Each June we celebrate Father's Day, but did you know that June is also recognized as Men's Health Month?

According to the Men's Health Network, the purpose of Men's Health Month is to raise awareness of preventable health problems and to encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.

Studies show that the most common threats to men's health can be avoided through lifestyle choices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men tend to be less involved in their own health than women. As a result, heart disease, cancer, accidents, respiratory infection, stroke, type II diabetes, and suicide account for about 70 percent of the most common health threats to men.

The good news is there are ways to reduce the likelihood of these events.

* Regular physician visits

Staying healthy is connected to making the right choices. All men should visit their primary care physician at least once a year. Your personal physician knows your medical history and is in the best position to offer advice.

Typically, a physician will recommend regular screenings for cholesterol levels, blood pressure, triglycerides, blood sugar and body mass index. When kept in check, these indicators greatly reduce the chances for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other problems.

Regular physician exams may also reveal other possible warning signs, like unusual moles or lumps that may be precursors to cancer. Your physician will also check your heart and lungs.

Remember that a visit with your physician is the time to talk about your health concerns. Be open and honest about any aches or pains. Discuss any changes you've noticed in your health, such as sudden weight gain or loss, balance problems, sudden headaches, or appetite changes.

Also talk to your physician about anxiety or depression. Men typically try to hide emotional distress, but depression and anxiety are medical conditions that can be treated with medications, counseling or a combination of both.

* Physical fitness

Being physically active plays a significant role in maintaining men's health. Regular physical activity helps control weight, strengthens muscle and bones, improves balance, coordination and cardiovascular health, and reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer.

Small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference. Try taking the stairs instead of an elevator. Walking for 30 minutes four times a week can have a positive impact on your health. Even greater health benefits may be drawn from more intense exercise like jogging, swimming, biking, weight training, and organized sports. Talk to your physician about starting an exercise program and get moving.

* Eating healthy

It's no secret that eating right makes you healthier. Many men tend to reach for fast food because it's convenient, quick and easy. But frequent fast food meals may take their toll by adding weight and increasing cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates and other healthy foods can help keep your weight in check and improve overall health.

In addition, many physicians recommend one to two alcoholic beverages per day, provided that there is no history of alcohol abuse and that the alcohol isn't taken with certain prescribed medications. Studies show that moderate alcohol intake can reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease.

*Precautions

Staying healthy involves taking precautionary measures. Ask your doctor which vaccines are appropriate for you, and make sure you get a flu vaccine each year. In addition, be sure you have recommended screenings for prostate, colon, and skin cancer. Cancer is most treatable when it's detected early.

Finally, take time during Men's Health Month this June to learn how you can take a more active role in your own wellness. For free information on how to take control of your lifestyle choices - such as exercise, diet or smoking cessation - check out the Health and Wellness tab on Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's website, www.bcnepa.com [1].

Neil Lesitsky, MD,

Family Practice