Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: June 2016 - Men's Health

    June 24, 2016

    What can men do to stay healthy?
    Men can make healthy choices every day to try to prevent the three main conditions that can affect their health as they get older: heart disease, stroke and cancer. Some of these healthy choices are:

    • Avoid tobacco
    • Be physically active
    • Keep a healthy weight
    • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains
    • Eat a diet low in saturated/trans fat (in general, stick to fats that are solid at room temperature)
    • Don’t drink too much
    • Protect against sexually transmitted infections

    Also, see your doctor and find out if you have:

    • High blood pressure
    • Are overweight or obese
    • Have diabetes
    • Have high cholesterol
    • Reasons to take an aspirin a day

    You can also calculate what your risk of having a heart attack in the next ten years is by using a cardiovascular risk assessment tool. You can find the tool at

    What can men do to protect themselves against cancer?
    As you get older, screening for certain specific cancers is recommended:

    • Colon and rectal cancer — Routine screening for men with no family history or other risk factors starts at age 50 and is recommended every 10 years till age 75 or 85.
    • Lung cancer — The best way to prevent lung cancer is to never start smoking or stop immediately. However, if you are or were a heavy smoker (smoked 1 pack daily for the past 30 years), a special CAT scan (low dose helical CT) may be recommended for you.
    • Prostate cancer — Most men will not die from the prostate cancer. Talk to your doctor about whether screening for prostate cancer is right for you. When a decision is made to screen, you will be offered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Most men who get this initial screening should repeat the test every 2 to 4 years starting at 40 or 45 years of age. A digital (finger) rectal prostate examination is not recommended as a routine part of prostate cancer screening.

    What other steps can men take to protect their health?
    Vaccines can protect you against many infections. Two vaccines recommended for everyone are:

    • Influenza – recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months, every year
    • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, also called pertussis) – Whooping cough has made a comeback. It is therefore recommended that all adults should get ONE Tdap. After that, adults can get the standard Tetanus/diphtheria (Td) shot every 10 years.

    Other vaccines that may be recommended depending on age and other conditions:

    • Varicella – Chickenpox vaccine, for healthy persons over 13 years of age
    • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – For boys up to age 21 who have not been previously vaccinated, and for men up to age 26 who have sex with men
    • Zoster – Shingles vaccine. For most individuals who are 50 years of age or older
    • Pneumococcal – Pneumonia vaccine for some adults 19 to 64 years who have conditions that make it more likely for them to get pneumonia
    • Hepatitis B – For individuals at high risk for hepatitis B, including diabetic adults over 60 years of age

    Talk to your doctor to see if any other vaccines are right for you.

    What other conditions can men be screened for?

    • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and infections carried through the blood:
      • HIV infection – All adults should be screened for HIV until age 75
      • Hepatitis C – All persons born in the U.S. between 1945 and 1965 should get a one-time screening for chronic hepatitis C infection. If you have other risk factors, you may be screened more often
      • Other STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis B – Your doctor may suggest screening for these infections even if you have no symptoms, depending on how sexually active you are or other risk factors (men who have sex with men for example, or who have multiple partners)
    • Mental Health and Drug Use
      Your doctor may ask some questions to help identify if you have mental health problems, if you have trouble controlling yourself or your anger, or if you use too many drugs or other substances.
      • Depression: Over the past two weeks have you had little interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy? Have you felt down, depressed or hopeless?
      • Alcohol: How many times in the past year have you had five or more drinks in a day?
      • Tobacco: Do you smoke cigarettes? Would you like to quit?
      • Other drug use: How many times in the past year have you used an illegal drug or used a prescription medication for other/non-medical reasons?
    • Other Conditions Men can get
      • Osteoporosis — Men can be at risk for this condition which thins the bones and leads to fractures, especially if they have some other conditions that deprive them of testosterone (the male hormone)
      • Abdominal aortic aneurysm – This is an enlargement of the aorta (the largest artery in the body that runs over your heart down toward your belly region) in the abdomen. It is recommended that all men who smoke or are former smokers get this screening one time between the ages of 65 to 75

    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:
    Screening and prevention can vary depending on the age of the man and on their risk factors. Talk to your primary care doctor and find out what men can do to stay healthy, for yourself and for your family.

    To learn more:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Men’s Health
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Vaccines & Immunizations
    New York State Smokers’ Quitline
    Risk Assessment Tool for Estimating Your 10-year Risk of Having a Heart Attack  

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