Health Tips From a Father's Day Card

Four generations of men holding fishing poles

June 17 is Father's Day. While you're sorting through racks of Father's Day cards looking for just the right one, you might notice that several motifs are very popular! Any one of them might inspire you to open a conversation about ways men can protect their health as they grow older — which is so appropriate, because the entire month of June is Men's Health Month. Here are some conversation openers:

Smoking. Plenty of Father's Day cards feature a contented-looking dad smoking a pipe. Needless to say, tobacco smoke is bad for Dad's health, regardless of whether he's smoking cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or if he's a newfangled dad with an electronic cigarette. Chewing tobacco also can cause serious health problems. Encourage Dad to talk to his healthcare provider about a tobacco cessation program and offer to support him in any way you can. If Dad is a frugal sort, you might point him in the direction of this tool he can use to calculate how much money he'll save if he quits.

Grilling safety. Other cards show a dad in his "Kiss the Cook" apron, barbecuing his signature burgers or steaks. Remind Dad to follow safe grilling practices, such as keeping the grill and implements clean, cooking foods to a high enough temperature to kill bacteria, and storing leftovers promptly. While you're at it, encourage Dad to cook up some yummy veggies and heart-healthy fish instead of just red meat.

Nutrition. Speaking of fish, that's another Father’s Day card motif — Dad sitting in a boat with a fishing pole. Nutritionists tell us that eating more fish is great for our heart, brain and blood vessels. Make that fish dinner even healthier by adding leafy green veggies and a whole-grain side dish, and cook with healthy fats, such as olive oil. As a bonus, while dads in some of the more humorous Father's Day cards often sport a "spare tire," eating a healthier diet can help Dad shed excess pounds.

Alcohol. Plenty of Father's Day cards feature a beer motif, or maybe a martini. Whatever form of alcohol your dad prefers, remind him that drinking too much raises his risk of heart trouble, cancer, diabetes and even Alzheimer's disease. Experts recommend that men drink no more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week — and some recent studies say even that is too much. Encourage Dad to discuss drinking with his doctor.

Exercise. The couch potato dads depicted on some Father's Day cards aren't good role models! They need to start an exercise program that includes aerobic, muscle-strengthening and stretching activities. Those many golf-themed cards can be a good inspiration. Experts tell us that golfers who walk the course are getting great exercise. What about dads who pilot a golf cart from hole to hole? Northwestern University professor Dr. Prakash Jayabalan recently noted, "Bottom line: Walking the course is significantly better than using a golf cart, but using a golf cart is still better than not exercising at all."

Remind Dad about health screenings

Few Father's Day cards feature a senior man at the doctor — that is more the purview of birthday cards. But this is still a good time to remind the men in your life to get their recommended health screenings. Studies show women tend to make healthcare appointments for the men in the house, so if your father lives alone, he could likely use an extra nudge.

Here are the screenings he should know about:

Blood pressure. High blood pressure is often called "the silent killer," because without any noticeable symptoms, it can damage our blood vessels and raise our risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and vision loss. That's why our blood pressure is tested routinely at most healthcare appointments. If Dad's blood pressure is too high, the doctor will work with him to keep it under control. It's a trial-and-error process that can save his independence and even his life.

Cholesterol. A lipid panel (simple blood test that measures blood fats) is recommended for all adult men — more often as they grow older. If your family has a history of heart disease, it's especially important for Dad to be tested as often as his doctor recommends. If the doctor thinks Dad's cholesterol is too high, diet and other lifestyle changes, or in some cases medications, can lower the level.

Diabetes. One in 10 Americans is living with diabetes, which if left untreated, can damage almost every organ of our bodies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that one-third of adults in America have prediabetes — elevated blood sugar that can progress to diabetes. The CDC advises all men older than 45 to have their blood sugar tested.

Prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men, second only to lung cancer. Many prostate cancers are small, slow-growing and don't cause health problems. Your dad's doctor may recommend that he receive both a physical exam and a blood test beginning at age 50, or earlier if he is in a high-risk group. Testing and treatment are decisions to be made by Dad and his doctor.

Colorectal cancer. Cancer of the colon and rectum is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths among men in America. The good news is, a colonoscopy can detect these cancers at an early, treatable stage, and during the procedure the doctor may be able to remove small growths that can become cancerous, called polyps. For most people, periodic screening between the ages of 50 and 75 is recommended.

Skin cancer. The American Cancer Society says that men are at higher risk of skin cancer than women. Men are advised to perform regular self-exams of the skin, and to report changes in moles and other skin changes to their doctor. Dad's doctor also may perform a skin examination during regular checkups.

Bone density. Dad may think of osteoporosis as a "woman’s disease," but in fact, as they approach the age of 70, men lose bone mass at the same rate as women. Many men experience fractures due to brittle bones, which can lead to loss of independence and even death. Dad's doctor may order a bone mineral density test to see if he should be treated.

The doctor also may recommend other screenings, for such conditions as depression, low testosterone and memory problems. While he's there, Dad can get his immunizations up to date, as well.

If Dad keeps putting off that checkup, why not offer to go along? Make a day of it! This could be a much better Father’s Day present than yet another tie.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about the health screenings and lifestyle choices that are right for you.

Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in home care services.