Health questions every man should ask his dad

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Health questions every man should ask his dad

Dear old dad – how well do you know his health history?  For any man, knowing the health history of their father can be valuable information on what their future health may hold. That’s why asking dad about health conditions or diseases he has or did have at one time, can empower you to make decision about your health. 

The hardest part may be getting dad to open up about his health.  Many men are often reluctant to discuss this part of their lives. Approach the topic by showing genuine concern about him.  Ask him how he feels physically and emotionally and is he taking good care of himself. An attitude showing interest without berating him, can break the ice on finding out how healthy he is and what you may need to work on to take care of yourself.

Below are important health questions to ask your dad.  This allows you a glimpse of his health status and what may be indicative of your future health – this way you can tell your doctor of medical conditions or diseases your dad has that might affect you also:

·      When was the last time you’ve seen a doctor?

This may be a good way to start the conversation.  Men are notoriously known for waiting until they are quite sick before seeking medical help.  Or they skip important routine health screenings figuring if they feel fine, why should spend money on that procedure. While asking these questions may not necessarily help you learn more about how his health history may affect you, it does open the door leading to other questions.  If it’s been awhile since he has sat in a doctor’s exam room, you could offer to take him or make the appointment.  If he refuses, say would you rather have a tune-up or a complete overhaul?  That may change his mind and get the ball rolling in his favor.

·      Do you know if you have any heart disease?

The number one killer of adults and of men in the United States is heart disease. While you would likely know if your dad had a heart attack or stroke, do you know if he currently or at any time in his past, ever had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or metabolic syndrome? Ask him if his dad, his brothers or your grandfather ever had these risk factors.  Men whose male relatives have risk factors for heart disease could be an indicator if you may develop these conditions in your lifetime.

Even if your dad does have these risk factors for heart disease, there are lifestyle behaviors that can prevent or reverse your chance of developing it. Start by eating a heart-healthy diet, getting in regular exercise, don’t smoke and reach a healthy body weight.

·      Have you ever had cancer and does cancer run in the family?

There are numerous cancers that have little to do with hereditary factors.  But knowing if your dad or other male relatives had a certain type of cancer could be a clue of what to watch for. 

One type of cancer specifically of concern for men is prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer does tend to run in families suggesting that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor.  A man who had a first degree relative such as his father or brother (it is even higher if a man had a brother with it) diagnosed with prostate cancer has a more than double risk of developing this disease.  Another factor that can place a man at a higher risk is if he has had several relatives with prostate cancer and particularly if these relatives were young at the time of diagnosis.  Getting regular prostate screenings beginning at age 40 is a good start to avoiding this disease

Skin cancer is another cancer linked to genetics.  Men whose fathers who have been diagnosed with this cancer can help themselves by daily wearing sunscreen, reducing the amount of time spent in the sun and performing self-skin checks or seeing a dermatologist for a full body check.

·      Have you ever had depression or mental illness?

This question can be tricky to ask as many men may not feel comfortable talking openly about this topic. It’s important to know however since if dad dealt with mental illness, is there a pattern of other male relatives who also experienced it too? Whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions, it may give you a clue about your own mental health state prompting you to learn about where to get help if any symptoms were to come up.

·      Do you have diabetes?

If there is a disease that tends to run in families it’s type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is subtle.  The symptoms can be vague and by the time many people are diagnosed with the disease, they probably have had it for several years. Knowing if your dad (or mom) has the condition can be a warning sign for you to begin changing lifestyle behaviors to avoid getting the same diagnosis.  Type 2 diabetes is at epidemic proportions around the world and a leading cause of death due to serious complications.

·      Have you ever had issues with alcohol or substance abuse?

Likely if your dad did have or currently has problems with alcohol or use of illegal/prescription drugs, you would probably already know it. But regardless, studies have shown that children of alcoholics or drug users have a higher risk of falling into that same trap themselves.  More research is still need, but there seems to be a stronger hereditary link among males of having a slightly higher risk of developing problems with substance abuse if a parent has struggled with it also. Talking about this topic may be the hardest of all but very necessary. Honest, open communication paves a better path towards avoiding going down the same road of destructive behavior.