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Dr. Leigh LoPresti is a family medicine physician at CHP North Adams Family Medical and Dental Center.

Gentlemen, Check Your Engines: Why Men Don't Seek Preventive Care and Why They Should

By Dr. Leigh LoPrestiPrint Story | Email Story

Gentlemen: When did you last have a medical check-up?

If you are like a lot of men, you may be skipping this health care ritual of getting "checked out." And if you are a man under 40, you might be missing the opportunity to improve and maintain your health and prevent disease later in life.

As a family practice physician for 33 years, I enjoy treating all the members of a family, of all ages. But I routinely don't see the husbands, dads or male partners unless a health problem arises. Younger men, in my experience, are infrequent visitors to the medical office, and, in general, men are less connected to their health and wellness than women. I sometimes hear my male patients something like this: "My wife's been bugging me to get checked out."

But that's not why you seek out preventive healthcare care. You should go because prevention, health screening and early detection of red flags can have lifelong impact on you, your family, your finances, your work life and play time. Preventive health care is like putting a roof on your house.

A 2016 survey by the Cleveland Clinic found that more than half of men don't talk about their health – but they are happy to boast about a sports injury or a close-call accident. About 42 percent of men go to the doctor or other primary care provider only when they have an obvious medical problem.

So perhaps it's not surprising that men have higher rates of death or disability from heart disease and other preventable conditions, compared to their female peers.

Let's focus on heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States: in 2015, 24.4 percent of male deaths were attributed to heart disease. While genetics can play a role in heart disease, lifestyle, diet and exercise are big factors in heart health. Preventable conditions like, hypertension (high blood pressure, which is more common in men), diabetes and high cholesterol all contribute to heart disease.

If you avoid or skip those periodic preventive visits as a younger man, you may be unaware of your heart disease risk factors – both genetic and lifestyle – that could be lurking in wait, preparing to attack when age makes you more vulnerable. While it’s rarely too late to improve an unhealthy lifestyle, it's also never too early.

In my experience, men don't much like to ask for help. They are "too busy" to make an appointment. They fear what they may learn at a medical office. They rarely bring their kids in for checkups – it's usually the moms. They may have concerns about health insurance. They may simply not have a relationship with a healthcare practice or provider. For some men, teen bravado can last well into adulthood in men.

But a man who doesn't keep track of his health is taking a risk. And the data show that risky behavior is common among men. For men from age 1-44, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death, with homicide and suicide not far behind.

Let's not add "skipping the medical checkup" to the risk list.

Gentlemen, don't place the burden of your health on your spouse, partner or kids. Step up and get checked out. Build a trust relationship with a doctor or nurse practitioner you can speak with in confidence.

You will be glad you did. From here, in an office like mine or those of many other primary care providers, you can take charge of your health -- or celebrate your good fortune that you are a healthy man with a long life ahead.  

Dr. Leigh LoPresti is a family medicine physician at CHP North Adams Family Medical and Dental Center.


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'Joker': Doesn't Kid Around

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
If van Gogh were alive today and dabbling in film, I expect that he might create something as artistically maddening as Todd Phillips' "Joker." But we must tread carefully. The controversy is there for the taking. 
 
Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck, who will ultimately evolve into his alter ego, the Joker, before the closing credits fall on this fantastically directed, acted and produced "Batman" offshoot, is off the hook in every definition of the term. Thus the question is begged: Is it OK to derive entertainment from the criminally insane?
 
Phillips, who co-wrote this magnum opus with Scott Silver, throws all decorum and caution to the wind as he lavishes broad, violently-infused brushstrokes across a canvas hellbent on saying whatever it takes to get across its explosive meditation on the shocking sources and depths of evil. As we follow Arthur's devolution from simply sad Momma's Boy working for a clown rental company to a full-fledged crazy man on the loose in Gotham City, only our variety of cringe changes ... a different one for each new and expanded atrocity.
 
But what we suspect disturbs us most is the horrible, enigmatic truth that swirls at the vortex of the tale. It's something about the human animal either deep in our DNA and attributable to a brutal, prehistoric past, or, much worse, an ignominious, bad person gene we'd like to believe doesn't exist. It's precisely the perversity that has us so freaked out about the current situation in Washington ... the total disconnect from, and abandonment of, propriety and the nobility of truth.
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