Gleeson helps executives improve their health

When executives step into Dr. Robert Gleeson’s exam room, they get a whole lot more than a standard blood pressure reading and a slight tap to the knee.

Gleeson, a physician at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa and a guest speaker at the 2012 BizTimes Milwaukee Fittest Execs program, specializes in executive health, preventive health care, adult health maintenance and prevention, and lipid and preventive cardiology.

As a member of the medical team for the past four years, Gleeson directs the Executive Health Program and also spearheads the preventive cardiology and lipid management under the medical center’s cardiology unit.

In overseeing the Executive Health Program, he evaluates the health of corporate management teams – both members who are in shape and others who are struggling – and anyone interested in his extensive physical exam and consultation services. For each patient, Gleeson offers individualized advice on lifestyle changes to promote fitness and nutrition. To him, lifestyle makes all the difference in the world.

“The whole purpose of my program is to find preventable causes of disease and take action before we get in trouble with a disease,” he said.

Most of Gleeson’s patients are men, each of whom he meets with face-to-face for 75 to 90 minutes.

“I go into a lot of detail,” Gleeson said. “Companies that really understand how much money they have invested in their key executives understand the value of finding and preventing disease.”

Preventive health care is particularly important in today’s market, when many companies have trimmed their staffs so that the management teams vital to their success consist of as few executives as possible, Gleeson said. These executives need to maintain their health in order to continue contributing to their companies’ progress.

Gleeson, the author of a medical textbook on cholesterol management and a book on health and wellness, said most men don’t actively pursue even minimal preventive health care.

“It’s not uncommon for a man to go seven to 15 years without seeing a primary care doctor,” he said. “It’s that whole idea of ‘I’m too tough to go to the doctor, I don’t want to have anything, I’m okay, and I don’t have time to be sick.'”

Before each executive meets with Gleeson, they undergo a physical that often includes blood tests and a fitness exam. Tests administered to executives vary by age, and Gleeson reviews the results of each test with patients during their consultation.

He also requires that each patient in the program keep a diet log for a week. While Gleeson advises patients to include a fruit or vegetable with every meal, he finds that many consume less than four or five servings of fruits and vegetables in a week. So part of his job involves teaching executives how to eat out while traveling.

He also stressed the importance of walking. Gleeson, a lifelong walker himself, emphasizes 30 minutes of walking a day – walking flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator, walking at the airport instead of relying on the moving walkways, and walking any distance less than half a mile instead of driving.

Gleeson is just as adamant about keeping track of cholesterol levels and blood pressure and discourages patients from any sort of tobacco use – what he refers to as “poison.”

The physician’s evaluation of executives rounds out with a look at a patient’s family history spanning three generations, a cancer screening, 10-year risk calculators for heart disease and diabetes, and – for women over the age of 60 – a bone fracture risk assessment. He tailors each evaluation to the needs and circumstances of each patient.

Gleeson said his job entails understanding a patient’s risk and helping them find their way to proper care and wellness.

“This is about empowering people with the knowledge of their own health and directing them as to what they need to do to get better,” he said.

Executives also need to encourage healthier lifestyles in their companies for the benefit of all of their employees, Gleeson said.

“What I really want to do is have the fit executives help me motivate the unfit executives or their unfit coworkers and their company and their neighborhood and their city and their region and their state (to promote healthy lifestyles),” he said. n

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