Guys, When Was Your Last Checkup?

doctorA healthy mind and body are two things we should never take for granted. Regular checkups and health screenings can go a long way toward safeguarding health and reducing the risk of disease and early death for both men and women, but the truth is that men are far less likely to visit the doctor on a regular basis. In fact, only 54% of men remember the last time they saw their physician, according to a new survey by Orlando Health.

This month as we focus on men’s health, consider scheduling a physical exam (or reminding your dad, husband, or son to do the same) to assess your overall health and discuss any issues or concerns you may have—and don’t be surprised if your doc orders one or more of the following tests, which are typically recommended for guys every year or few years starting in early adulthood:

  • Blood Pressure: High blood pressure (or hypertension) affects nearly one-third of American adults and is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Because it is “largely a symptomless condition” according to the American Heart Association, regular screenings are important for early detection.
  • Blood Tests & Urinalysis: Blood and urine tests are used to screen for various illnesses and diseases—including diabetes, impaired kidney function, or thyroid issues—before symptoms can occur.
  • EKG: An electrocardiogram records the heart’s electrical activity and looks for any abnormalities. This test is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death among men in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Rectal Exam: Your doctor may order a rectal exam to screen for hemorrhoids or lower rectal problems as well as colon and/or prostate cancer.
  • PSA Blood Test: Prostate Specific Antigen (or PSA) is produced by the prostate, and levels are higher when there is an abnormality such as an infection or cancer.
  • Testosterone Screening: Symptoms of low testosterone include a decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and changes in mood. This screening typically involves a brief analysis to determine symptoms, followed by a simple blood test.

Visit for a more comprehensive list of which tests are important, how often you should get them, and at what age they are recommended.

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Fermented Foods May Help Reduce Anxiety

fermented_cabbageCan adding more fermented foods to your diet benefit your mental health? It seems it might, say researchers from the University of Maryland and the College of William & Mary. They recently completed a joint study linking the consumption of fermented foods to reduced social anxiety among young adults.

More than 700 college students participated in the study, and each was asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire that inquired about dietary habits—especially fermented food consumption—as well as how often they exercised. The main finding, according to researchers, was that that young adults who ate more fermented foods displayed fewer symptoms of social anxiety, particularly those with a genetic predisposition toward anxiety disorders.

At the heart of it all is what scientists call the gut-brain connection—the relationship between our gut bacteria and healthy brain function. The more scientists learn about the trillions of different microbes that reside in our intestinal tract, the more they are beginning to understand how closely linked the human microbiome is to healthy brain function, mood, and behavior.

“It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety,” said William & Mary Psychology Professor Matthew Hilimire. He and his colleagues plan to continue investigating the gut-brain connection in a series of upcoming studies.

We know good nutrition plays a key role in physical health, but we often forget how connected it is to our mental health. Researchers believe new findings such as these point to the possibility that low-risk nutritional changes may be part of a comprehensive strategy to promote optimal mental health.

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