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The Best Father's Day Gift

In honor of all the fellow fathers out there and the women and children who love them, let's talk man to man for a moment: nothing is more manly than taking control of your own health.
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Its time for some guy talk. Women, you are welcome to listen too, since this affects the men in your lives and you are in a position to lengthen and even save them. Father's Day is coming up, and it's a time to focus on the most rewarding part of being a man -- fatherhood. I have four children and my own father was and still is a role model and friend. My father-in-law was my surgical mentor and was also enormously influential in making me the man I am today. But while men do a lot of things well, one thing we don't do is talk about our health enough or seek out care when we need it -- let alone before we need it. So in honor of all the fellow fathers out there and the women and children who love them, let's talk man to man for a moment.

Men have delusions of adequacy when it comes to monitoring our bodies and need to be more conscious of healthy living and knowing our numbers. Part of our responsibility as fathers and husbands is keeping ourselves healthy, and it should be a family effort to gently nudge all men to map out steps to do the right thing.

I've teamed up with the Ad Council to raise awareness of men's preventive health issues. In an effort to prod middle-aged men about the importance of life-saving medical testing, I am supporting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Ad Council today as they launch a new series of public service advertisements in conjunction with Men's Health Week prior to Father's Day (June 20).

One thing I have learned on my show is that people need to be emotionally invested to change. Simply telling them the right thing to do is not enough. As many of you reading this know, it's next to impossible to get a grown man off the couch to do anything. But once we understand the consequences for our children and wives should we suddenly disappear, we are ready to move heaven and earth. Men are wired to fix things and put out fires. We respond to the world with a sense of urgency. So if we discuss our health in that context, we are ready to listen and act.

The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization that marshals talent from the advertising and communications industries to promote public service campaigns on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies. These are the same folks that brought you Smokey the Bear 60 years ago to prevent forest fires. That iconic campaign gave children something to identify with on their level and taught me and millions of others never to play with matches as a young boy. Now they are saving men's lives through their online quizzes and PSAs, framing it in a way that shows the cause and effect of not taking care of one's health.

Did you know that men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited the doctor within the past year, according to new data released today by the AHRQ? In addition, men are about 30 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for preventable conditions such as congestive heart failure and complications from diabetes, according to new AHRQ data. The data from the AHRQ Medical Expenditure Panel Survey also show that men are 22 percent more likely than women to have neglected their cholesterol tests. In 25 years as a surgeon I have spoken to thousands of men who never would have found themselves in the advanced stages of heart disease if they had taken some easy prevention steps -- namely weight loss, lower blood pressure and not smoking.

The PSAs encourage men to visit a comprehensive website, which provides the recommended ages for preventive testing (as well as a list of tests), a quiz designed to test your knowledge of preventive health care, tips for talking with your doctor, a glossary of consumer health terms, and links to online resources where you can find more medical information.

As a father and a husband, I take my health very seriously. It's not all about me. It's about the loved ones who depend on me to be healthy. Along with a Father's Day card this Sunday, print out or log on to the quiz with the man in your life. And for the men reading this, nothing is more manly than taking control of your own health.

To take the online quiz and learn which tests you should be getting and when, go to Here are some clues: you need to know your blood pressure target at any age, your ideal waist size (half your height measured at the belly button), your cholesterol and your diabetes risks or status. But take the quiz that will give you much more specific information.

For those of you who will be giving someone a Father's Day card on Sunday, the best gift inside the card may be an appointment you made for him for a complete physical with his doctor and the tests that he needs at his chronological age. It won't seem strange because it will be in the same card reminding him that you love him, need him and want him around for a long time.
Happy Father's Day to all my fellow fathers. Hope you enjoyed the guy talk. Now be a real man and tell a friend.

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