Dr. JoEllen Kohlman, cardiologist at Lake Region Healthcare, suggests regular doctor visits, avoiding tobacco products, weight management, exercise and mental health awareness as crucial steps to men's health.  

As a cardiologist, I usually don’t see patients until heart health is a problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. June is Men’s Health Month, a great time to think about small steps you can take to prevent heart disease and improve the chances of having more meaningful years to spend with loved ones enjoying things you’re passionate about. Here are five steps I invite men to consider:

See your doctor regularly

That’s something many men avoid — maybe because they don’t think checkups are necessary as long as they’re feeling fine. But some diseases don’t have symptoms until they get much worse. With regular checkups, these health problems may be found early, when they’re easier to treat, especially high blood pressure — a major cause of heart disease.

Take this step: Talk to your doctor about how often you should be examined and screened for health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections and various kinds of cancer. Your age, personal and family medical history, lifestyle and other factors will help determine the schedule.

Avoid smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco

You’ve heard it a million times: Tobacco is hazardous for your health. Cancer, heart disease and lung disease are linked to tobacco and all these problems can lead to a shorter life span.

Take this step: Talk to your doctor about quitting if you use tobacco. Your doctor can steer you toward help lines, medications, counseling and other forms of quitting support.

Watch your weight

More and more men are allowing their weight to get out of control, according to the CDC. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease as well as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and other health problems.

Take this step: Balance the calories you eat and drink with the amount of physical activity you get. Likewise, eating more plant-based foods — fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains — and less saturated fat can also help with weight control. And when the urge to snack hits, grab some fruit or some carrot sticks instead of munching on chips or cookies.

Exercise often

Physical activity helps reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and colorectal cancer. And it can help you look and feel your best.

Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

You could also choose 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., jogging or running) every week instead of moderate activity, or a mix of moderate and vigorous activity. Start slowly and work your way up.

Take this step: Brisk walking, swimming, mowing the lawn, using hand weights and bicycling are just some of the many activities you can pick from. If you have a chronic health condition, work with your doctor to tailor an exercise program to fit your needs and limitations.

Mind your mental health

Too much daily stress can take a toll on your health. Having trouble sleeping, getting angry and drinking more than usual are some signs of stress overload in men.

Stress (as well as other factors) may also contribute to depression, a serious illness. Signs include persistent sadness, hopelessness, extreme tiredness and thoughts of suicide.

Take this step: Try healthy ways to ease stress, such as exercising and taking time out for hobbies and relaxing activities. If you think you might have depression, tell your doctor right away. Depression is treatable.

Concerned about your heart health? Dr. Kohlman is accepting new patients at our Fergus Falls Main Clinic. Call 218.739.2221 for appointments or ask your primary care provider for a referral.

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