June is Men’s Health Month – a time to raise awareness and encourage men to take charge of their health. A Baylor Medicine urologist emphasizes the importance of health checks and taking care of yourself.
Men should visit their primary care provider annually. There is no specific age they should see a urologist as it is a symptomatic referral. Roughly 10% of men in their 30s will experience erectile dysfunction and about 10% of men in their 30s will start developing urinary problems. If men develop urologic issues, they should see a urologist. By the age of 55, physicians recommend prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. High-risk patients under the age of 55 should be considered for earlier PSA screening using shared decision making, a process in which a healthcare provider and patient work collaboratively to make healthcare decisions for the patient.
“Shared decision making should be performed with all patients being screened for prostate cancer. The risks and benefits of PSA screening should be discussed and both the provider and patient should agree on whether a PSA screening should be initiated,” said Dr. Mohit Khera, professor and F. Brantley Scott Chair in the Scott Department of Urology and member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
The high-risk category includes being African American or having a family history of prostate cancer or breast cancer. African Americans are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer. If a man carries a breast cancer gene, such as the BRCA2 gene, he is eight times more likely to have aggressive prostate cancer. Men with a father or brother with prostate cancer are two to six times more likely to develop prostate cancer. High-risk patients should consider PSA screening as early as their 40s.
Men between the ages of 15 and 34 perform monthly testicular exams to screen for testicular cancer. Khera recommends providers should check a man’s testosterone levels in their 40s – he believes this is one of the best markers of men’s health. Men with lower testosterone levels are more likely to have prostate cancer. Low testosterone can also be an indicator for cardiovascular disease. Low vitamin D has been implicated in lower testosterone levels, but Khera suggests only supplementing with vitamins if you are deficient.
“My belief is you should only supplement if you’re low. Supplementing when your levels are in a normal range does not offer much benefit,” he said.
Most pre-workout, protein powder and other supplements people use for exercise have not been tested for efficacy or safety in relation to testosterone levels or fertility. Khera advises patients to reduce supplement use when they are trying to achieve a pregnancy.
Processed food and excessive carbohydrates might decrease testosterone, so try to have a high-protein, well-balanced diet. Khera outlines four pillars to keep testosterone levels up:
- Diet: high in protein and limiting processed foods and carbohydrates
- Exercise: at least two and a half hours per week, incorporating cardio
- Sleep: at least 7 hours per night
- Mitigate stress
“These four pillars of health can have a significant impact not only on a patient’s testosterone levels, but their entire quality of life, including blood pressure and insulin resistance. These are extremely important,” Khera said.
Mental and physical health have a bidirectional relationship, and mental health often impacts physical health. When patients exercise, they release endorphins, which can help with depression, according to Khera. He stresses the importance of exercising regularly.
“Taking care of your health is really a joint collaboration between you and your provider. Men should take accountability for their health and focus on diet, exercise, sleep and stress reduction as these four pillars can significantly improve a man’s quality of life,” Khera said.
Learn more about Lester and Sue Smith Urology Clinic at Baylor Medicine.
By Homa Shalchi