If business executives took better care of themselves, they would stretch their life spans. Too often, they don’t. Reasons for pushing aside their health care needs include not being able to take time away from management duties, inertia, feeling invulnerable and out of control of the situation or a macho stereotype reflective of both male and female executives that believe consulting a doctor is a sign of weakness.
With the New Year in full swing, what can managers do to improve their health?
Smart Business turned to Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., president and CEO of MemorialCare Medical Centers and immediate past chair of the California Hospital Association, for advice. And it’s advice you may wish to share with your associates, families and friends.
How serious is the situation?
For years, research revealed that too many men stayed away from physician visits and health screenings activities that can spot medical concerns before they become more serious. Now we’re seeing executives of both genders skipping medical visits and screenings. While women traditionally have a history of doctors’ visits, know the health system and find it less threatening, when men and women transition into the management suite, too often, they put their health needs on the back burner. Managers spend so much time taking care of employees that they often forget to take care of themselves.
When do problems arise?
Because of the level of stress associated with management which often translates into poor eating habits, lack of exercise and not enough attention to age-related screenings serious health problems can occur at any age. Worsening the situation are managers more likely to cancel appointments because they feel they can’t get away from work and who are less likely to take medications as directed, according to our MemorialCare physicians.
What steps should be taken?
Because tests and treatments can add years and quality to one’s life, executives can no longer avoid health screenings, ignore warning signs and hide emotions. The best time to visit a doctor is when you are well. This allows physicians to assess your overall physical condition through proper tests and screenings and get a baseline to observe future health.
Why are checkups so important?
Regular checkups and screenings tailored to your age, gender, personal and family history, and lifestyle can lead to early detection and quick treatment of many ‘silent’ disorders lacking obvious symptoms. These include high blood pressure, heart and vascular disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, urinary tract infections and cancer. When test results warn of growing cholesterol levels, precancerous polyps in the colon, abnormal pap smear or other health issues, it allows you and your physician to map out a plan to lower the risk of serious disease because you are identifying concerns in their most treatable stages.
You can no longer dodge the doctor when faced with serious problems such as shortness of breath and chest pain. Some of the most common medical conditions men and women face as they age can be cured or controlled if caught early. Diseases like diabetes are also partly the result of an unhealthy lifestyle aggravated by stress, which allows for control by adopting better health habits.
What about more gender-specific diseases?
While men and women are screened for and adopt preventive measures for diseases that mainly afflict their gender, each is also susceptible to each other’s ailments. Nearly 2 million men age 65 or older have disabling bone disease and nearly twice that number are at risk. Older men suffering hip fractures have more than three times the risk as women of dying within a year. And while in much smaller numbers, men are diagnosed with breast cancer, contract bladder infections half as often as women and are increasingly subject to eating disorders. With more women smoking at an early age, their numbers of lung cancer and vascular and heart disease are climbing and often are much more disabling than when men have these diseases. More women, for example, die of heart disease then men.
Where should I start?
Take responsibility for your health. Get regular checkups, preventive screenings, tests and immunizations. Your physician can determine how often they are needed. Make prevention a part of your business. Collaborate with hospitals, physicians and health plans to offer health programs, preventive techniques and screenings at your site or another convenient location. MemorialCare’s business outreach programs include executive physicals and on-site seminars. Additionally, our Web site, memorialcare.org, offers free online tools, calculators, guides and referrals to physicians that can help you and your work force reach the goal of a healthier life.
BARRY ARBUCKLE, Ph.D., is president and CEO of MemorialCare Medical Centers (www.memorialcare.org) and past chair of the California Hospital Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (562) 933-9708. MemorialCare Medical Centers include Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Anaheim Memorial Medical Center, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach.
President and CEO
MemorialCare Medical Centers