Quitting Time

More than 438,000 premature deaths from smoking occur each year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute. The habit harms nearly all organs and causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung disease. The good news: Nonsmokers substantially reduce their risk of these diseases, and the percentages increase the longer a person remains smoke free.

Withdrawal symptoms (weight gain, sadness, anxiety, and restlessness) can be difficult, but are obviously worth enduring. Millions quit for good every year; here’s how:

  • Customize the advice: Consult with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized quit plan. Know where you’ll turn for additional help.
  • Add nicotine replacement: 5 forms of nicotine replacement products — patch, gum, lozenge, nasal spray, and inhaler — are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
  • Get a grip: Realize that withdrawal symptoms are most challenging during the first 3 days of quitting; a typical craving lasts only a couple minutes.
  • Never have another smoke: Once you quit, stay there. Just a puff can lead you back to addiction.
  • Think of the benefits: Ex–smokers have more control over their life, experience better health, and set a good example.

Hats Off to Dad

What became a US national holiday in 1966 was first celebrated on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. Father’s Day was inspired by Sonora Smart Dodd, who wanted to honor her father — William Smart, a Civil War veteran. He raised all 6 children alone after his wife died in childbirth.

Today, the honor is not only bestowed upon fathers, but on those who have served as father figures in the lives of others.

Celebrate the dads in your life with these easy–to–do, thoughtful gifts and activities:

Write. Tell him about specific times in your life when he said or did something that meant a great deal to you.

Explore. Take Dad to see something he’ll really enjoy, like a car show, a concert, or a race.

Create. Photographs of children or grandchildren — arranged in a collage frame, scrapbook, or even on a coffee mug and T–shirt — are a sure bet.

Gather. Spending time with the people he loves might be what he would enjoy most of all.

This Is for the Guys

If you’re a man — or if you have a man in your life — there’s something you should know. Preventive care isn’t just for women — but studies show that men are less likely to seek any type of healthcare.

Men are also more likely to engage in high–risk behaviors such as tobacco, illicit drugs, excessive alcohol — and they’re more likely than women to be overweight. Experts say this lack of healthcare and more high–risk behaviors could be why men generally get sicker and die earlier than women.

The good news is that regular preventive care allows problems to be detected early — when they’re often easier to treat.

Encourage the men in your life to take good care of themselves with these ideas:

Tell him you care. He may not know how much it matters to you that he gets a regular checkup.

Be a good example. Seek the healthcare you need and practice a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise together. Invite him to join you for a walk or sign up for a sports team.

Offer to schedule his healthcare visits. You shouldn’t have to — but then you’ll know it’s done.

Go with him. Healthcare visits can be intimidating; you can support him and take notes.

Coping With Incontinence

While pregnant women and those who’ve had children are most susceptible to bladder control problems, men can suffer from embarrassing incontinence after prostate surgery or as a sign of prostate issues. Symptoms range from occasional leakage to bedwetting, and also can be a result of benign causes like certain foods or medications.

But frequent incontinence can signal a more serious condition — such as bladder cancer, kidney stones, enlarged prostate, and even neurological diseases (Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors). While you should visit your doctor if you experience urine loss regularly, your complications worsen, or blood appears, some behavioral and physical tips can tame milder symptoms.

  • Strengthen your pelvic floor (also called Kegels) by contracting and releasing the urinary sphincter muscle that controls urine flow. One study found that specialized instruction from a physiotherapist can dramatically improve the success rate of these exercises.
  • Schedule visits to the bathroom to anticipate overflow. You can also control bouts through bladder training, which includes learning to relax, count, and breathe when the urge strikes, or releasing your stream once, then stopping again after a brief pause.
  • Drink water throughout the day. Dehydration can cause your urine to concentrate and aggravate the bladder. Taking in fluid regularly helps maintain a constant flow of liquid through your system. Sodas and sugary or acidic drinks can irritate the bladder and further dehydrate, so stick with water.

PETS AND PEOPLE

More than 70 years ago researchers found that stroking a dog lowers the dog’s blood pressure. However, it wasn’t until 1984 that scientists learned the blood pressure also decreased in the person petting the dog. Others reported a positive correlation between pets and their owners’ cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There were also symptomatic indications of anxiety and stress relief in people who owned pets. From these meager beginnings exploded the field now known as Human-Animal Interaction. Marty Becker, D.V.M., author of The Healing Power of Pets, which details this field, simply refers to it as The Bond. Once skeptical physicians and scientists are now discovering the remarkable power of animals to detect disease and provide healing in a host of medical and emotional conditions. Many doctors are even “prescribing” pets as part of combinatorial therapy for their patients.

One of the most outward signs of the field’s validity is the creation of the nation’s first Center for Human-Animal Interaction in the School of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. Sandra Barker, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, directs the center. She says, “It’s has been my dream come true. We have faculty from all parts of the school participating, including gerontology, the business school, addiction psychiatry, and epidemiology. There are so many people interested in this area.” She also holds an adjunct appointment at the Center for animal-human relationships at Virginia Tech’s veterinary school. Many veterinary schools now have departments devoted to this area of research. The American Association of Medical Colleges reported last year that, of the 125 US medical schools in the United States, 76 offer courses in complementary and alternative medicine as part of their required curriculum. Even more government funds are becoming available to study alternative medicine, the category in which animal-human interaction falls.

The number of organizations whose mission is the promotion and celebration of the human-animal bond are rapidly increasing. The Delta Society, the first known group established in 1977, promotes awareness of the positive effects animals have in people’s lives, in addition to expanding the roles of animals in human health, education and therapy.

Merial, the world’s leading animal pharmaceutical company, recently created PAWSitive InterAction, a first of its kind non-profit community alliance of Atlanta’s premier animal organizations. “The foundling members of PAWSitive InterAction are bound together by a common commitment to promote and celebrate the positive impact of the human-animal bond,” says Nalini Saligram, Ph.D., Merial Corporate Communications Director. The alliance includes the Atlanta Humane Society, Happy Tails Pet Therapy, Zoo Atlanta, and Pets are Loving Support (P.A.L.S.).

Fatherly Love

Learn the common and lesser known men’s health risks… and how to prevent them:

Heart disease. While it’s the # 1 killer of men and women, men are more susceptible earlier in life. To lower your risk, test your cholesterol every 5 years starting at age 25. Ask for the C-reactive protein test, which identifies inflammation. Monitor blood pressure and kick the nicotine habit if you smoke. Increase your physical activity to at least 30 minutes/day, and bump up your intake of produce.

Prostate cancer. Generally slow in progression, this cancer may require less invasive screening than once thought. If you’re high risk, talk to your doctor about regular digital rectal exams and PSA (prostate-specific antigen) tests for early detection. Otherwise, your best bet is a diet low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may minimize your chance of developing the disease. Other studies suggest green tea, soy products, and legumes lower risk.

Depression/suicide. Once considered more prevalent in women, evidence shows that men may be just as prone. Financial and job-related stresses can increase vulnerability, as can deficiencies in vitamins like B6 and B12. Bust the blues with exercise, which stimulates natural mood enhancers like endorphins; load up on nuts, whole grains, and leafy greens to boost depression-fighting serotonin.