On Father’s Day, we are reminded how much our fathers, grandfathers and other special men in our lives mean to us, and how grateful we are to have them. As a physician and father myself, this day makes me personally reflect on the important role we play as fathers in our families’ lives, and the importance of taking care of our health. While we celebrate those we love, we should be aware of the unique health challenges men face and be diligent about maintaining or improving our health.

Compared to women, men are more likely to avoid preventive healthcare, ignore symptoms or delay seeking medical attention, and engage in lifestyle behaviors that introduce health risks. Though it may be easy to ignore health provider recommendations until troublesome issues arise, it is important to recognize health warnings swiftly and proactively “fight” for our health.

This Father’s Day, I challenge all fathers and those who love them to protect their health by learning more about the signs and symptoms of men’s health risks and to work with health professionals to maximize good health. Here are some tips…

Preventive Care Matters

Many insurance plans cover preventive health services, often at little or no cost to you. Blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests as well as cancer screenings such as colonoscopies can help men take charge of our health and identify issues early. Have you ever heard of someone who wished they’d discovered a health issue later? Probably not, because sooner is better when it comes to health. If you don’t already have one, develop a relationship with a primary care provider and discuss preventive care options that are right for you.

Be Aware: Signs and Symptoms

The mortality rate for preventable conditions is 41 percent higher for men than women, so it pays to be aware of the drivers of men’s health issues. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer are among the leading causes of death for men, and symptoms of potentially life-threatening events that are extremely time-sensitive include:

  • Heart Attack – Fatigue, chest pain, nausea or vomiting and more
  • Stroke – Dizziness, confusion, trouble walking and more
  • Sepsis – High temperature, signs of infection, mental decline and more
Learn the signs and symptoms of sepsis, an overwhelming infection that could lead to severe organ failure and even death.

Depending on their severity, these symptoms can be easy to ignore, but have great potential to be devastating. As such, timeliness of seeking medical care is key. One survey found that one in four men would wait as long as possible before seeking help if he were concerned, and nearly 40 percent would delay care a few days. When seconds and hours matter—and they often do—time is life! We must all be the best patient advocates for ourselves and our loved ones by raising questions and concerns and seeking medical help when needed.

Reduce Health Risks

Many major health issues that men face can be prevented or improved through a healthy lifestyle. Compared to women, men are more likely to be overweight or obese, to overuse alcohol or use tobacco, and to make risky choices. By eliminating risk factors such as tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption, and by educating ourselves about (and generally following) a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise, we position ourselves to live longer, healthier lives.

One of the most powerful ways you can show a loved one you care is by demonstrating sincere interest in their wellbeing. This Father’s Day, do this by encouraging the men in your life to pay attention to their physical and mental health, and let them know their health is important to those around them. Following these tips now can benefit men and our families on this holiday and many more to come.

Happy Father’s Day!

Jonathan Perlin, M.D., Ph.D. is the president of clinical services and chief medical officer at HCA Healthcare.