As my patient population gets a bit older, I find myself more often discussing with my older teenagers the importance of taking care of themselves as they move on in their lives. One day, their parents won’t be there to remind them (or shall I say encourage them) to eat well and get good sleep.
They will be in charge of their overall health and if a good foundation is not in place, it could put them down a path where there future health is already being compromised.
So in light of the fact that most of my patients who are nearing 19-20 years of age happen to be male and this week is Men’s Health Week
, I’d like to share with you all some of the topics I discuss with the males I care for as they are getting ready to move on... or at least from my practice... and enter the next stage of their lives. So in no particular order, here are my top 7 items of discussion:
1. Healthy Diet: I hesitate using the word diet as it often implies something about losing weight so maybe best to healthy dietary practices. While most of my patients are absolutely aware of how best to eat, many don’t adhere to a healthier diet. And although not meant to be a scare tactic, I do enlighten them to the thought process that poor dietary habits now may lead to diabetes, heart disease, and even cancers down the road.
2. Lab Testing: Following along the theme just mentioned, I do also like to get some baseline labs (e.g. fasting lipid profile, chemistry panel, thyroid labs, routine blood count) in late adolescence. And while I don’t expect (and hope) to find any significant abnormalities, it again serves as a reminder they need to take care of themselves.
3. Immunizations (AKA vaccines): Usually by the time they are getting ready to move on from my practice, most patients have already received their adolescent vaccines. But just as a reminder, these include the tetanus/whooping cough vaccine (Tdap), the meningitis vaccine (couple to choose from and may even need two by the time they reach 18/19 years of age) as well as the HPV vaccine (Gardasil.) Yes, some of you may be thinking the HPV vaccine was only meant for young adolescent females, but one thought process is because it is sexually-transmitted, both males and females should receive this vaccine. And I agree.
4. Sexual Practices: Let it first be noted I will never promote engagement of any early sexual practices. But since I am a realist, I realize things do occur and appropriate safety measures should always be undertaken (e.g. condom use.) And what I stress is the always part of it... that is, 100% of the time.
5. Listen to Your Body: Some of the items I stress here include don’t wait 10 years until the next physical... yearly exams should continue. Also, if something doesn’t seem right, whether it be mental or physical, make sure there is follow up with a physician and specifically for the male adolescents in my practice, it is very important to perform routine testicular self-exams as this is a prime age for testicular cancer to appear.
6. Be Wary of the Internet: This topic comes from my interest in the use of social media and the internet. Anything posted or written on the internet is there forever and may impact future schooling opportunities, jobs, and even relationships. So when in doubt, don’t post.
7. Exercise: So much research exists emphasizing the importance of routine physical exercise and its positive impact on the mind and body of the individual, so I really do stress to make sure time is found to get the “heart pumping” on a routine basis. Avoid becoming the “weekend warrior” and find a few days during the week as well.
- Dr. Jeremy
Editor's note: This article is part of our Men's Health Week series, happening June 11th-June 15th, 2012. Celebrate with us by visiting the DailyStrength Men's Health Week special page, and don't forget to check out Sharecare's videos and tips just for men!
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