We’ve all been there. The moment when we see our strong, resilient dad who never complains about an ache or pain, suddenly come down with a flu, or worse yet, heart pains. Regardless of how much he’s suffering, he tries not to show it and always insists he’ll be ok. He’ll continue to trudge along his day, not even considering the option of going to visit the doctor.
With Father’s Day coming up, our Papis are on our minds even more than usual. Laura Esparza, a project coordinator at the The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio designs and implements community interventions focused on underserved populations. She tells us what health challenges affect Latino dads most, what to do to get them to stay healthy as long as possible, and how to get them to the doctor when needed.
According to a 2009 study by the American Cancer Society, one of the leading deaths among Hispanic men was prostate cancer. About 47,900 new cancer cases in men were expected to be diagnosed in Hispanics in 2009 and about 14,400 Hispanic men were expected to pass away from cancer.
“The biggest challenges are obesity and chronic disease such as, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease,” adds Esparza. “A third of all cancers are related to inactivity and poor nutrition, and obesity…It’s an emerging problem…Two thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese – the highest it’s ever been.”
Esparza adds that if we make an effort to lead healthy lifestyles, much of these diseases are completely preventable.
She says a lot of men just don’t get around to going to the doctor or even thinking about their health, because there is always something else to spend money on. They also don’t feel as in control in the doctor’s office – so providing them information to arm them before they go is key.
It’s all about starting the conversation.
“Start by saying ‘I care about you, and I want you to do all you can to stay around,” says Esparza. “Explain the reasons for getting tested. One of the key things to get across is that if there is a problem, it’s a better chance to treat it before it gets worse.”
She says to also offer support and perhaps find out about screenings and take your dad personally.
“If you have symptoms, you are at an advanced stage,” says Esparza. “That’s why screenings are important and Hispanics survival rate is not favorable, because it’s not being caught early.”
10 simple steps for improving Papi’s health and hopefully prevent him from going to the doctor:
1. Stay away from tobacco.
2. Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day.
3. Participate in physical activity – 2.5 hours a week/30 minutes a day.
4. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
5. Get regular screenings.
6. Print a brochure, or a list of research about men’s health, and slip it into his Father’s Day card. (Also provide tips for talking with your doctor so he feels in control and not in someone else’s hands.)
7. Have a conversation, not concentrating on what he’s failed to do, but what he could do to stay healthy for his family. Timing is everything.
8. Find something active dad likes to do and go do it with him.
9. Food – the quickest route to failure – completely changing his plate is not very successful. Gradually add more healthy foods to the plate. Think small steps.
10. If he likes to grill, instead of meat, throw on some veggies and fruits. Come up with a menu. Make it really easy.