- Category: Health
Overworked corporate men don’t look after themselves as they should. Jonathan Jackson spoke with Dr Michael Olenski to find out what men should be doing to maintain their health.
It would seem that health takes a back seat to business. It’s not something that any man should be proud of; if anything, health should come before corporate takeovers, boardroom meetings and profit margins. Healthy life, healthy business, isn’t that how it goes? So the question is, if senior executives are responsible for the health of the companies they work in and every part of the organisation undergoes stringent analysis, checks and evaluation to ensure that it is working at its optimum performance level, why are men not paying the same attention to your health?
Dr Michael Olenski has dedicated his practice to helping men understand the importance of regular health checks.
“Men do not understand the prevention model. Women are exposed to it from an early age i.e. pap smears and breast examinations. I became interested in men's health when I began to notice that my male patients were getting diagnosed late into their illness or in many cases dying suddenly from a preventable cause (stroke/heart attack).”
The medical technology is now of such a high standard that most diseases can be picked up early which means there is an excellent chance of cure or prevention.
“No longer should men rely on the axiom: ‘if I don't feel sick, why should I go to a doctor?’ The truth is that men over the age of 40 need a six monthly health check (just like their cars need a 50,000km check).”
Dr Olenski was a GP until 2011. He made the change to concentrate on men’s health because he didn’t feel proper, thorough checks were being conducted. Men’s health is much more than a stethoscope to the chest, a blood pressure reading and a five minute consultation. Michael conducts hour long sessions; it gives him the time to make guys comfortable. Yet the only way he can make them see reason is to talk about sex, which is actually intrinsically linked to heart health.
“I break down all these barriers, but what gets guys to come back – and this will sound stupid – but the only thing that motivates them is erection problems and sex drive. If they’ve got an erection problem, they’ll be back Monday morning for the results of the test. Anything else they will just let go. So what I do with blokes is when they’re relaxed, I start talking about their sex life or their erections, or their sex drive and their ears just prick up. They become interested because it’s explained to them that sexual problems can be the first hint that you have heart disease. In fact the most common cause of impotence is cardio-vascular. But even before you get a heart attack you might actually notice that your erections aren’t as good, you need good blood flow.”
Guys also prefer a bit of humour to lighten the mood, which is hard to achieve in a short general practice sitting. Dr Olenski says men need to feel that they are not being put on a witness stand. That’s why he speaks about cars and uses cars as a metaphor.
“I always give the blokes the example of their motor car. They understand that model. You’ve got to get the brakes checked. You’ve got to get the electronics checked. You’ve got to get the hydraulics checked. I try to show them which part of the human body it correlates to. A 6 cylinder car is the heart and the filtration system is the lungs. It sounds stupid and it sounds childish but that’s how blokes understand it. Because when it comes to medicine, blokes are stupid and what they do is, they wait until they hear of one of their friends or family members have had a heart attack or cancer and they come in on a Monday morning all panicked. They last for about two weeks and then they forget that their friend had a heart attack.”
They don’t teach psychology in medical textbooks, that’s why it’s important for doctors to understand the motivations of men.
“You can order blood tests, chest x-ray, a lung function test if he’s been a smoker, get his throat checked for throat cancer and give him those three or four things to do, but what happens if the guy doesn’t come back for the results? What if the guy never does the tests in the first place? None of the books ever explained that. They all assume that the guy is going to do the tests.”
The problem is 80% of men, don’t follow through. That’s why places such as Iris medical, of which Dr Olenski is involved, have sprung up. Iris Medical delivers health checks designed especially for executives that are 40+. It is a state-of-the-art, purpose built facility that provides all-inclusive executive health checks, using the latest technology to identify small problems before they become big ones.
It has sprung up because the doctors involved believe they can make a difference to executive life.
Iris Medical conducts its testing in three hours.
Here is Dr Olenski’s sample of what can be done.
You could have a blockage in your coronary artery without symptoms. In fact your first symptom could be your last. A cardiac stress test or CT coronary angiogram will reveal any underlying arterial blockage. A simple stent insertion could avoid a preventable heart attack.
Similarly, a carotid artery(main artery in the neck that supplies the blood to the brain) ultrasound can reveal a blockage before the stroke occurs. Alternatively, a negative test would give the patient a huge sense of relief as well as reassuring the loved ones.
“I give my patients a one hour consult which enables me to examine them, discuss the results of the investigations and plan any further referrals if necessary.
Dr Olenski delves into the family medical history, as well as conducts a full medical history and examination.
“I feel screening works for men over the age of 40 because the alternative model usually includes five or six referrals to different specialists, which time-strapped men usually do not follow through with.”
A complete and thorough men's health check includes:
1. Blood pressure and cardiac risk assessment
2. Blood screening - lipids/LFT/TFT
- Glucose(for Diabetes)
- PSA(prostate marker)
- Male hormones(Testosterone)
3. Prostate exam (2 yearly)
4. Testicular examination (most common cancer in men under the age of 40)
5. Skin check. Melanoma - a yearly skin check is necessary as Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
6. Sleep study is needed if there is any suspicion of sleep apnoea (which can only be suspected by medical history of unrefreshed sleep, lethargy and poor concentration.
“This is the most undiagnosed condition in medicine currently and carries the equivalent of cardiovascular risk of high blood pressure and raised cholesterol.
“Sleep apnoea causes a significant drop in oxygen levels during sleep .It is often related to obesity and alcohol consumption.”
7. Type 2 Diabetes – this is currently an epidemic in the western world and is related to obesity and hereditary factors. If suspected a simple Glucose Tolerance Test will reveal the diagnosis. It carries with it a significant cardiovascular risk and can affect longevity if left undiagnosed. Many patients are totally unaware that they have this condition. The most common symptoms are tiredness, increased thirst and increased urination.
8. Depression is often looked over by busy general practitioners – it can be primary (hereditary) or more commonly secondary (a reaction to a major event eg. relationship issues/death of a loved one/financial difficulties.
Treatment can include medication and/or psychotherapy/
9. Alcohol/binge drinking. This can lead to an increased risk of type 2 Diabetes/obesity/sleep apnoea/erectile dysfunction /chronic pancreatitis. Recognition of the problem is the first step to improved health.
10. Colonoscopy should commence at age 45 but earlier if there is a strong history of bowel cancer. It is usually repeated 3-5 yearly depending on the findings of the initial scope.
11. Sexual problems, including loss of libido can be related to a decrease in testosterone in men over the age of 40 – it is the male equivalent of menopause. In many cases testosterone replacement can improve quality of life (if there is no prostate problem).
“Poor erections can often be the first sign of cardiovascular problems and once this is excluded there are various treatment options.”
12. Family Medical History. In reality our genetic profile can account for up to 70% of medical problems .The other 30% is related to lifestyle.
Often it takes a death or an illness of a close friend or family member to catapult one into action.
Unfortunately this phenomenon has a small window of opportunity for the patient to take action and seek a health check which is why it is imperative to have regular health checks.
When it comes to screening, Iris Medical try to maximise the amount of testing in the shortest amount of time (usually 3-4 hours).
There can only be 2 outcomes:
- The results are normal.
- Early detection can prevent or cure a potentially serious problem.
Iris Medical is not a panacea for all health problems but it is an excellent medical facility that allows doctors maximum information in minimum time.
“Information in medicine is everything, all we need is for men to turn up.
Iris Medical conducts the following:
- Examination - physical assessment
- Pathology(blood test)
- Medical Imaging (ultrasound, CT scanning, MRI brain and entire spine, calcium scoring of the coronary arteries)
- Follow up to review all results with our Medical director(if necessary ,we will recommend a specialist for further care)
Dr Olenski urges all companies to get involved in an executive health check. From the CEO down, it is important that both men and women have regular health checks.
“If you’re a big company, your biggest risk is all the blokes in their 40s and 50s. Guys don’t take risks in business, but they take risks for themselves. That’s what’s so fascinating about it. So the message will get through slowly but surely. It might take generations but I’m going to be on this campaign for a while. I’m sick of seeing friends of mine or people that I know getting something that was totally preventable.”
And that’s the key, bad health is preventable; you just need to take the time to recognise the signs, and then have the courage to take action. If you do that, you’ll find that your life and business will improve.
For further information about taking an executive health check go to www.irismedical.com.au