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 their future health. That’s why asking Dad about health conditions or diseases he has or did have at one time can empower you to decide on 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 whether he is 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 saw 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 they spend money on that procedure? While asking these questions may not help you learn more about how his health history may affect you, it does open the door to other questions. For example, if it’s been a while since he has sat in a doctor’s exam room, you could offer to take him or make the appointment. If he refuses, ask, 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?
Heart disease is the number one killer of adults and men in the United States. 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, brothers, or 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, exercising regularly, not smoking, and reaching a healthy body weight.
Have you ever had cancer, and does cancer run in the family?
Numerous cancers 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 there may be an inherited or genetic factor in some cases. 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 doubled 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 have been diagnosed with this cancer can help themselves by wearing sunscreen daily, reducing the 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 as many men may feel uncomfortable discussing this topic openly. It’s important to know, however, since if Dad dealt with mental illness, is there a pattern of other male relatives who experienced it too? In addition, whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health conditions, it may give you a clue about your mental health state, prompting you to learn where to get help if any symptoms arise.
Do you have diabetes?
If a disease tends to run in families, it’s type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is subtle. The symptoms can be vague, and when 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 worldwide and is 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 using 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 trap. More research is still needed, but there seems to be a stronger hereditary link among males who have a slightly higher risk of developing problems with substance abuse if a parent has struggled with it. Talking about this topic may be the hardest of all but very necessary. Honest, open communication paves a better path toward avoiding going down the same road of destructive behavior.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.