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This Father’s Day, celebrate the healthy men in your life

This Father’s Day, celebrate the healthy men in your life

Appropriately, as Men’s Health Week culminates tomorrow with Father’s Day, it's a great time to celebrate the men in our lives. But before we get to the BBQ, let’s take a minute to reflect on the impact of heart disease on male lives.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men. Yes, more than cancer, more than car accidents, more than lung disease and diabetes. And men are more likely to die of sudden cardiac events: between 70 and 89% of heart attacks occur in men, according to the CDC. And about half of men don’t have symptoms beforehand. (Take this quiz from the CDC to learn more about men and heart disease.)

If anything, that makes living a healthy lifestyle even more important for men. Unfortunately a recent survey shows that women are much more likely to eat fruits and vegetables as compared to their male counterparts.

Contrast that with Sardinia, one of the Blue Zones of healthy longevity.  In Sardinia, it’s the men that are especially likely to reach centenarian status.  As an isolated community, genetics likely play a role, but these men also eat a lean, plant-based diet with meat/fish/poultry comprising only 5% of calories.  26% of calories come from dairy, but the milk comes primarily from goats and sheep (which they shepherd for a lifetime of regular exercise).  These men drink wine regularly (1 – 2 glasses per day of Cannonau wine) and they laugh with friends (sardonic humor originated here), gathering every afternoon in the town square. It’s most certainly not a life of deprivation, rather it's an active and happy life - that goes on for a hundred years!

Unfortunately it's not just lifestyle where American men could do better.  A recent Cleveland Clinic survey showed that men are less likely to go to the doctor regularly. Some surmise that many men don’t perceive taking care of their health as being “masculine.” As a cardiologist, I’m here to tell you that taking charge of your health should have nothing to do with gender or some sign of toughness. You can't feel your cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar.  The only way to know if you're at risk - and to avoid being another statistic - is to get a check up and get tested.

If you (or one of the men in your life) don’t have a health care provider you visit regularly, I’d recommend taking the time to find someone who is a good fit for you -- even if that means going to a different clinic than your significant other’s. Here’s a great guide from Consumer Reports that walks you through the process.    

Those Sardinians have proven that men can comfortably exceed the average American male life expectancy of 78.5 years -- by decades. And that’s the best reason to heed this blog's advice: because we want to celebrate many more Father’s Days with you! 

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