Men's health in the spotlight this week

Some of the most common killers of men this year will be heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

To help raise awareness of these conditions, state and local agencies are putting the spotlight on men's health this week. An official kick-off ceremony, and health fair, was held at the Clayton County Board of Health on Monday.

Events will continue throughout the week at various locations throughout the area.

"In addition to kicking off Men's Health Week, this is a kick-off to examine the possibility of a permanent men's health program [in Clayton], which is something we presently do not have," said Thomas Walters, the Clayton County Board of Health's coordinator for Men's Health Week.

According to Rick Cooper, program coordinator for the Clayton Board of Health, 28 percent of deaths among men in Georgia are related to heart disease, while another 24 percent are related to some form of cancer.

Other leading of causes of death include, accidents (5.9 percent); stroke (5.1); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (5.1); diabetes (2.9); influenza and pneumonia (2.4); suicide (2.1); kidney disease (1.7); and Alzheimer's (1.5).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site, nearly 1.2 million men died in the United States in 2002, a rate of 846.6 per every 100,000. The CDC's men's health Web site also points out that, in 2006, 70 percent of men over the age of 20 were overweight, which can help accelerate the spread of cancer and is a risk factor in a number of other potentially fatal conditions.

"Women's life expectancy, on average, is 10 years longer than men for a good reason," Cooper said. "Women tend to go to the doctor more often than males do. Men tend to be framed from what their father did. If their father didn't go to the doctor very often, then they probably won't either. If you're not going to go to the doctor, you won't know something is wrong."

The American Cancer Society points out that prostate cancer exhibits no symptoms in its early stages, and that yearly Prostate Specific Antigen blood testing is the most effective way to identify the condition in its early stages. The chances of developing prostate cancer increase as a man gets older, and two out of three cases are found in men over the age of 65.

Walters added that there are lesser-known health issues facing men, which could be identified through regular doctor visits. Among these conditions are lupus and breast cancer. "They get overshadowed by the more well known diseases, such as prostate cancer and heart disease, because a smaller amount of men develop those diseases, and some of them are more traditionally found in women," he said.

Breast cancer screenings are a part of routine physicals for men at the Henry County Health Department, said the county's nurse manager, Larry McClure.

"It's not that common, but it does occur," McClure said.

Blood pressure checks, McClure said, should also be part of men's routine periodic exams.

"I would be checking [blood pressure], especially if I had a family history, monthly," he said.

Other Men's Health Week events scheduled for this week include:

· Exhibits at all Clayton County Senior Centers on Tuesday, June 26, and Friday, June 29.

· Exhibits and seminars from 1-3 p.m., and 6-8 p.m., on Wednesday, June 27, at the Clayton County Transitional Center.

· Free, confidential HIV and AIDS tests administered at the Clayton County Board of Health, 1117 Battle Creek Rd., Jonesboro, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Wednesday, June 27.

· A Men's Health Symposium from 7-9 p.m., on Thursday, June 28, hosted by New Birth South Community Impact Center, 3000 Corporate Center Dr., Suite 265, Morrow.

· Health exhibits, screenings, food, entertainment and field events from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Saturday, June 30 at the Clayton County Adolescent Center, 685 Forest Pkwy., Forest Park.