Pharmacy Residency (PGY1)

Parkland provider implores men to prioritize their health

Patient and community advocate encourages other men to act on their health rather than react

Parkland Health providers and community members are reminding the men in their lives that it’s time to get serious about their health and avoid putting routine care on the backburner.

It’s no secret that men often delay seeking preventive medical care, which can lead to serious health issues down the road. That’s why Parkland providers are encouraging men to prioritize their well-being through primary care, preventive screenings and empowering them with education so they can take charge of their own health this Men’s Health Month.

“Preventive care is the clinical care you receive to stay healthy. This can include annual checkups, lab testing, screenings and vaccinations. I like to compare it to taking your car into the workshop to get an oil change or servicing to prevent mechanical issues down the road,” said Jace Varkey, MD, Primary Health Physician in Parkland’s Employee Health Center.

But sometimes life can get in the way of routine preventive care.

“When I was young, I wouldn’t miss work for anything,” said Art Eisenger, who is a patient at Parkland’s Irving Health Center.

While he may have avoided the doctor in his younger years, Eisenger is no stranger to health adversities. When a battle with cancer and a life-saving heart surgery landed him in Parkland Memorial Hospital, he realized just how important prioritizing one’s health is.

“What would I go back and tell my younger self? Well, I probably wouldn’t have listened,” Eisenger joked. “But that’s why I share my story with every man I meet in the community and at my church. Men will confide in me about their own health and ask me how I knew I was having heart problems. I always encourage them to seek care because that small problem could be just the beginning, or a warning of a big problem. Sometimes it’s good to hear it from another man.”

When asked what made the biggest difference in his health journey, Eisenger responded with immense gratitude for the role that education played.

“Parkland taught me a lot about my health beyond just diagnosing me. They explained everything from why things are happening, what to expect and how I can prevent my symptoms from coming back,” he stated. “It gave me the confidence I needed to take control of my health.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, followed by cancer. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer. It’s estimated that about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Eating a heart healthy diet and exercising regularly will reduce your cardiovascular risk, which is the risk of having a stroke or heart attack,” Dr. Varkey emphasized. “Those healthy habits partnered with seeing your primary care doctor and engaging in preventive screening tests such as colonoscopies, prostate exams and regular lab tests will allow us to catch diseases and cancers early.”

But anxieties and nerves revolving around health are always looming, especially when it comes to test results.

“Patients often tell me they don’t want to do the screenings because they don’t want to go looking for problems,” Dr. Varkey shared. “I always tell them whether we do the screening or not, if there is something of concern it will cause symptoms down the line and at that point it could be too difficult to treat. These screening tests allow us to catch things much earlier and treat them in the least invasive way.”

Dr. Varkey recommends that men of all ages get to know their blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol and blood glucose numbers. “This is information you receive during your annual physicals or check-ups but being informed about your own numbers will help you track any changes and know when to bring up any concerns to your physician.

Parkland experts note that a regular visit to a healthcare provider should include risk assessments for future medical problems, screenings for cancer (including testicular, colon, prostate, skin and other cancers), vaccination updates and goal setting for a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Don’t tough it out just because you can. Dr. Varkey says it is always best to discuss any symptoms that are new to you as soon as they happen. The following are common symptoms that warrant a conversation with your doctor:

Chest pain and/or shortness of breath - may be symptoms of a heart attack, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, or asthma. If chest pain is sudden, severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness or shortness of breath call 911 right away.

Fatigue - may result from exhaustion, lack of sleep, or stress, but it can also indicate congestive heart failure, diabetes, arthritis and other diseases.

Vision problems – while not always related to aging, they can indicate problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration.

Change in bowel habits – could be a sign of food intolerance or an inflammatory bowel disease. Colon cancer screenings should also be considered.

Changing moles – any changes in a mole or freckle’s size, shape, color or texture should be checked out by a dermatologist.

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