WASHINGTON – Even someone who makes a living educating others about health and fitness can have a medical scare.
Peter Moore says he was in denial about his risk for heart trouble. Then one day he went out for a bike ride and experienced chest pains that would not go away.
It turns out Moore, the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine, had a 99 percent blockage in a major artery.
“It changed my life. I was lucky to survive what I went through,” he says.
Moore says he learned to listen to his body and talk to his doctor. Now, he wants other men to do the same. The only problem: Most men do not do this.
Two decades ago, Congress encouraged men to exercise preventative health measures by designating the week leading up to Father’s Day as National Men’s Health Week.
Moore says the designation of the week is “another fake holiday produced by our Congress,” but agrees with its purpose of making men aware of the need to focus more on their health.
One of the most important things men can do to be proactive in health is find a doctor and build a relationship of trust.
Dr. Thomas Jarrett, head of the urology department at George Washington University Hospital, says it is important for a man to share his family history with his doctor. This helps to determine his risk factors for conditions, ranging from hypertension to heart disease and prostate cancer.
Jarrett says unlike women who get into the habit of regularly seeing a gynecologist or internist during their childbearing years, men tend to have a required check-up in high school or college and don’t go again for a decade or more.
“I am guilty as charged on that,” says Jarrett. “I think men definitely have this feeling that they are less likely to be sick.”
Some experts say yearly exams aren’t really necessary, and a man only needs to see a doctor when he senses something is just not right. But Jarrett says regular check-ups can help detect problems before there are major symptoms, especially in younger men.
He says all men — no matter their age — should know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years, starting at age 50. Those who exhibit risk factors should have a colonoscopy earlier.
Prostate cancer screenings for men, however, are a matter of some controversy. The government says the screening is not necessary for most men, and that has caused screening rates to plummet.
But Jarrett says those considered at risk, including all African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer, need to be tested on a regular basis.
“I think one of the biggest men’s health issues that we are facing right now is the public perception that prostate cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, should not be screened for,” he says.
He is also adamant about the need for men to keep their weight in-check, noting the strong links between obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Moore says the bottom line is to make health improvements, one step at a time. He says incremental changes can add up to lifelong healthy habits.
Men’s Health Food Editor Paul Kita says most men, if left to their own devices, would have a lousy diet. But he says things are improving, as younger men become more interested, and involved, in cooking.
Kita says younger men view cooking as a form of craft. They are finding that food cooked at home can be much healthier than meals eaten out.
It contains just over 300 calories, compared to 800 in the take-out version), and is baked rather than fried.
However, Kita says there is nothing wrong with men enjoying “a cheat meal” once in a while. He says studies have shown that those who add a little bit of flexibility to their diets are actually more likely to lose weight in the long run.
General Tso’s Chicken with Broccoli
Recipe from “Guy Gourmet: Great Chefs’ Amazing Meals For a Lean & Healthy Body”
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes