A local medical professional stressed that the key to good health and early detection and prevention is to have a good primary care physician.
That may seem like an obvious statement but Dr. Floyd Shewmake, who is the senior medical director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ), said that one out of three men do not have a primary care physician.
Everything from preventative medicine to regular checkups in your 20s and 30s, to prostate examinations and colonoscopies in your 40s and 50s, it all starts with obtaining a regular doctor.
“That’s the value of having that primary care doctor, it’s sort of the connector to the rest of the health care,” Shewmake said. “One of the most important things a man can do is to have a primary care physician.”
It is Men’s Health Week this week, June 11-17, so if you have been putting off getting a checkup, now’s the perfect time to get the ball rolling.
While how a person becomes and stays healthy is absolutely personalized, Shewmake said there are some road posts that determine when certain tests should be taken. He said that every five years is a good estimate to be seen for a regular checkup when a man is in his 20s and 30s. It coincides with graduating from college and becoming dependent.
“When a guy gets out of college he’s starting out in life with a real job and that is a good time to get in touch with personal physician,” Shewmake said. “They find out where to get some of their basic blood work done which helps determine frequency of future visits.”
Men are at their athletic peak in their mid-20s, he said, and while it is not always the case, the gradual decline in physical ability begins around age 30. This is due to changes in hormone levels, “a very slow decrease in testosterone and human growth hormone,” that begins in the late 20s and early 30s.
It is also around this age that many men find themselves settling into a career and family, and that can lead toward complacency. To counteract that, Shewmake said that 30 minutes of exercise five days per week is the overall general recommendation of how much physical activity one should get to stay healthy.
“We do tend to slough off on things like watching our weight or keeping up good exercise program,” Shewmake said. “Sometimes our job takes over and not only do they tend to gain weight due to lack of exercise, but also due to sleep deprivation.
“Some of the hormones that control your appetite. They get out of balance when you are sleep deprived so if you have had a terrible night sleep, or time zone crossing and your body is messed up, there is the tendency to eat more than you should be eating. Getting at least six hours of sleep a night is very important.”
Shewmake stressed that late in life there are two big things to watch out for, and to be tested for, because in most cases there are no symptoms: colon cancer and prostate cancer. Age 50 is the latest a man should be tested for both.
“Most people who have prostate cancer have no symptoms... people who have colon cancer don’t really have symptoms either,” he said. “A digital exam should be done every year after 50.”
So if you are the one in three who doesn’t have a primary care physician and need help finding a good one, Shewmake said there are a couple of ways to do that. Either talk to someone in the field or look at rating online.
“The best way to find a physician is by talking to people on the inside,” he said. “They can help guide you through a complicated health care system.”
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