Written By Melissa Bean Sterzick
Becoming empowered and informed patients is possibly the first item on
the list of measures men over 50 need to take to protect their health.
Years of good health and a tendency to prioritize performance can create
a pattern of ignoring physical issues. However, trends in medical care
are making patients more and more responsible for their own health.
Men’s Health Month and a great time to increase awareness of preventable health problems
to support early detection and treatment of disease among males. The month
of awareness gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media
and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular
medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.
Dr. Hiva Bastanmehr is an internal medicine and men’s health specialist who practices at
Torrance Memorial Physician Network - Palos Verdes. She says she spends a lot of time interviewing patients because she wants
to know as much as possible about their current health, family history
and approaches to medical care. She says men over 50 often defer important
decisions to their physician, but she would like to see them take a bigger
role in managing their own health.
“I love taking care of men. But a lot of times they say, ‘Well,
you’re the doctor,’” and I want to emphasize to them
they are the patient and it’s their body. I tell them, ‘This
is what we know and these are our options. What would you like to do?’”
she says. “Empowering the patient is very important.”
Heart disease and stroke are the biggest risks for older males. Treatment
options are increasingly more effective and non-invasive, but preventative
measures are a better approach. Important steps for protecting heart health
are to control blood pressure, monitor cholesterol, stop smoking, increase
physical activity and decrease consumption of saturated and trans fats.
Risk factors like age and family history are important to take into account
for the doctor and the patient, especially because those risk factors
cannot be modified like diet and exercise habits.
Health policy changes over time. Dr. Bastanmehr says every 10 years there
is a big shift in how health care is practiced. One trend has been to
reduce routine testing.
She says an EKG used to be part of every annual exam for males over 50,
but this is no longer the case. Now, tests like an EKG are conducted on
more of an as-needed basis. This places responsibility on the patient
to be aware of, and share with their doctor, any symptoms such as shortness
of breath or tightness in the chest that indicate the need for specific testing.
According to Dr. Bastanmehr, colon cancer is still the most prevalent cancer
among men. Newer screening methods are now available, and the guidelines
are shifting to start screening at a younger age. Most insurance plans
now cover colon cancer screening at age 45, and newer, less invasive tests
Prostate health is another concern, but because there are no set guidelines
on timing and frequency of testing, it is best addressed according to
each patient’s needs. Dr. Bastanmehr knows it can be difficult for
patients to bring up symptoms that could indicate prostate cancer, such
as difficulty urinating or increased frequency of urination.
“This is a very sensitive subject, but it really needs to be discussed
in detail with your provider. I urge patients to read up on it, be educated
and have specific conversations with their provider so they can decide
together,” she says. “Patients need to feel free to have these
Integrative medicine is a growing new trend beyond traditional medical
practice for men. This type of treatment is not always covered by insurance,
but there is a lot of interest among the public and the scientific community
about gut biomes and hormonal health, Dr. Bastanmehr says. Many types
of tests and treatments are offered outside the doctor’s office.
In particular, testosterone levels are a focus of biotech companies and
integrative medicine practitioners. Men experiencing symptoms of low sex
drive, abnormal loss of muscle mass associated with weight gain, and chronic
fatigue could have low testosterone. Dr. Bastanmehr says hormone replacement
can be beneficial but does have risks, so individuals should see their
physician before adding integrative treatments.
Other important checkups include: diabetes, bone health, depression, sexual
health - including test for sexually transmitted diseases, hearing and
vision, and dental checkups. All the basics of good health such as moderate
drinking, no smoking, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise
are as essential as ever. Senior males should spend time nurturing friendships
and community, and should seek therapy, if needed.
Forming a good relationship with a trusted primary care physician is an
important step. After that, study the latest data, get regular checkups
and monitor symptoms and physical changes. At the doctor’s office,
be open about health history and present concerns. Ask questions and be
a participant, not just a patient.
“The way medicine used to be practiced, in terms of the doctor/patient
relationship, is for the doctor to be the authority figure,” Dr.
Bastanmehr says. “That has all changed. Now we really value the
patient’s participation and want to give the power to the patient
Dr. Hiva Bastanmehr is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and specializes
in Men’s Health. She attended medical school at Ross University
School of Medicine, West Indies. She finished her clinical training in
Baltimore, Maryland and completed both her Internal Medicine internship
and residency programs at West Virginia University. She is passionate
about practicing preventative medicine and helping her patients live healthy,
happy lives. Dr. Bastanmehr practices at Torrance Memorial Physician Network
- Palos Verdes and her office is located at 602 Deep Valley Drive, Rolling
Hills Estates and can be reached at 310-517-4692. She is currently accepting