Jun 22, 2022 Men’s Health Month—Enriching Your Health and Wellness Through Proper Screenings and Care

two men jogging

Studies show men tend to be more hesitant when it comes to seeking medical care—whether it be scheduling routine check-ups or seeking medical advice for an emerging concern. Therefore, the majority of men often do not receive the insight, guidance and care they need to monitor their health and make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to avoid serious medical consequences.

Mitchell Kim, MD, CAQSM
Mitchell Kim, MD, CAQSM

National Men’s Health Month, recognized in June, aims to shed light on this issue, raising awareness of the importance of health care for men and encouraging men to implement healthy lifestyle choices. Additionally, it is a time to highlight the importance of early detection, treatment and preventive steps necessary to avoid illnesses and diseases, to help men stay well. Mitchell Kim, MD, CAQSM, a Family Medicine and Sports Medicine expert, an RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group provider in Eatontown affiliated with Monmouth Medical Center, addresses common questions men may have regarding their health and the steps they can take to live a long, healthy life.

Q. What can a male patient expect at his annual exam?

A. Starting at around age 18, we recommend patients see a primary doctor once a year, even if you feel great. The annual exam includes a physical exam, a blood pressure check, a urine sample and blood work that tests for diabetes, cholesterol, vitamin D and thyroid levels.

Q. What are some of the most important preventive screenings you do for male patients?

A. As primaries, we try to prevent disease from happening—the three big ones are hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Blood pressure tests are a routine part of a doctor’s visit. We start screening patients for high blood pressure (hypertension) starting around age 18.

Diabetes is another common cause of death for men, and some risk factors to be mindful of include obesity and family history. Alarmingly, approximately one third of people with diabetes do not know they have it. The best way to find out is to visit your health care provider and get a simple blood test.

Getting tested for your cholesterol levels is also important because people typically do not experience any signs or symptoms from high cholesterol. Having high cholesterol levels is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

These conditions can be managed with help of your doctor through medication, diet and exercise, but the sooner you know the better.

Q. What about colon and prostate cancer screenings?

A. We go by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for colon cancer screening, which advise to screen for colon cancer between the ages of 45-75, once every 10 years if the results are normal. Alternatively, we can order a fecal immunochemical test, where every 1-3 years patients send a stool sample to get tested.

If a patient has symptoms or a family history of prostate cancer, the recommendation is to screen periodically between the ages of 55 and 69. If you have an abnormal prostate-specific antigen (PSA), you might be biopsied by a urologist.

Q. What should male patients know about urologic conditions?

A. Many men don’t think about their urologic health until something goes wrong. But it’s common to experience difficulties with the urinary tract—the bladder, kidneys, ureters, urethra, surrounding tissues and parts of the male reproductive anatomy. Urologic problems can happen to anyone. Proper functioning of the urinary tract and related systems are vital to good health, so it’s important to consult a urologist with specialized expertise if you experience difficulties, including bladder control problems, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, prostate enlargement, or erectile dysfunction.

Q: What can men do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

A: It is crucial to quit smoking in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. By smoking or using any tobacco product, you are harming nearly every organ of your body. It is no surprise that smoking causes a number of diseases that significantly reduce your general health, including cancer, lung disease, stroke and coronary heart disease—it also affects fertility, bone health and more.

Additionally, it is important to fuel your body with good, nutritious food. Fill your diet with whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein. Be sure to limit foods high in saturated fats and sodium. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For exercise, aim for 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity 4-6 times a week. You have to create good habits at a young age because a bad habit is hard to break.

Q. What about mental health? How should a male patient who is feeling anxious or depressed get help?

A. Men generally don’t like talking about their mental health problems, but they should feel comfortable opening up to their primary doctor. Everything you say in that exam room is confidential and we can offer help and resources.

Q: At what age should I start to be concerned about all of this?

A: It is never too early to start becoming mindful of your overall health and well-being as a man. There are certain health concerns that apply specifically to men throughout their life cycle. RWJBarnabas Health facilities provide extensive, vigilant treatment and screening options for these concerns to male patients of all ages.

For more information and to schedule an appointment with an RWJBarnabas Health primary care physician, visit rwjbh.org/medicalgroup.