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June is the month to remind fathers, grandfathers and all men to take care of themselves. Often, it takes family members to urge men to visit the doctor or go for check-ups.

Research and surveys show that men are less likely than women to see a healthcare provider when they’re not feeling well, says “In one survey, 40 percent of men said that, if sick, they would delay seeking medical care for a few days, while 17 percent said they would wait ‘at least a week’.”

The article goes on to say that women take better care of themselves, by having a regular healthcare provider and getting check-ups. Many women simply continue the pattern of routine healthcare checks started during their child-bearing years.

The reasons men don’t seek medical care can run the gamut from, “I don’t have a doctor,” to “I’d rather tough it out,” the American Heart Association says, in “The Top 10 Reasons Why Men Put Off Doctor Visits.”

A HealthWatch article from May 2017 points out that by the time a man is confronted face-to-face with his physician, he may struggle somewhat to discuss the main reason he’s there. For many, discussing urinary tract problems, excessive drinking or HIV is difficult.

“Living into my 60s — with HIV diagnosed 30 years ago — I never expected to last into the 21st century,” said 62-year-old author Michael Varga. “Today, I savor all of the pluses in my life — stable health, good friends and a daily walk around the block.”

In the mid-1990s, making a physician’s appointment helped save Varga’s life. Varga made the phone call on his own, following an earlier diagnosis of HIV. That’s when a physician told him how important it would be to take care of himself — ASAP!

Varga left his State Department career almost immediately. He started writing his long-delayed novel, “Under Chad’s Spell”, while following his doctor’s orders. His earlier career had included a Peace Corps assignment in Africa, and for years he had wanted to write a book about his experiences.

He learned he was not alone in his diagnosis. People aged 50 and over account for an estimated 45 percent of Americans living with diagnosed HIV today, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But studies show that men, especially older men, fall behind when it comes to taking charge of their personal health.

Varga was fortunate in learning to take control of his health when he did.“I might add that as a long-term survivor with HIV, I remember all of the people I knew back in the 1980s and 1990s who were cheated out of life due to a disease that we, through the wonders of medicine, understand much better today.”

He “treasures the life he has,” and said he’s grateful knowing that his story could have had a very different — and shorter — ending.

According to CDC, people with HIV are living longer, thanks to better treatments. And it is much the same with heart disease and diabetes, two health risks which are not always diagnosed in their early stages. Today’s medications, treatments and lifestyle changes can lead to many more healthier and happier years.

Depression is another health struggle for retired men, especially those who skip their regular doctor visits. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Men may be more likely to feel very tired and irritable and lose interest a few weeks or months after retirement. The American Psychiatric Association suggests, “Too few men consider the psychological adjustments that come with retirement.”

Experts on aging encourage older men to get involved with language studies, plan a trip, try their hand at an art class or learn to play bridge. New activities exercise the brain and keep social contacts strong.

“I’m convinced the secret to sticking around longer is remaining socially engaged with the rest of our human cohorts, and that’s what makes a difference,” Varga said.


Some Simple Tips for a Healthier Life

Older adult men should double-check their immunization schedules andmake certain they’re up to date. Some immunizations require updates with newer and more effective medications.

Playing golf, boating and enjoying outside activities requires sunscreen. It’s extremely important to protect aging skin from UV sunrays, which can do considerable damage.

Strength exercises go a long way to improving your muscle tone. It can be as easy as walking with 5-pound weights. As always, it’s important to check with your healthcare provider about exercise programs before trying anything new.


Lifespan Tip Sheet for Older Adults

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has a few more good ideas to share.

  • Eat breakfast every day.
  • Select high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, vegetables and fruits.
  • Have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese every day to help keep your bones strong as you age.
  • Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids.
  • Ask your health are provider about ways you can safely increase your physical activity.
  • Fit physical activity into your everyday life. Take short walks throughout your day.
  • Stay connected with family, friends and your community

Medicare-Covered Preventive Services of Particular Interest to Men

From the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Medicare provides coverage of a wide range of preventive services, subject to certain eligibility and coverage requirements, that are especially meaningful to men in helping them prevent and detect disease, including but not limited to:

  • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
  • Annual wellness visit (providing personalized prevention plan services)
  • Cancer screenings
    • Colorectal cancer: fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, barium enema and Cologuard™ multi-target stool DNA test
    • Prostate cancer: digital rectal exam and prostate specific antigen test
    • Screening for lung cancer with low dose computed tomography
  • Cardiovascular disease screening
  • Diabetes screening
  • Glaucoma screening
  • Hepatitis C screening
  • HIV screening
  • Immunizations (seasonal influenza, pneumococcal and hepatitis B)
  • Initial preventive physical examination (IPPE) (also commonly referred to as the “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit)
  • Intensive behavioral therapy for cardiovascular disease
  • Intensive behavioral therapy for obesity
  • Screening for depression
  • Screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and high-intensity behavioral counseling (HIBC) to prevent STIs
  • Tobacco-use and cessation counseling

Judi Kanne

Judi Kanne is a public health communications consultant and contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.