It's hard to get guys between the ages of 20 and 40 into a doctor's office. And lest you think it's simply stereotype talking, consider this: Very often, men won't even see a doctor of their own volition – but are brought in because of their wives, says Royal Oak Beaumont Health System physician Dr. Richard Weiermiller.
And since National Men's Health Week is right ahead of Father's Day, that makes this a great time to revisit some of the basics. We put together a nuts-and-bolts list of health issues Dr. Weiermiller handles with men most frequently and what dads should, could and can do to take care of themselves – for themselves and, of course, their kids.
1. Diet and exercise
What Weiermiller ends up emphasizing the most to his male patients is the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Too many men, he says, don't pay attention to the food they eat – or eat too much – and don't set aside the time for exercise.
The importance of good eating and staying active can't be underestimated, as an unhealthy diet can lead to increased risks for a multitude of diseases and other health issues.
2. Handling stress
Another issue that Weiermiller comes across very often in his practice is levels of stress and how men deal. Many struggle with how to find time to take care of themselves while also focusing on a career, a family, house, bills … and on and on.
"There's a lot of pressure on men to just 'suck it up and deal with it,'" he says. "In this age range, it really hits home."
Stress is also affected by diet, exercise and sleep. If you're not sleeping well, it usually means you aren't dealing with your stresses well, Weiermiller says.
Weiermiller also says that risk-taking behavior is a response to stress he sees in younger men, which can also lead to very dangerous health issues.
The best way to take care of yourself so that you aren't overwhelmed with stress is mostly related to our first point – eating healthy and exercising. But getting good sleep is also very vital to help maintain and appropriately handle stress.
3. Bad habits
Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs – and even something as simple as not appropriating enough time for sleep – are all big risk factors for men.
"I think men in general are more prone to some of those bad habits," Weiermiller says. "Guys' night out is going out to the bar and having a cigar."
The main problem with bad habits is that they are all things men use to combat daily stress. Which may seem like it's helpful, but really isn't helping yourself at all.
"It's good to dissipate stress," he said, "but not if your method is creating an equally bad health problem."
The best way to deal with bad habits such as smoking and drinking is to identify them and then find out what you can to do limit or all-together get rid of them, Weiermiller says.
4. Preventative habits
One very important step men can take to stay healthy is building preventative habits, such as being aware of (and looking out for) symptoms of health issues, as well as attending physicals.
"We're lucky to see most guys for a physical once in each decade," Weiermiller says.
What should dads be looking out for? Their highest cancer risk across all ages is testicular cancer, Weiermiller said, but men closer to 40 should also be on the lookout for colon and prostate cancers.
Although there is much debate on exact number, Weiermiller recommends that men ages 20-40 should go in for a physical every few years. But from age 40 on, they should be getting a yearly.
5. Family history
The last item on our list is certainly not the least important. Knowing your family history is vital to understanding your risk factors based on what health issues run in your genes.
"I can't tell you how many guys come in the office who don't know their family history," Weiermiller says.
Many times men feel awkward or cautious prying into their relatives' personal health lives, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. It's important for men to know their family's history, and it's important for their families to know their history, he says. It's one the most important pieces of information you can have at a doctor's office.
So keep at it, dads! We want you to be happy and healthy this Father's Day – and every day.