I Wanna Get (a) Physical

It’s hard to believe in this day and age of medical miracles that the basics of maintaining good health for men fall by the wayside. Once a year we trudge to the doctor’s office and obtain proof of living the good life (or not). With results in hand, we’re set for another year (so how bout another piece of that pie?). Health is static right? If you’re good today, you’re good six months from now. So why do some men who’ve passed their physical—”with flying colors”—fall over dead. Sometimes literally the next day?

To make us scratch our collective heads even more, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that some men avoid getting checkups at all. Not because we’re healthier (men are hospitalized for preventable conditions far more than women), or because we just know there is nothing wrong with us (we usually don’t). It may be fear of the unknown that makes men turn tail; “You want to do what? Where?” (speaking of tail, one of my male patients recently refused to consider a screening colonoscopy with the reasoning, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”). Now, just when we thought no one was watching, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) strongly suggests what every man should have checked under their own hood. Doesn’t the government have enough to do with the Gulf spill? As I tried to explain to that protesting patient, once it’s broke fixing it may not be simple, or lifesaving.

So men know your numbers—BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, among others, and obtain tests appropriate for your age and medical history. But here’s the key: Act on the results. If the BMI is outside the range, get it down. Today, not six months from now. Put that extra piece of pie aside and exercise. If you need medication, work with your physician, but make it a goal to do whatever you can to get back off that medication (yes, it is possible in many cases). If you smoke make it your mission to quit within the next six months. Think of your health as a daily continuum, constantly and consciously moving toward the optimal life. Don’t fear what you might find. Think of it as a gift, allowing you to change before it’s too late. Keep living the good life, but with your eyes wide open.

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About Steve P. Sanders

A general internist writing and sharing ideas and art.

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