"Checking Under the Hood" Can Lead to Better Health
Adulthood brings with it the balancing act of taking care of yourself and family, with the various responsibilities between work and home leading to minimal attention on self-care. The demographic most significantly impacted by this is often men, who are reluctant to visit a doctor for regular checkups. I usually ask my male patients “why?” to gain more insight. The top responses are feeling subjectively well, fear of being diagnosed with any condition, and lack of time due to life responsibilities.
When someone answers in one of these ways, I typically highlight the purpose of preventative visits. I explain the basics of the conditions considered “silent killers”, (hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.) along with the importance of catching these conditions early to minimize the risk of these leading to significant illness later in life. It is also important to realize that genetics play a large role in health and having family members with certain conditions increases your risk of developing them as well. Most of these patients are not aware that some conditions can be causing damage over a long period of time without any signals that something is wrong.
Another important concept I try to relate is that the relationship is a collaborative one where we work together to optimize health as opposed to me simply telling them what to do. There is a subset of males that avoid seeing a doctor due to bad experiences shared by people close to them, so setting accurate expectations prior to visits is paramount to getting doctor averse patients in for regular checkups.
There are also general measures that can be implemented to optimize health outside of doctor visits.
Exercise is typically abandoned due to lack of time, but there are several ways to sneak this in on a daily basis. The majority of people have a smart phone with pedometer capabilities, so setting a daily step goal of 7-10,000 is a good start. Taking the stairs as opposed to an elevator, a longer route to any walking destinations, walking at lunch, or even a short walk after work can be easily inserted to help meet this goal. For those with younger children, recreational sporting events and practices can dominate certain seasons. There is often an opportunity to get in there and participate in drills and conditioning with your child which can not only add the exercise component but can be a bonding experience that can positively impact mental health. Ideally the goal would be at least 30 minutes of moderate (breaking a sweat) physical activity on a daily basis.
Diet also plays a role in health as it is important to have a balanced meal plan and avoid high calorie foods with low nutritional value. Prioritizing lean protein sources followed by fats and carbohydrates, portion control, spacing of meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, small snack between each) are all important considerations. Lack of time typically leads to processed and convenience foods, so meal prepping is a good habit to develop to avoid this pitfall of having a busy adult life.
As responsibilities grow it is very easy to lose sight of your own well-being as an adult. General considerations including regular exercise and a healthy diet go a long way in maintaining health, but also regular examinations, “checking under the hood”, for hidden problems that could potentially lead to poor health is equally important. Many of the conditions that lead to irreparable damage are treatable if caught early, so do whatever is necessary to be the best you.