• Is Hubby Healthy? These Are the Tests He Should Take to Find Out
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  • Let’s face it. If it were up to your husband, he’d only get his health checked if a big scare took him by surprise. Otherwise, he’ll stay away from the doctor’s clinic for as long as possible. Now that you’re both growing older, it’s important for you to beef up your knowledge on his health. Experts share what you need to know about keeping your husband fit as a fiddle.

    Q: I’m concerned about my husband’s health even if he isn’t showing signs of being sick. Should he see a doctor even if it seems there isn’t anything wrong with him?

    A: Yes, he should. According to Juan Maria Ibarra O. Co M.D., President of the Philippine Society for the Study of the Aging Male, head of the Endocrinology section at UERM Memorial Medical Center, and host of UNTV’s Doctors on TV, “An asymptomatic individual will still benefit from screening tests for certain diseases as there is strong evidence that early detection is well correlated with better outcomes.”

    Aileen Divinagracia-Alban M.D., third year Cardio Fellow at the Makati Medical Center agrees. “As an Internal Medicine specialist, I usually advise my male patients that urological problems or disease entities related to men’s health are more often than not preventable,” she asserts. “It is better to detect problems early, rather than waiting for symptoms to develop or worsen. Majority of diseases, whether in males or females, can be addressed if identified promptly. The only way to avoid complications is to have yourself checked regularly. It’s a lot cheaper and less stressful compared to identifying problems at a later stage.”

    Q: I believe in preventive measures, but it’s so hard to get my husband to see a doctor. How do I convince him to have himself checked?

    A: It’s not easy for a wife to convince her husband to visit the doctor. You might as well be asking him to give up basketball or video games. However, there are a few things you can do. Dr. Divinagracia-Alban says, “A wife can probably convince her husband to get checked by a doctor by telling him that prevention is still better than cure. Wives may also remind their husbands that prevention of any health-related problems gives them the chance to enjoy life more with their kids and the rest of the family.” Dr. Co suggests, “Invite him to accompany you or your kids. Depending on his personality, use statements like, ‘Do it for our kids.’”

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    If this doesn’t work, he adds, “Maybe scare him a bit by saying how some of your friends or his relatives are already getting certain illnesses.” It is possible, though, that this will just annoy some husbands. You be the judge of what your hubby will be the most receptive to.

    You can also get things started by taking matters into your own hands. “Get him health insurance,” Dr. Co recommends. “Get him a wellness package. Many hospitals and labs offer wellness packages for asymptomatic individuals. Some offer packages where clients are admitted, so it’s more convenient.” However, Dr. Co warns that many of the tests given with wellness packages are unnecessary. “So unless a discount is given, I believe these packages turn out to be more expensive than they need to be.”

    Another option is to get the tests done without leaving your house. “Buy a digital blood pressure monitor and check his blood pressure at home,” says Dr. Co. “Call a lab that offers home service and have his blood tests done.”

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    Q: Is there a self-check men can do on their prostate that is similar to women’s breast self-examination?

    A: Both Dr. Co and Dr. Divinagracia-Alban say there is none. This is why it is important for your husband to see a specialist who can determine what tests he should take and who can identify discrete abnormalities. Dr. Co, however, says that there are symptoms you can watch out for.

    If your concern is the prostate, be on the lookout for “lower urinary tract symptoms such as hesitancy [when it takes long for the stream of urine to begin], dribbling [when urine leaks out even after urinating], urgency, frequency, incomplete voiding [when you don’t completely empty your bladder], nocturia [when you are woken up at night by the strong urge to pee], and so on. For other body parts, it’s the same as that for females. Check for rashes or anything unusual, especially pain, swelling, changes in bowel habits or stool, changes in urine, changes in weight, and so on.”

    Q: I’m approaching menopause and I was wondering if men also undergo “man-opause” or their own version of menopause?

    A: Yes, they do. “It is usually referred to as andropause, but the official terms are late-onset hypogonadism or age-associated testosterone deficiency syndrome,” explains Dr. Co. “Males can have abnormally low levels of testosterone which usually manifest as decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. It usually occurs much later in life, although it can occur as early as in their 30s or 40s for certain individuals. It’s treatable by administration of testosterone.”

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    Dr. Co says some physicians use the ADAM (Androgen Deficiency in the Aging Male) Questionnaire to screen patients for andropause. The standard ADAM Questionnaire has questions answerable by yes or no such as: 1) Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)? 2) Do you have a lack of energy? 3) Are your erections less strong? 4) Do you have a decrease in strength and/ or endurance? Your husband’s answers will determine if he has symptoms of andropause. Dr. Divinagracia-Alban adds, “Testosterone levels can be checked via a blood test, but a consult with a urologist may be warranted in this case.”

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    Q: If women experience vaginal dryness at a certain age, do men experience something similar? Does their libido decrease as well?

    A: If your husband does not have andropause, both doctors say his libido will not decrease. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, “Prevalence of symptomatic androgen deficiency was low in men less than 70 years old (3.1 to 7%) and increased markedly with age to 18.4% among 70-year-olds.” Dr. Co says when compared to women, “That’s a very low number, considering 100 percent of females will have menopause.”

    Dr. Co adds that you don’t need to have testosterone deficiency to experience erectile dysfunction. “Its causes may be vascular, neurologic, or psychological. For most, the cause is vascular, since smoking and common diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia [high levels of cholesterol and/or triglycerides] can lead to atherosclerosis [when the arteries harden and narrow; usually the cause of heart attacks], which leads to impaired blood flow.” Looking at it this way, if your husband has erectile dysfunction, it is possible that it is a symptom of something even more dangerous to his health.

    Q: I’m curious—is it normal for men to take Viagra?

    A: You can’t just ask for Viagra over the counter. According to Dr. Co, it is a prescription drug. “PDE-5 inhibitors such as sildenafil (Viagra or other generic brands) or tadalafil (Cialis) are drugs indicated for erectile dysfunction. I wouldn’t say it’s normal to be taking Viagra because that would mean it would be abnormal not to do so. So ask your doctor if this is appropriate for you,” he says.

    Q: Should my husband practice caution when taking Viagra?

    A: Yes, he should be cautious about using a PDE-5 inhibitor if he is taking heart medication. According to Dr. Co, “If your heart medications have ‘nitrate’ or ‘nitrite’ in their generic names, you can’t use PDE-5 inhibitors. Both medicines dilate blood vessels, and if your blood vessels are too dilated, that could cause low blood pressure.”

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    Dr. Divinagracia-Alban adds that the significant decrease in blood pressure when taken with nitrates is the most important concern, but “there are other possible side effects such as headache, flushing, dyspepsia, or drug allergy in a small number of patients.”People have the misconception that PDE-5 inhibitors are bad for your heart. Dr. Co debunks this idea. “PDE-5 inhibitors were actually developed to improve blood flow to the heart,” he explains. “But clinical subjects who took it noted improvement in their erections.” Thus, the drug was born. But not everyone responds well to PDE-5 inhibitors. If your husband is one of those patients, Dr. Co says that there are other therapies available. Just consult your doctor.

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    Q: I’ve heard that prostate cancer is common. What do I need to know about it?

    A: Contrary to what people believe, frequent or lack of sexual activity are not risk factors for prostate cancer, says Dr. Co. “It is one of the most common cancers in the Philippines. Just like other cancers, early detection is associated with better outcomes. Other than genetics, there are no other strongly established risk factors.”

    To screen for it, Dr. Co says your husband will need to take a “digital rectal exam by a trained physician, prostate ultrasound, and PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen test).” This is a blood test that measures the levels of antigens present in the patient’s blood. “If suspicion is high, a prostate biopsy may be recommended,” he adds.

    Q: What other diseases affect men more than women?

    A: Dr. Divinagracia-Alban says the most common male problems encountered in their outpatient clinic are benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate) and prostate cancer. “Others would include prostatitis [which is when the prostate gland is inflamed], and erectile dysfunction. Of course, other non-gender specific diseases must also be screened for, such as urinary tract infections, urolithiasis [forming of urinary stones in the bladder or urinary tract], hypertension, diabetes, and so on,” she adds.

    Dr. Co lists down other diseases that commonly hit men: “Since more men smoke: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, lung carcinoma. Since men drink more than women: alcohol hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). Since more men have risk factors, men get coronary artery disease, including heart attacks and strokes, earlier than females do.”

    Q: Now that my husband is aging, what preventive measures do you recommend he should practice besides getting himself checked by a doctor?

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    A: Preventive measures are easy to remember—the problem is, do we follow through? According to Dr. Co, the World Health Organization has listed the five top causes of death as 1) high blood pressure, 2) tobacco use, 3) high blood sugar, 4) physical inactivity, and 5) being overweight and obese. Dr. Divinagracia-Alban says it’s important to “eat right, exercise, and avoid smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use.” Once your husband reaches the age of 40, “He should have regular check-ups even if he isn’t feeling any symptoms. The next follow-up will be determined by the doctor, depending on the findings.”

    Dr. Co adds, “Get screened for hypertension [which can be measured with a blood pressure monitor] and diabetes even if you do not have any symptoms. Exercise more—moderately vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes on at least four days of the week with no more than two days between exercise days. Maintain ideal body weight.” Although we’ve heard these before, Dr. Co believes “these interventions will have the highest impact on preventing disease and prolonging one’s life.”

    Ed’s note: Dr. Divinagracia-Alban also consulted urologist Paulo Jesus Fernandez M.D., Chief Resident of the Department of Surgery at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, for this article.

    This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines magazine. Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.

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