Houston television weatherman Frank Billingsley says some men take better care of their cars than they do themselves and he is right.

“When we see a check engine light come on we can’t get our cars to the garage fast enough. But when our own check engine light comes on there is no hurry,” said Billingsley, the chief meteorologist at KPRC-TV Channel 2 and prostate cancer patient.

The experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, have identified five things men need to know to keep their personal check engine lights off.

Know your prostate cancer risk

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, and the diagnostic tools used by doctors include a rectal exam and a blood test.

“Prostate cancer is not associated with any symptoms in the early stages, when it can potentially be cured. That's why it's also important for men to discuss having a PSA (prostate-specific antigen test),” said Steven Canfield, MD, the chief of urology for McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. He is the holder of the C.R. Bard, Inc./Edward J. McGuire, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Urology at UTHealth.

Canfield is principal investigator of a clinical trial studying a less invasive treatment involving the use of gold nanoparticles to kill cancerous cells and Billingsley is one of the participants. “Our hope is that the treatment will be effective with fewer side effects,” said Canfield.

How to check for heart problems

“Our genes are significant risk factors for heart disease but not the only one. You cannot choose your parents, but you can decide how to treat your body!  Good eating habits and a balanced diet focused on natural ingredients are very important and make a difference,” said Cesar Nahas, MD, visiting associate professor of cardiovascular medicine with McGovern Medical School, chief of cardiac surgery with Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital and an attending physician with UT Physicians Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgery – Southeast.

Regular exercise will not only make you feel better but will keep your heart healthy as well. Check your heart rate and blood pressure a few times a year and get help if they are elevated. Do not ignore chest discomfort, increasing fatigue or shortness of breath and assume they are part of the aging process. These can be symptoms of heart conditions that, if diagnosed early, can be treated much more effectively.

 How often men see a doctor

For some reason, men have not gotten the word that they are supposed to see a doctor on a regular basis. Research shows that men are half as likely as women to go to a doctor over a two-year period.

Philip Johnson, MD, director of the general internal medicine division at McGovern Medical School, has heard all the excuses including that men are too busy to go to the doctor.

Johnson said regular checkups are the key to nipping problems in the bud and that men should get a regular checkup at least once a year.

Men can get osteoporosis too

Women are not the only ones susceptible to bone loss. Approximately 2 million men have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is often considered a silent disease as men may remain asymptomatic until a fracture occurs, said Neel Shah, MD, associate professor of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism with McGovern Medical School. 

The condition is often unrecognized and untreated in most men. Osteoporosis in men can occur due to various factors, including testosterone deficiency, genetics, lifestyle choices, and other risk factors. It is important to get regular checkups with your doctor to see if you are at risk for developing osteoporosis.

Exercise is a great health tonic

Apparently, the word has not gotten out about the importance of exercise. Only 27 percent of men in the U.S. are getting the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and 75 minutes of muscle-strengthening exercise a week.

According to John Higgins, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine with McGovern Medical School and chief of cardiology at Harris Health System’s Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, exercise reduces your risk of diabetes, cancer, depression, obesity and more than a dozen more conditions.

“You don’t have to run a marathon but you have to do something. Every little bit helps,” Higgins said.

Keeping with his car analogy, Billingsley added, “It’s important for men to keep themselves tuned up, too.”