Men’s Health Month: Taking Control of Your Health
June is Men’s Health Month, a time to raise awareness of preventable diseases and promote early detection and treatment among men. This is an opportunity for men to take a more active role in their health.
Quick Facts on Men’s Health
It’s important to understand the scope of issues impacting men’s health. Here are some quick facts provided by the official Men’s Health Month organization:
- At birth, the life expectancy of males is five years shorter than females, with Native American and African-American men having the shortest
- The two leading causes of death for men are heart disease and cancer
- There are more than 160,000 new cases of prostate cancer each year, making it the most common cancer among men, claiming the lives of about 30,000 men per year
- Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women
Men battle a wide range of health conditions, with some of the most common being heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, mental health, and prostate, testicular and colon cancer. Unless steps are taken to address some of the factors that put men at great risk, hundreds of thousands of men will continue to face poor health and premature death. It’s important to note that this crisis does not pose a threat only to men, but affects their families as well: Mothers, wives, daughters and sisters are all impacted when the men in their families are ill.
What is Causing the Crisis?
Men tend to lead sicker and shorter lives than women, often due to forgoing medical attention, occupational danger, or unhealthy habits. There is an expectation that men must be strong and stalwart providers who power through whatever ails them without complaining or showing weakness. It is not uncommon to hear of males taught from an early age that it is unmanly to cry or seek help and must, instead, endure pain quietly without reaching out.
According to Men’s Health Network, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to inform men and their families about disease prevention and screening programs, this belief poses an obstacle for men throughout their life. This manifests as a reluctance to seek medical advice or attention for their health problems—which is especially true when the symptoms they experience are subtle, emotional or related to sexual health. As a result, research reveals that men are less likely than women to visit their physician for physical exams or counseling and are more likely than women to forego health insurance coverage altogether.
The Role of Checkups and Lifestyles
Even men who appear to be in great health can be at risk of several silent and deadly diseases that can be caught early with regular checkups. According to Sy Oang DO, Internist at PIH Health, these checkups are especially crucial in the early detection of major health threats like prostate, testicular and colon cancer. Other silent diseases, including heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes can be countered by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and eating nutritious foods.
This highlights the importance of consulting with a primary care physician to screen for and minimize the health threats. Men’s Health Month is a great time for men to take control of their health by committing to healthy and active lifestyles along with yearly checkups and screenings that can catch health problems early on—an important factor in the successful treatment of diseases.
Three things men can keep in mind as they pursue better health:
- Eat Healthy. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast instead of sugary or greasy food, adding a fruit or vegetable to every meal or even opting for smaller size fries and drink at the local fast food place are some small steps men can take early on.
- Stay Active. This doesn’t mean men should immediately hit the gym (although that’s a good idea, too, if their doctor says they’re healthy enough). Choices as simple as playing with children and grandchildren, taking the stairs and a 20 to 30 minute walk after dinner can be a good start.
- Make Prevention a Priority. Many diseases can be detected early and even prevented, but this is only possible when men visit their physician for checkups and screenings regularly. This is even more important for men in high risk groups or with a family history of disease.
There is no shame in seeking medical attention for any health or mental concern. Medical advice, coupled with healthy choices, can improve men’s health and reduce their risk of severe or lifelong diseases. Partnering with a physician is one of the most important things men can do to take charge of their health.