Family Health: New Year’s resolution for men, prioritize your health

Putting your own health care on the back burner is an equal-opportunity habit – we’ve all done it at some point. But for many men it’s their default position. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about one in three men avoid seeing their doctor unless they are extremely sick. Men also are more likely to make unhealthy choices like smoking and excessive drinking.

A more proactive strategy can go a long way toward keeping men healthy – and New Year's resolutions are the ideal platform to make that happen. Here’s a list to get you started:

Get involved with your health. Make an appointment for a checkup and tell your doctor about anything that’s bothering you. That can include emotional issues as well as physical ones – for example, feelings of anxiety or sadness can get in the way of activities you used to enjoy. Some areas can be hard to talk about, but don’t hold back. Doctors have heard it all.

Get screened. Regular screening tests can uncover problems early, when they can be treated more easily and more effectively. Depending on your age and risks, you should be screened for:

  • High blood pressure. Adults should be checked at least every two years.
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels. Have this checked regularly beginning at age 35. Start earlier if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease.
  • Colon cancer. Start this screening at age 50, or earlier if someone in your family has had this disease. Your doctor can tell you which of several colon cancer screening tests is best for you.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm. Have this test if you are between age 65 and 75 and have ever smoked.

Men with certain health risks should also be screened for other conditions, such as hepatitis C, lung cancer, HIV and diabetes. Ask your doctor if any of these tests are right for you.

Take a good look at your everyday habits. Healthy lifestyle choices like these can have significant benefits for your health:

  • Don’t smoke. If you do, quitting can add years to your life. Get help with quitting at montana.quitlogix.org.
  • Get some exercise. Staying active cuts your risks for many diseases. It can be harder to find activities in the winter, but simply walking is a good start. Consider joining a gym, and ask a friend to join with you. The support – and competition – can keep you committed. Check with your doctor first if you have a chronic illness.