Give dad the gift of better health this Father’s Day. Instructions on how to buy and wrap it are listed below.
First, encourage all the fathers and grandfathers in your life to make these lifestyle improvements:
- Don’t smoke or use any form of tobacco – visit smokefree.gov for a comprehensive look at successful ways to quit tobacco
- Make healthier food and beverage choices – eat less salt and foods with added sugar, and less junk food
- Keep a healthy weight – losing just 10 percent of body weight lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and cuts the risk of diabetes
- Get moving – exercise at least 30 minutes every day with any aerobic (increases your breathing rate) activity at a moderately intense level, and twice-a-week strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep – good sleep lowers your risk of many chronic diseases and depression
- Limit alcohol to two drinks a day
- Find healthy ways to manage stress – daily exercise is one of the best
- Stay socially connected to family, friends and the community, especially if retired; isolation increases the risk for many diseases, especially mental illness
It’s likely your dad already knows this good-health advice, but hasn’t changed his behavior toward actually becoming healthier. This part of the gift will take some thought and involvement on your part.
This is the shopping phase. Ask dad what you can do to help start implementing a few of the above recommendations. Be creative, because only you know what will work with your dad. Here are some suggestions:
–Offer to show him how to cook healthy food and then cook together once a week. If dad lives alone, plan a weekly potluck meal; invite a neighbor or two to make it festive.
–A retired dad might enjoy your help in starting a weekly men’s lunch group of his old work buddies.
–Ask him to be your exercise buddy because having a buddy increases the success rate for making a habit out of regular exercise.
–Start a weight-loss competition between the two of you.
Get regular screenings
Routine health screenings have been proven to save lives, but men are far more likely to skip them. We all make better health care choices when someone we love encourages us. So, the next step is to encourage dad – and all the men in your life – to get the following health screenings or tests to look for diseases before symptoms occur. Finding problems early will give him a better chance for a full recovery or to avoid a disease or chronic condition.
Offer to go with him to his next doctor’s appointment; ask which of these tests or shots he needs. Then wrap up his gift by following up to be sure he gets them.
- Aortic aneurysm (a bulging of the aorta) screening is a quick and painless ultrasound over the stomach/chest area. The risk of death is very high if an aortic aneurysm bursts.
- Blood pressure readings that are tracked over time to detect individual patterns are the most helpful in checking for heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for men over age 45.
- Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test.
- Colorectal cancer can be screened for in several ways; ask which is best for your dad.
- Depression screening means answering questions from a healthcare provider or filling out a questionnaire. Screening should be done for anyone who has felt very sad, hopeless, or had little interest or pleasure in doing normally enjoyable activities, for more than two weeks. This is a tricky area for men. Most men don’t want to talk about their feelings and they certainly don’t like asking for help with their emotional issues. If you and your dad aren’t close, it may be better to let a health care professional handle this area. If you think your dad is having emotional issues, don’t ignore finding someone to help him. Although women make more non-fatal suicide attempts, men are more likely to die from suicide. Suicide increases with age.
- Diabetes screening is done with a blood test. It’s especially important for people who have high blood pressure or take medicine for blood pressure. The risk increases with age.
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening should be done for anyone born between 1946 and 1965, or who has ever injected drugs or had a blood transfusion before 1992.
- HIV-AIDS testing is done with a blood test.
- Immunizations can prevent several life-threatening diseases. Dad will need an influenza (flu) shot every year; a combined Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough) shot every 10 years; a shingles shot if he’s over age 60; and, if he’s over 65, a pneumonia shot.
- Lung cancer screening is important for people who smoke, or have smoked but quit within the past 15 years. It can now be done with a blood test.
- Prostate cancer screening should be done annually for men over age 50; more frequently for those with prostate enlargement or pain, or who have had prostate cancer.
- Weight should be checked regularly to keep it within a healthy range. The doctor can explain how weight and height are tracked on the BMI index.