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Healthy Dad, Happy Kids  

Healthy DadAh, summertime. That means Bar-B-Q time for many of us. That's burger and steaks time. Or, in other words, it can be closer-to-heart-attack-and-cancer time.

But it doesn't have to be. Here's a little tip: studies show that if you add some rosemary to that meat on your grill, it decreases the carcinogens of that tasty meal. Good to know, huh?

Here at NYC DADS, we talk a lot about how you can best take care of your kids. But let's take a moment to talk about taking better care of ourselves. Dr. Alwyn Cohall, of the Clinical Public Health and Pediatrics department at Columbia University, recently joined the NYC DADS team for our "Ask the Doctor" section, so we talked with him about the important issue of keeping dads healthy. He was the one who gave me the rosemary tip-he adds that everything in moderation is the best approach to unhealthy foods-and he has lot of other sound advice.

Dr. Cohall runs the Harlem Health Promotion Center, so he spends a lot of time with one thing on his mind: prevention. "Men are less likely to take care of their health than women," Dr. Cohall says. "It's hard to get men to the doctor when they are not feeling well-it's even harder before that time. A doctor's visit takes a lower level of priority when a man is dealing with issues like family or a job."

The Daily News did a big push for Father's Day and the week after by providing free testing for prostate cancer. The newspaper has been providing this service for five years. They do a blood test, and, incredibly, they've found that 8 per cent of the men who get screened show elevated levels, indicating further testing is necessary. And most of those men didn't have any symptoms.

Healthy Dad You don't want to be one of those 8 guys who thinks he's OK when possibly he's not, and  who could really help himself if he deals with his problem long before symptoms arise. The best way to know if something is wrong before it gets bad is to go to a doctor for a regular medical checkup. (Pick a day near your birthday or some other memorable date.) Unfortunately, many young men have had negative experiences with doctors. Either they were made to feel uncomfortable, disrespected in some way, or just didn't get their questions answered. But they have to break through that, and give it a try.

Luckily for New Yorkers, there are plenty of options here that are specifically oriented toward young men, such as the Young Men's Clinic (http://www.youngmensclinic.org/index.php ). Or, Dr. Cohall recommends the Helen B. Atkinson Health Center in Harlem.

A regular checkup can set you on the right path. Of course, there's also just plain, healthy living. The best way to prevent our bodies from breaking down sooner than they should is to live well. That means eating a more balanced diet (not too much meat; eating more fruit and vegetables), exercising regularly, coping with stress in a healthy way and reducing tobacco and alcohol intake. Safe sex is a good idea, too.

What you do in your 20s and 30s could be the difference between whether or not you'll be fighting higher levels of blood pressure and cholesterol in your 40s and 50s, and could well mean not having cancer, a stroke or a heart attack at some point in your life.

"One of the most disruptive factors for a child is the premature loss of a parent or the impairment of a parent's mental or physical health," Dr. Cohall reminds us. "By doing the appropriate screening, dads can not only stabilize their own health but the health of their family and of the generations to come."

It's a lot to put on a guy, but that's part of fatherhood. You have to take care of yourself to take care of your children.