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Dr. Paul Means discusses healthy lifestyles for men

Paul E. Means Jr., MD, Medical Director of WVU Medicine Uniontown Hospital Primary Care

By Karen Mansfield


June 30, 2022

June is Men’s Health Month, a time to educate men about certain health risks and encourage them to take steps toward living a healthier lifestyle.

The life span of men is about five years less than women, according to Dr. Paul E. Means Jr., a family physician at WVU Medicine - Fay West Primary Care.

Means said men often don’t go to their primary care doctor until there’s a health issue or something leads to the emergency room.

“A lot of times, we’ll see men when they’re 16 and need a physical for their driver’s license and then we don’t see them again until they’re 50 and they have high blood pressure or they’re having a health issue,” said Means.

As men get older, it becomes even more important for them to schedule regular checkups and screenings.

That’s because, Means said, as men age their risks of certain cancers and other health issues increase.

Screenings actually should begin at age 18, with elevated blood pressure checks at a routine yearly physical at the doctor’s office or at an annual work screening, Means suggested.

Other screenings come into play, too.

For men who are overweight or obese, diabetes screening should begin at age 35.

Means also recommends that men begin screening for cardiovascular disease starting at age 40.

Doctors recommend men talk with their health-care provider about having screening for prostate cancer starting at age 50, and as early as age 40 for men who are at increased risk for prostate cancer.

The recommendation for the age to start getting a colonoscopy or stool-based test to screen for colorectal cancer recently dropped to 45 years old, Means said.

Diet and exercise also have a positive impact on health and health outcomes.

John Sandonas is a personal trainer at Washington Health System Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center in South Strabane Township. He encourages a healthy diet and regular exercise.

“Diet and exercise is a key factor in men’s health,” said Sandonas. “A lot of people tend to overcomplicate it, and all it takes is 30 minutes of moving, starting with a few times a week, get that heart rate elevated, and as you progress, add on to that.”

The benefits? Breaking a sweat can decrease men’s risk for coronary artery disease, improve depression, decrease the risk for weight gain, decrease cholesterol, improve bone health, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and prevent the onset of diabetes, Means noted.

Sandonas also encouraged men to incorporate healthy foods – greens, vegetables, lean meats – into their diets, and to cut back on processed foods.

“You don’t want to be too aggressive, or cut out everything you love,” suggested Sandonas. “I tell my clients, everything in moderation. If you like a Hershey bar or chips, it’s OK to have in moderation. If people try to do too much, they fall off the train pretty quickly.”

And staying in shape is important for men’s quality of life, no matter their age, and helps them manage stress, Sandonas noted.

“A lot of times, people overlook men’s mental health and stress. Incorporating exercise is one hour out of the day where you don’t have to worry about anything,” said Sandonas. “It’s a tough world, and a lot of men don’t like to talk about things, so exercise is a way to relieve stress.”

The Centers for Disease Control also urges men to quit smoking – which raises the risk of heart disease, COPD, certain types of cancer, and other diseases – and to limit alcohol intake.

Means said the most important thing for men is to get into the routine of rising their primary care physician or health care provider - the earlier the better.

“I think the main obstacle that I see in men’s health and prevention is just getting men to start these lifestyle changes and routine preventative care early in their adult lives,” said Means.

If they put it off, Means said, several health issues can develop undetected, and they might have more serious consequences.

“I can’t tell you how many times I hear the phrase, ‘If I would have known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself,’” said Means. “I would just recommend that men make an appointment with a health-care provider early in their adult life, and together they can make an individual plan for their diet, exercise, lifestyle modification and preventative screenings and testing.”