June is Men’s National Health Month, so we sat down with Dr. Asjad Ali, a Family Practice physician in our Holden office about some of the concerns many men have about their health.
Q: Do you find that it’s often more difficult for men to open up about their health problems and see their doctor?
Dr. Ali: Over the years I have recognized that, generally speaking, men are not big fans of coming in to see their doctor. No matter their age, men often need some encouragement to come in for a visit.
Q: Why are regular physical exams so important?
Dr. Ali: Regular physical exams are so important because we can focus on preventative care, such as screening tests, vaccinations, and education and counseling to help patients make informed health decisions.
Q: What is one of the most important screening tests?
Dr. Ali: It is now recommended that both men and women get a colon cancer screening starting at age 45. One reason a colon cancer screening is so important is that it is one of the few screenings tests that can detect a cancer before it starts. So, it really can be life-saving.
Many people have heard of a colonoscopy and they may be a little bit apprehensive about this exam. However, there is also a non-invasive test, Cologuard, which is suitable for many low-risk patients. This exam can be self-administered at home and doesn’t require the same type of prep needed for a colonoscopy. I encourage patients to talk with their primary care provider to learn more about Cologuard and to see if it’s an option for them.
For people who do require a colonoscopy, I counsel my patients on the fact that if you choose to be sedated during your colonoscopy you are not going to feel anything. So that alleviates a lot of fear. Another area of concern with a colonoscopy is the preparation itself. It is usually not as hard as people think. I like to remind patients that if your colonoscopy goes well and there are no findings you generally don’t need another one for ten years.
Q: For men, heart health always seems to be a big concern.
Dr. Ali: Yes, in the United States coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. Coronary artery disease is caused by narrowing of the blood vessels that bring blood to your heart muscle. Whenever I talk with my patients, I review the different risk factors, and the most common risk factors are family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, bad eating habits, and poor levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. So, I counsel people on reducing these risk factors. For example, eating healthier, non-processed food and increasing exercise can be very effective at lowering blood pressure and having better control of their diabetes if they are diabetic. This will improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels too and result in a lower overall risk of coronary artery disease.
Q: According to a 2019 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health, compared to women, men are less likely to seek help for mental health difficulties. Do you have advice for men on how to cope with mental health concerns?
Dr: Ali: Yes, it’s important for men and those close to them to be aware of the warning signs of any mental health difficulties. For example, if you have mild symptoms that have lasted for less than two weeks such as trouble sleeping or feeling down, engaging in self-care activities can be a good starting point to feel better. But if symptoms are severe, persistent or getting worse, please talk to your PCP. We are here to help you and can refer you to our Behavioral Health department for additional care if necessary. Symptoms may include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor appetite changes that may result in unexpected weight changes
- Loss of interest in things that you usually enjoy
- Inability to perform normal responsibilities and daily functions or struggling to get out of bed in the morning due to mood.
Q: Are there any other important concerns you would like men to know about?
Dr. Ali: Regardless of gender, regular exercise and proper nutrition are key to staying healthy. Regular physical activity can help control weight, reduce risks of developing heart disease and some cancers, and can improve overall mental health and mood. And it’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, include whole-grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein and limit foods and drinks higher in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation—which for men is 2 or less drinks per day.
Men’s National Health Month is a good reminder for men to take a proactive approach to their health. If you or the men in your life are not making positive health choices, now is the perfect time to take charge of your health. I encourage all men to come in for their wellness exams and make sure they have the appropriate health screenings. Regular exams are really the key to staying healthy since they allow us to carefully track risk factors. So please make an appointment today if you need too!
About Asjad Ali, MD
Dr. Asjad Ali first became interested in medicine through his father, who was a chemical engineer who worked at a fertilizer company. “He was very knowledgeable about science and plants and how things worked in nature and that helped get me interested in medicine,” he explains. “It’s a great career for those who enjoy science and helping people.”
Dr. Ali enjoys practicing family medicine because he can get to know and treat...View profile View posts by this doctor