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A Do It Yourself Approach to Men’s Health

When it comes to living a long life, there are a surprisingly high number of preventive measures men can take on their own — including simply visiting a doctor — to stave off deadly diseases. Pictured, David Conant, MD, chief of Adult and Family Medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center, at left, practices what he preaches with a blood pressure check by Medical Assistant Bulie Madubela

How long will I live?

No one really knows the answer, but we do know that women, on average, live longer than men.

To find out how men can better their odds, and in celebration of Men’s Health Week June 10-16, we spoke to David Conant, MD, chief of Adult and Family Medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center.

The life expectancy for males born in 2017 is about 76, while females can expect to live to 81, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although the research is not definitive on why females live longer, a CDC study did find that women were 33% more likely than men to visit a doctor when they feel ill and 100% more likely to visit a doctor for preventive services.

Get to the Doctor

“I have found in my practice that many of my male patients are reluctant to come in when they have symptoms, let alone when they are due for routine checkups,” said Dr. Conant, who has been seeing adult patients at Kaiser Permanente for 18 years. “And sometimes it is only because a partner has nudged them into coming.”

The most common killers of both men and women are heart disease, No. 1, and cancer, No. 2. The major risk factors for heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, no exercise and diabetes.

“I ask about exercise, pretty much every visit, whether it’s someone who is 18 or 88,” said Dr. Conant, who recently ran in the Boston Marathon. “I tell people exercising regularly and vigorously is a critical strategy to stay healthy. I also talk frequently about the virtues of a plant-based diet.”

Get Regular Health Screenings

Dr. Conant advises members to use the Kaiser Permanente My Doctor Online application to find out which health screens they currently need to stay healthy.

“It’s important to be aware of your blood pressure, cholesterol and your body mass index because they are all tied to your risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Conant.

Cancer risk can be reduced by not smoking; exercising; maintaining a healthy weight; eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; limiting alcohol; protecting against sexually transmitted diseases; avoiding excess sun; and getting a regular colon cancer screening, which in Kaiser Permanente Northern California has helped reduce deaths from the disease by 52% from 2000 to 2015.

Find Help for Loneliness, Depression

Suicide, one of the top 10 killers of men, is preventable, so Dr. Conant always asks about his patients’ state of mind, and he makes referrals to mental health providers if necessary. Men are four times as likely as women to end their lives, according to the CDC.

“I think loneliness is an overlooked, yet extremely important issue in our society,” Dr. Conant said. “Particularly for my elderly patients, I do try to make sure to learn about their social network and the degree to which they are isolated. Maintaining social connections is essential for wellness as we age.

“Taking a proactive stance about your health and being aware of factors over which you have some control can make an enormous difference to ensure you have many high-quality years ahead,” he said.


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