Movember Inspired Men’s Health Questions & Answers

by Dave Heidloff | Leave a Comment

It’s no secret that facial hair has become a growing trend over the last few years. A group of men and women from Athletico have decided to raise awareness of men’s health by joining the “Movember” movement via a team effort known as “The Athletimos.” Movember is a simple concept. You spend the month of November growing your moustache or “mo” (no beards, goatees, etc) and then bring up both men’s health issues and donation opportunities when asked about the fashion statement on your upper lip. Think of the mustache as a magical ice-breaker and trust me, it works.

To help kick off this event, I’ve decided to do a short interview with a two of Athletico’s men’s health experts who have a passion for educating others about issues related to Movember’s theme. Below, you’ll read some responses to Movember topics from age-diverse Athletico clinicians Jeff Hay and Neil Shapiro. Jeff (45) is an athletic trainer with 21 years of experience. 4 of those were spent with the Chicago Bears and many others were spent with a wide range of patients – from weekend warriors to various professional teams. Neil (26) is a physical therapist who is a lifelong athlete – excelling in running and rowing. In fact, Neil has trained and raced with US National team members and alongside several US Olympians, and is now passing his expertise along as a coach to the next generation of rowers.

Dave Heidloff (DH): How did Movember get rolling within Athletico and why is its push to get men discussing health issues so important to you?

Jeff Hay (JH) : The Movember/Men’s Health initiative started with a few of our clinicians (Neil Shapiro from our Winnetka clinic & Brian Bartelli from our Niles clinic) that had passion around educating our patients & creating some fun events to build awareness. They were able to engage with their patients by something as simple as growing a mustache.  I remember thinking that “you’ll never see me growing a mustache” and here I am 12 months later getting ready for my first ever attempt at growing a “stache”.  This movement has become more important to me as I’ve witnessed several friends and family battle cancer and other diseases like diabetes & heart disease.  Some of these people’s lives were saved because they schedule a regular annual physical.  Early detection is one of the easiest ways to survive some of these terrible diseases.

Neil Shapiro (NS): Being a much younger male that works with older men, I have seen what happens when you let fitness and your health awareness fall to the wayside and I feel like men’s health tends to be something that isn’t openly talked about. Everyone knows about breast cancer walks, juvenile diabetes, arthritis, and ALS but 1 in 7 men at some point in their lifetime will develop some form of male related cancer or cancer pre-cursor. For the most part, these can be easily addressed or remedied with lifestyle and nutrition changes.

DH: What men’s health issues do you bring up when someone asks about your ‘stache?

JH: As a health care professional, we have many opportunities to promote living a healthy lifestyle and can often be an example for others by eating right, exercising regularly and attending an annual physical exam.  I am proud to work for a company that employs physical therapists specializing in men’s health diagnoses.  We provide these services at 7 Chicagoland area Athletico facilities.  At these locations we treat all of the common mens health diagnoses; urinary incontinence, urinary frequency, dysfunction, rehabilitation after a prostatectomy, pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction.  Physical therapy can really help men suffering from any of these conditions.  Our patients learn how to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles and return to full function and a high quality of life.

NS:  I definitely bring up prostate and testicular cancer since those are the main cancers that men are susceptible to. As long as you get your normal physicals and proctological exams, you can stay ahead of these. I also talk about men’s average life expectancies being less than women’s, which just based off my own observations and perspectives, is because women take better care of themselves as they get older and tend to be more concerned with their health and activity levels.

DH: What is the one men’s health issue that you feel is easily correctable, but often ignored?

JH: I believe that everyone can make a small change or two in their diet that will have a big impact on their overall health and well-being.  The changes are different for everyone and what’s most important is that we think about our food choices.  For every positive change that you can make (decreasing sugar, eating fewer carbs, drinking more water), I believe that it has an impact on everyone around you.  Diet is a big part of a healthy gameplan. It seems to impact everything: sleep, weight, appearance/self-esteem, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers; basically overall physical and emotional health.  Yet, it’s very easy to find fast food and a much bigger challenge to surround yourself with healthy food choices.  Wouldn’t it be nice to see the ratio of unhealthy to healthy food flipped for a change…

NS: The biggest thing I hit on is activity. I usually touch on recreation and healthy lifestyles like regular exercise (at least 30 minutes of cardio a day getting your heart rate at least to 50-60% of your maximum heart rate, roughly 220 minus your age) but also with work and normal daily activities. A lot of my patients, and myself included, spend a lot of time at work so I touch on a Time article and research that came out last year saying that sitting is the new smoking. I want to make sure my patients know this is as easy as making sure that they are getting up and moving around throughout the day. I also try to talk about getting regular doctors exams because I feel the usual male mentality is to wait until something goes wrong before you seen a health professional.

DH: Most men feel like they’re invincible until about the age of 32 (based on a study with a sample size of one blogger). The late nights out and fast food meals are seen as reversible to a lot of us and are something that can be made up for later in life. When do you feel men should start paying attention to their health?

JH: It’s easy to get caught up in life, kids, work and put off making decisions that allow you to live a healthy lifestyle.  I waited until age 40 before deciding that I wanted to do something about my health.  I highly encourage everyone to start living healthy in your 20’s.  Find a local physician and schedule a regular, annual physical exam.  You will start to build a relationship with an expert that can guide you through the normal ups and downs of life.  There is a lot of misinformation in the media, your physician can be a resource for evidence based approaches for your health.  The patient-physician relationship also covers your family history and make sure that you ask questions about any additional testing and preventative approaches that you can apply.

NS: I think that men should always be concerned with their health regardless of age because it’s not like cancer/other issues that develop over night. A lot of time, health issues are due to a lifetime of poor choices. While I’m still pretty young, and “invincible”, I tend to not be too detailed about proper nutrition other than everything being good in moderation. I am, however, a big proponent of staying active and maintaining a healthy social, physical, sexual and mental lifestyle.

 DH: While on the topic of male invincibility, I know that a lot of guys avoid getting physicals unless it’s mandated by an activity or work. What are the advantages of a regular physical?

NS: Getting a physical every 6 to 12 months means that if something is going wrong, you can catch it early. It also allows you the chance to check in and make sure that a certain diet or lifestyle change is healthy. One of the things I wish I did more was get into see a cardiologist since I do a lot of endurance activity (marathons, rowing, cycling, swimming and I plan on training for my first ultramarathon next year). My concern is that cardiac issues due to a lot of endurance activity, such as hypertrophic cardiac myopathy, can be causes of a cardiac event in young healthy men and can be easily diagnosed with an ECG or ultrasound.

DH: Those are some good reasons to schedule a physical. I know many men are content with a standard physical and run out the door when they get a thumbs-up from their doctor. Are there any medical tests you think are useful to ask for that may not be part of a standard physical?

NS: As I mentioned, if you do a lot of cardio intensive activity, getting an electrocardiogram, ultrasound or stress test are great ways to make sure you are not over taxing your heart. I think it’s also smart to get regular blood work done to assess for any immunological changes. A lot of times big issues like rheumatoid syndromes or cancer can be screened for in blood work (depending on the work-up).

DH: There has been an explosion of information geared towards men now in books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and other media. What are your “go-to” resources for men’s health information?

JH: I also think it’s important for each person to gain an understanding about living a healthy life through reading books, newsletters and blogs.  Here are a few of my favorites:

NS: I usually defer more towards the associations and their recommendations on health care, like the AMA, AHA, or LIVESTRONG foundation. In terms of blogs and magazines, I do like the nutritional recipes and stories from Men’s Health and Runner’s World and I generally like the articles on MadeMan.com because they talk about everything concerning men from culture to health and fitness.

DH: A lot of guys see missed opportunities to improve their health when they look back at past decisions. If you could give yourself one piece of advice 15 years ago, what would it be?

JH: Here’s the advice I would give to my 20 yr old self…  Enjoy life, food, exercise and start paying attention to what you eat and how often you exercise.  I would challenge myself to eat healthy 75-80% of the time and to enjoy desserts or less healthy food for a small portion of my week.  It takes a little planning and I now know that it’s definitely worth it!

NS:  Well 15 years ago I was eleven so I’m not sure 11 year old me would have cared but I guess I would say that don’t pass up on that yearly physical and just because you will someday workout 6 to 7 days a week for varsity sports, don’t let that be an excuse to eat all the Wendys you want. It’s really hard to get into a healthy nutrional routine when you’re used to eating garbage all of the time.

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