Men encouraged to take personal health seriously

Initiative presses for routine doctor visits, illness prevention

by Maria Polletta – Jun. 18
The Arizona Republic

Ed Salas takes two prescriptions every day, a blood thinner and a blood-pressure pill.

According to Salas, that’s two too many.

The 74-year-old Scottsdale resident said he tries to manage most health issues on his own, visiting the doctor only for annual tests or if a problem demands professional care.

Although Salas’ willingness to go in for annual screenings puts him a step ahead of many American men, his do-it-yourself attitude is indicative of the way a lot of men in Arizona and across the U.S. approach their health.

Men’s Health Week, June 13-19, aims to combat that approach.

The international initiative encourages awareness of preventable health problems and promotes early disease detection among men and boys.

“A lot of men tend to wait until they really feel they’re in poor health before they go to the doctor,” said Wayne Tormala, men’s health coordinator for the Arizona Department of Health Services. “(A condition) might’ve been there for years before they finally discover it. And, by the time they do, it’s a much more complicated issue to manage.”

That’s one reason men have a shorter life expectancy than women, both in Arizona and throughout the U.S., Tormala said.

Although 86 percent of Arizona men ranked their health as “good,” “very good” or “excellent” on the state’s most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Survey completed in 2009, more men than women died of all but two of the 10 leading causes of death in Arizona during that year.

When compared with national averages, Arizona men are also more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or strokes, according to a June 8 statement from the ADHS.

Arizona men rank poorly in terms of being obese or heavy drinkers, the statement said.

“For some reason, we (men) think that we’re infallible,” said Fred Taylor, executive director of the Southwest Prostate Cancer Foundation. “We think, ‘The other guy’s going to get it, it’s not gonna hit me,’ and that’s just not true,” he said.

Taylor, who also hosts a weekly radio show on chronic diseases, said he has seen gradual improvement in men taking ownership of their health.

When the foundation first began offering free prostate-cancer screenings, roughly 70 percent of callers requesting appointments were women calling on behalf of husbands or other male relatives, he said. Now, about 30 percent of callers are women.

“It’s happening slowly,” Taylor said, “but men are starting to realize that they play a vital role in this thing called a family and that they need to listen to their bodies.”

In order to more effectively prevent or manage health conditions, officials encourage men to eat well and exercise, familiarize themselves with their family medical histories and “know their numbers” when it comes to blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.

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