Tips for men’s health at high altitude (sponsored)
August 15, 2016
By Jessica Smith, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente
While June is well known for Father's Day, it is also national men's health month. Across the nation, this month is celebrated with health fairs, screenings and a variety of pro-health activities. And even though those of us — both men and women — who live in the Rocky Mountains may consider ourselves healthier and more active than people in other areas, it's important to pay attention to our health and what our bodies are telling us.
Finding your baseline
Patricia Dietzgen is a family medicine doctor for Kaiser Permanente in Frisco. She recommends that young men, in their 20s and 30s, come in to get baseline screenings for things like blood pressure and cholesterol. By checking the basics and going over family and medical history, doctors like Dietzgen can help men establish a health plan to prevent further issues down the road.
"That's a good time to catch up on your immunizations," she added, as most people generally receive them during high school.
Once men reach their early 40s, she suggests coming in to re-check those baselines, as well as screening for chronic diseases like diabetes, and to assess the healthiness of their lifestyle. Once you hit your 50s, the discussion may also include colon cancer and other screenings. Definitely by their 60s, she says, men should be receiving yearly check-ups.
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"Prevention is really key," she says.
Dietzgen says one of the most common ailments she sees among men is fatigue and a lack of energy. There are also complaints of joint and back pain, while high blood pressure is often an issue.
She emphasizes the usefulness of consistent exercise and a healthy diet in combating most of these issues. That goes double for cardiovascular issues and diseases such as diabetes, which can often be prevented by a healthy lifestyle.
"I think prevention is absolutely number one here, and I think a lot of those complaints — fatigue, joint pain, arthritis, hypertension — could all be remedied or best, prevented, by starting out at a young age and developing healthy habits at a young age," Dietzgen says.
She also encourages men of any age to make lifestyle changes, denying the mindset that someone is "too old" to exercise or have an active lifestyle.
"Our bodies are resilient no matter what age," she says. Simply by eating well and doing even mild exercise, a person can become healthier. "You shouldn't feel defeated if you're 50, 60 or even in your 40s," she adds. "A lot of this is still in our control; it just might take some change."
While everyone has aches and pains here and there from time to time, there are certain symptoms that men should be aware of, and seek help for if they become persistent.
Dietzgen emphasizes being in tune with your body and your habits, so that you can notice when something isn't right. Symptoms such as constant fatigue, night sweats, persistent coughing, bowel movement changes, and unexplained chest or abdominal pain are signs that something more serious could be happening.
In the mountains, in particular, Dietzgen says that some people deal with sleep apnea — shallow breathing and pauses in breathing during sleep. This may be a cause of someone's fatigue or high blood pressure.
Overall, Dietzgen emphasizes the importance of prevention, of taking steps in the present to avoid larger complications in the future. One of the best ways to do that is through exercise. She suggests getting around two-and-a-half hours of exercise a week, though "that doesn't mean going out and joining a gym."
For those averse to the gym or long, hard workouts, Dietzgen suggests finding ways throughout the day to exercise, such as taking the stairs, marching in place or doing activities like sit-ups and stair climbs in short intervals, just a few minutes each.
Living in the mountains, activities like taking a walk or going on a hike are also accessible and enjoyable, she says. Doing that on top of avoiding unhealthy activities such as smoking, becoming a "couch potato" and drinking alcohol excessively, will help build a healthy lifestyle, Dietzgen says.
"I also stress 'be happy,'" she adds, and encourages finding time to do enjoyable activities and spend time with friends and family.
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