Families seem to face the same dilemma each June – how to make Dad feel special. Shopping for that unique, wonderful gift is seldom successful. There have been a few victories for me, such as the Leatherman I bought my Dad five years before anyone knew what they were. He proudly carried it for years. A fine pair of Cowboy boots was also memorable.
How do I celebrate a guy that, for years, did everything he could to make the family safe, and paid for more years of higher education than he thought possible without complaint?
Maybe the perfect gift eludes you, but in a sense, maybe you’ve already contributed to the ultimate gift. Married fathers have lower death rates from almost every disease or misfortune. Their risk of death from accident, homicide, cancer, diabetes and heart disease are reduced to half the rate seen in single men, and a quarter of the rate of divorced men. Being a family guy will significantly add to Dad’s life expectancy.
Getting married is often the healthiest thing a dad does. Beyond that, men in general take better care of their cars than their health. Would Dad put the cheapest oil he could find in the engine of his car? No. But he puts inexpensive, greasy fast-food in his mouth without a care. Grease is better for cars than for hearts.
The rates of lifestyle caused illness are all higher in men. Heart attack, stroke, angina and kidney disease are caused by atherosclerosis, which is largely caused by bad choices. Smoking, poor diet, obesity and alcoholism are not in the owner’s manual for ideal Dad health.
The car gets preventive maintenance, but Dad doesn’t. Can he remember the last time he had a physical, an EKG, or checked his cholesterol? Dad’s motto for his car is “make it run forever,” but when it comes to his own health, it’s “don’t fix what isn’t broken.”
Dads (and men in general) sadly, have a bit of a “disconnect” when it comes to health.
But there are Father’s Day opportunities here:. The gift of exercise. Does he need tennis shoes, shorts or someone to walk with? A child’s heartfelt request to her dad will often move a mountain. In the dietary realm, red wine is good for the heart. Perhaps you could give him a heart healthy Mediterranean cookbook.
If you are feeling a bit more daring, get him a dog that needs to be walked. A female Siberian husky is handsome, loving and big enough that you don’t have to bend over to pet. Plus, dogs love to walk. Dogs are one of the few things money can buy that directly bring happiness.
Dad’s day offers a variety of opportunities to show him you love him, and you want him to stay healthy. Don’t forget a very sentimental card to go with that Mediterranean Cookbook and offer to help with the dog.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
Bike ride photo courtesy of Cindy Shebley via @Flickr.