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A Healthy Dad is a Happy Dad

Vancouver Sun Run 2006

Submitted by Eric Stevenson

Being a healthy dad is not simply a matter of not getting sick; it requires active participation to be at your physical and mental best. Healthy diet and exercise are vital, not just for your own health but for your family’s health, as well. Health or, conversely, risk of disease is not only passed on genetically – it is also passed on through the behaviors you model for your children. Creating an environment where healthy food is available and exercise is valued gives your children the best chance of creating positive habits that will serve them well later in life.

Maintaining that physical home environment is important as well. Even something as simple as home repair or renovation can have devastating consequences to your health if you aren’t careful. Houses built before 1980 can contain lead in the paint and roofing materials and asbestos in the insulation. The latter is particularly dangerous, as even brief exposure to asbestos fibers has been shown to cause diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Symptoms of mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest lining, can easily be confused with those of other lung diseases, so if you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to consult a physician. If you believe there are items in your household that contain asbestos, do not try to remove them on your own – while asbestos is relatively harmless when intact, disturbing or damaging it releases fibers into the air, so removal should only be undertaken by special abatement teams that have proper protective gear.

Paying attention to mental health is just as important as the physical. A study published in the renowned British medical journal The Lancet reported that a father’s psychological problems were linked to risk of similar problems in his children. In addition to a genetic component, men with conditions such as depression, drug and alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder are less likely than women to seek professional help, and may be unable to provide the supportive environment their children need. But more encouragingly, evidence suggests that a father’s good mental health can have a positive effect on his children.

The old saying goes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is especially true when it comes to your health. Maintaining good care of the body and mind may not solve all your parenting problems, but it will minimize health risks to you and your family.

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