Health Features

Making Men’s Health a Priority

Every adult should pay close attention to healthy living to minimize the risk of disease and boost longevity, but men face certain challenges that are unique to, or more common among, their gender. Urologist and surgeon Dr. Clay McDonough of the SLUCare Men’s Health Center says reducing your risk factors isn’t rocket science, but it does take commitment, consistency and consultation with your doctor.

disease prevention
According to McDonough, men should take a good look at lifestyle practices that could be increasing their risk for problems like cardiovascular disease and cancer. Preventable risk factors like tobacco use, a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight and poor diet should be addressed as soon as possible, and men should establish a good relationship with a primary care provider who can answer questions, recommend screenings, provide referrals and serve as a partner for better health.

Understanding family history is another important component of men’s health, McDonough says. “You are at higher risk for things like prostate cancer if you have first-degree relatives who have had it, and some ethnic groups like African-Americans are at higher risk,” he says. “Have an honest discussion with your doctor about whether tests are necessary. Prostate screening is normally pretty simple—a rectal exam is done to check the prostate, and the patient’s lab values are examined.”

sexual dysfunction
As men age, they may be more apt to experience sexual problems like erectile dysfunction. Though many patients present with ED as their primary complaint, it actually can signal other underlying health problems, according to McDonough. “As much as 80% to 90% of ED cases are tied to blood pressure and other medical issues,” he says. “Impaired blood flow, the same basic process that causes heart attacks and strokes, occurs in ED on a smaller scale with the blood vessels that, contribute to sexual function.”

McDonough says practitioners are increasingly aware that privacy and discretion are key in encouraging men to seek care for health problems like sexual dysfunction. “These are sensitive issues,” he says. “I never want patients to avoid treatment because they feel embarrassed to talk about a problem or are afraid of being judged. They deserve a specialist who is respectful and discreet.”

He says that when caught early, some men’s sexual dysfunction issues actually can be reversed by addressing other contributing health factors. “A patient with erectile dysfunction may think he needs to get a prescription for Viagra and go home, but the reality is, if we help him stop smoking and get his blood pressure under control, he may not need that medication,” McDonough says. “It’s all about looking at the big picture and achieving longer life through better overall health.”

discreet care
McDonough says that giving men choices in how they seek care can improve the odds that they actually will get it. The SLUCare Men’s Health Center offers an online appointment booking system so men don’t have to talk about sensitive issues with a stranger on the phone. “It can be difficult enough to speak with a compassionate doctor about it, let alone someone you don’t know,” McDonough says. “We have found that online scheduling keeps the process private and comfortable, and we feel it encourages men to visit the doctor when they might not otherwise.

We have seen an uptick in the number of appointments being scheduled, and that’s good news for patient health.” It also means that more conditions can be caught at early stages when they are easier to treat, he notes. McDonough says that although conversations about men’s medical issues can seem daunting, the benefits they provide for better health and longer life are clear. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and explain your concerns to your doctor,” he notes. “Your health and well-being are very much worth that discussion.”

important facts about heart attacks

  • A heart attack happens when the narrowing or blockage of arteries leading to the heart prevents the normal flow of blood.
  • Most heart attacks in men start with pain or discomfort in the chest. There also may be pain in the arms, back, neck, stomach or jaw.
  • Other symptoms include nausea, trouble breathing, dizziness and sweating.
  • If the heart muscle is starved of nutrients and oxygen, the tissue can become damaged or die, so it’s important to seek emergency care immediately.
  • If you’ve already had a heart attack, you are at higher risk for another one.


screenings to consider by age group 
Each individual has unique health factors and needs, so it’s important to consult your doctor about screenings that may be required as you age. Here are some general recommendations for men:

20s & 30s

  • Blood pressure: Every two years, or yearly if it’s high
  • Cholesterol: Every four to six years, depending on individual risk factors
  • Diabetes: May be needed if you are overweight or sedentary, or if you have family history of type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure

40s & 50s

  • Blood pressure: Every year
  • Cholesterol: Every four to six years, depending on individual risk factors
  • Diabetes: Every three years starting at 45; more often if you have risk factors
  • Colorectal cancer: Start screenings at age 45, or earlier if you have risk factors.
    Prostate cancer: Check with your doctor.

60 & up

  • Blood pressure: Every year, or more often if it’s high
  • Cholesterol: Every four to six years, depending on individual risk factors
  • Diabetes: Every three years; more often if you have risk factors
  • Colorectal cancer: Colonoscopy every 10 years, or fecal test every year; screening no longer indicated after age 85
  • Prostate cancer: Check with your doctor.



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