It is Father’s Day, and although we don’t know your preferences in neckties or golf shirts, and we’re pretty sure you don’t need another talking Homer Simpson beer-bottle opener, we do know that good health is a gift everyone enjoys. So we’ve asked five of Philly’s smartest experts on men’s health for their five best ideas to help guys get and stay healthier. Enjoy!
David Becker, M.D. is a board-certified cardiologist at Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology, and associate director of preventive cardiology at the Temple Heart and Vascular Institute.
- When it comes to exercise, don’t be a weekend warrior. The best way to take care of your heart is to exercise two or three days during the week as well as the weekend, emphasizing aerobic activity (walking, running, swimming or biking).
- Give a Father’s Day present to your family, and schedule a medical evaluation. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and sugar levels, as well as any other screenings you need.
- If you weigh too much, resolve to try to lose some weight. Be a good role model for your kids. Start by cutting down on both sugar and junk carbs. This includes cutting back on junk food and soda, as well as foods containing white flour, such as pasta, bagels, and pretzels.
- Make sure you aren’t making yourself sick. If you take prescription medications for high cholesterol or diabetes, do everything possible from a lifestyle point of view to be sure that these medications are really needed, and not the result of problems that have developed because of weight and being sedentary.
- Don’t ignore real signs of trouble. If you begin to experience dizziness, excessive fatigue, unusually heavy sweating, rapid or irregular heartbeat, increased shortness of breath, or chest discomfort, or do not recover quickly after strenuous activity, see your doctor right away. Do not ignore these symptoms, just hoping they will go away. You want to be around to see your kids grow up!
The sports medicine doctor
Brian Sennett, M.D., is the chief of sports medicine and vice chairman of orthopedic surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Fuel your system. The best way to exercise maximally is to fuel your body. Your diet should be a mix of well-balanced foods rich in vegetables and polyunsaturated fats such as fish. But fuel consists of not only food. Try to get eight hours of sleep a night to optimize performance and recovery. Also, consider taking a multivitamin and at least 1,300 mg of calcium a day.
- Decrease injuries. Consider the concept of cross-training. Working out with a varied approach allows the body a chance to recover from overuse. As our bodies age, the internal recovery process is slower, and cross-training allows us to continue to exercise by stressing different parts of our musculoskeletal system.
- Keep your weight under control. A higher body-mass index places a father at increased risk of developing arthritis, pre-diabetes, and high blood pressure. It is also easier to exercise with a light body as the knees experience up to eight times your body weight when moving.
- Don’t smoke. In addition to preventing lung diseases including cancer, emphysema, and chronic breathing problems, smoking increases your risk of colorectal cancer, which is more common in men.
- Listen to your body. If soreness occurs, utilize the time-honored approach of rest, ice, and inflammation medicine. If problems persist, see a physician.
Alexander Kutikov, M.D., specializes in urology and surgical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
- Don’t freak out about erectile dysfunction, but don’t ignore it. Impotence is common and there are lots of ways to fix it. Depending on the cause, treatment can range from medication to lifestyle changes. It can be a symptom of cardiovascular disease, especially in younger men. So, you do need to seek treatment.
- Discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor. Experts agree that men who are considering PSA testing should understand the risks, as well as the benefits, of early detection. The balance can vary, depending on age, health, family history, and personal preferences. Find a health-care provider who understands the trade-offs.
- Get enough sleep. Yes, that’s easier said than done. But urinary problems — such as frequent nighttime urinating and that “gotta go” feeling — can be worsened by a lack of sound sleep. Some men can break the poor-sleep spiral with help from medications that reduce nocturnal bathroom visits.
- Don’t ignore blood in your urine. That sounds like a no-brainer, except to men with an aversion to white coats. In my world, I often see men who brush off this symptom for months or years, allowing their urologic cancers – prostate, bladder, kidney – to progress.
- Be wary of easy fixes for “Low T.” Testosterone supplements have been marketed to boost energy, libido, and mood in aging men. But this year, the first study to rigorously test that strategy found that the hormone was hardly a youth elixir and increased coronary artery plaque. It’s not a panacea, and it has some risks, so you need to see an expert such as an endocrinologist for careful evaluation.
The personal trainer
- Master the basics of the gym. Learn how to do squats, dead lifts, push-ups, and pull-ups. If that seems like a lot, just start with dead lifts. Keeping your body strong will do more to preserve your youth and vitality than anything else, and you can do it in just a couple hours a week.
- Cultivate a long-term fitness mindset. Forget about getting a six-pack or big arms for the summer. What do you want to look and feel like a year from now? Five years? Think lifetime, act daily.
- Consistency beats intensity, always. Crushing a single workout is great, but showing up, even when you don’t feel like it, week after week — that’s what gets you to your goal.
- Learn how to build a healthy plate of food. Stop eating like a frat boy. Prioritize lean protein, vegetables, and fruit. Carbs and fat aren’t evil, but keep them in check. The rare junk food treat is great, but the operative word is “rare.”
- Meditate. A resilient body should be piloted by an equally resilient mind. However hectic life can get, carving out 10 minutes daily to practice mindfulness and self-awareness pays massive dividends in productivity and personal relationships. Health goes beyond the physical.
George James is affiliated with the Council for Relationships and program director of Couples and Family Therapy Program at Thomas Jefferson University.
- Put it down. Yes, that means your cell phone, tablet, or laptop. Given the way many men work and live, they can feel as if they always have to answer that call, text, or email. You also need to be able to focus on your own life and the people in it. Technology is supposed to serve us, not the other way around.
- Make time to enjoy your kids. For some men, it’s often all about the charge to work hard, make more money, provide for your family. Sometimes, the time off is more valuable. Go to a Phillies’ game. Take a walk. Get concert tickets. Have a conversation. Be a real dad. Those are the memories you will savor.
- Make time for yourself. Do you need an extra hour of sleep? Missing the gym? Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read? Can’t remember the last time you and the guys had some court time? You need to take care of yourself. Take the time to recharge physically and mentally.
- Friends matter. I see so many clients get isolated. It’s all work and family. Connect with people outside of your family in good, healthy ways – have a laugh, play softball, catch up with your best friend from high school. Friendship is part of a full life.
- Friday night is date night. Or Saturday. Or Tuesday. Or Sunday afternoon. You and your significant other need time alone – for romance, for fun, for uninterrupted conversation. And it’s also a good example for children and what they are learning to expect in their own future relationships. My children are only 4 and 6 years old, but they know that Friday night is mom and dad’s date night. It’s just a part of our family culture. It’s a model for them — to be connected.