SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Guys, take note (and ownership) of health

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Each year, the week leading up to Father's Day is designated "National Men's Health Week."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men die at higher rates of the top 10 causes of death including heart disease, cancer and stroke, and have an average life expectancy of only 75.3 years as opposed to a woman's 80.4.

Yet men are half as likely as women to visit their doctor annually for a check-up or preventive visits to their doctor.

Health officials, along with concerned mothers and wives, are joining forces during this week to help raise awareness in making men more accountable for their health.

Men's Health Week is really designed to remind men they need to take charge of their health. Taking charge means getting regular check-ups and screening which can lead to a longer, healthier life.

Health officials also encourage parents to start their young men on an early track to better health habits. They encourage parents to teach them about their health, why it is important to get screenings and why early detection is so important.

So why do men skip doctor visits? Harris Interactive conducted an online survey of about 1,100 men for the Academy of Family Physicians.

While 85 percent of the men stated that they seek medical treatment when they are sick, almost all, a whopping 92 percent said that they have waited at least a few days to see if they felt better before seeking care.

They also discovered that nearly 30 percent of the men said that they would push the limits, saying that they wait "as long as possible" to see if they get better before seeking medical care or advice.

In the survey, the men also rated their health. Most men, 80 percent, said they felt they were in excellent, very good or good health.

The only problem with that is even though you feel fine doesn't always mean that you are. For instance there are things like cholesterol or blood pressure that if you are not having a yearly checkup you might not know if they are too high because there aren't always obvious symptoms.

The American Academy of Family Physicians president, Dr. Rick Kellerman, in a press release said, "One of the biggest obstacles to improving the health of men is men themselves. They don't make their health a priority."

Men, including myself, are more likely to visit a doctor if their wife or partner encourages them to do so and when they do go to the doctor; most say they usually follow their doctor's advice.

Working as a personal trainer and in the health and wellness industry for 15 years, I see this all the time and the best advice I can give is "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

So if we take care of ourselves with check-ups and screenings we can avoid problems before they happen which can lead to a longer and healthier life.

Juan Sanchez is program director at the Walla Walla YMCA.

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