family history are not modifiable, other factors -- such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity – can be modified by making healthier lifestyle choices when it comes to activity, nutrition and sleep, he said.
Men (and women) should strive to get to and stay at a healthy weight by balancing calories taken in with the amount of physical activity they do; eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and striving for seven to nine hours of sleep a night, Batts recommended.
Other healthy choices include avoiding tobacco completely and either avoiding alcohol or limiting consumption to one alcoholic drink per day for women and two per day for men.
Additionally, regular checkups and screening tests, such as colonoscopies and prostate exams, are key to prevention. The American Cancer Society recommends men discuss the best timing for screening tests and frequency of checkups with their health care provider. For screening recommendations by age, visit https://www.cancer.org/cancer/screening/screening-recommendations-by-age.html
For the second P, Batts believes in a practical approach to wellness. “We want to give men practical strategies to achieve their goals,” he explained. “If you’re an elite athlete, we will help you ramp up. If you’re a sedentary dad or an older individual, we will provide safe, healthy ways to get up and moving.”
The final P centers on performance. “We want to take you from that place where you’re limited and think about what you can’t do and flip it around and focus on what you can do, whether it’s serving at the tip of the spear, running a marathon, or simply wanting to go outside and throw a ball with your kids,” Batts explained.
Additionally, when a doctor’s visit is in order, it’s important for men to be as open and transparent as possible, whether it’s dealing with difficulties urinating or concerns about weight or alcohol use, Patel said.
“The more we know, the more we can help,” he said.
Lifestyle changes are not easy, but the long-term payoff is well worth the short-term discomfort, Batts noted.
“For many men, it starts off gradually, subtly … you gain a few pounds or stop your daily walks, but these choices can lead to serious health issues over time,” he said. “This month we’re going to take this bull by the horns and encourage men to make a change.”