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Tips for keeping men healthy while enjoying a mountain lifestyle

By Jessica Smith, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente

While June is well known for Father's Day, it is also national men's health month. Across the nation, this month is celebrated with health fairs, screenings and a variety of pro-health activities. And even though those of us — both men and women — who live in the Rocky Mountains may consider ourselves healthier and more active than people in other areas, it's important to pay attention to our health and what our bodies are telling us.

Develop good habits

Jeannine Benson is a primary care physician at Kaiser Permanente in Edwards, and sees patients ages 18 and above. This generally makes her the first stop, health-wise, for people seeking anything from a check-up to focusing specifically on a particular set of issues.

Benson recommends that men start visiting the doctor on a yearly basis once they turn 40 — or earlier, if they are dealing with a chronic medical problem. The key, she says, is to create "a good habit of going to the doctor" in order to stay in top-notch condition and prevent any problems from worsening.

Even those who see a specialist for chronic issues can rely on primary physicians like Benson to keep an eye on their overall health.

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"We look at the patient as a whole, not just their heart or their lungs, but how it all relates," she says. "The primary care (physician) should be a very important part of that person's follow-up if they have a lot of stuff going on."

Common symptoms and ailments

While individuals may vary, Benson mentions several common symptoms that men start to develop as they age. One of these is prostate complications, which can include enlargement and urinary difficulties.

Another is pain in joints and muscles, particularly after strenuous physical activity, or if the pain is consistently affecting day-to-day activities and lifestyle.

"The goal for these men is to stay active," Benson says. "They want to ski, they want to hike, they want to ride their bikes. My goal is — I want to help them do all these things, be as active as possible, and deal with those aches and pains."

Benson also recommends that men not forget the usual health screens for cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Cancer screenings are also important, she says, because often if an issue is caught early, the treatment can be easier on the patient and more successful.

Benson adds that this type of preventative mindset in patients is key and one that will lead to a healthier life. Since she started working in health in 2009 in Denver, she says she's noticed an increasing trend of people, particularly men, showing more interest in preventative care when it comes to their health.

Altitude adjustments

Whether or not someone lives at higher altitude or is simply visiting, Benson recommends they keep an eye on how they are feeling. Dehydration is a common issue and easily fixed.

"It's so easy to get dehydrated up here, with the active lifestyle most people lead," Bensons says. "That's important to keep ahead of."

She also recommends awareness of fatigue, dizziness and chest pain, which, while they may not necessarily mean something serious, should get checked out, particularly if they're consistent and long lasting.

"It's a big thing to pay attention to your body when it's telling you you're doing too much," she says.

A healthy lifestyle

Overall, Benson suggests men remain aware of their general feeling of well-being, and take care of themselves through both diet and exercise.

"Having good, healthy habits starting young is important, because it makes people so much more able to continue that their whole lives," Benson says. "So starting early is important. Sometimes it's very hard to change these habits when they're bad."