National Men’s Health Month may be winding down but no matter what the calendar says, it’s important for men to be proactive about their health all year long. Too often, there can be pressure—from society or self-imposed—for men to be “strong” or play through health-related issues. This can lead to serious health risks and even death.
Of course, there are many ways for men to improve their health: eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, tobacco cessation and limiting alcohol consumption to name a few. But there are other important considerations men should take to safeguard their health and live healthier, happier lives.
Life is stressful. And too often, people—and men in particular—internalize the many demands that can be impacting their stress level and health. Managing stress appropriately can improve both physical and emotional health as well as the quality of our relationships. Some things are simple, like rest, exercise, meditation, doing the things you enjoy, spending time in nurturing relationships, reading and spending time outdoors. Of course, sometimes these things can be tough to schedule or not enough to manage the burdens of life. Don’t be afraid to speak to your provider—and encourage the men in your life to do so—to get the important help needed to manage stresses that are impacting your health.
The importance of quality sleep cannot be overstated. Consistent, restorative rest helps in every aspect of your life. It factors into success in the workplace, how you handle stress, happiness at home and overall quality of life. It is not an indulgence; it is a necessity. Sleep is your body’s time to repair and restore itself; without it, every body function is compromised. Research shows that lack of sleep also increases the risk for heart disease, obesity and impacts brain function and stress hormones. Develop healthy sleep habits by devoting space to sleep, turning off screens an hour before bedtime and maintaining a consistent approach to going to sleep. When these behaviors become habits, so many aspects of your life can improve.
Take advantage of annual wellness visits
Men often know the importance of routine maintenance to keep their vehicles in working order, but too often, they don’t use preventative care to maintain their own bodies by keeping annual physicals with their primary care provider. Especially as men age, health screenings become critical—and could be the difference between life and death. Primary care providers can catch changes in health early through regular physicals—like an increase in blood pressure or the start of cardiovascular disease—to mitigate concerns before they turn into something more serious. Screenings like colonoscopies and prostate cancer checks can turn a disease from a killer to an easily managed health issue. Providers take a full inventory on your health in wellness visits—and when they see you each year, they’re better able to detect changes sooner, before they turn into something more serious, costly or even fatal. And unlike upkeep on a car, wellness visits are often free visits and included in many health insurance plans—so take advantage of this important, maybe even life-saving benefit.
Depression and mental health
One in five adults in the U.S.—approximately 43 million people—experience mental illness each year. And while mental illness impacts both genders, men are less likely to seek the important care they need. Depression impacts six million men annually, and men die by suicide at a rate four times higher than women. Men are also more likely to die from alcohol-related causes, misuse drugs and turn to other unhealthy, dangerous behaviors. Like other men’s health issues, there is a prevalent stigma toward seeking care for mental illness. American men are subjected to a culture of where standards of masculinity can actually kill them, so it’s important for men to get the help they need. Mental wellness is important. And just like other illnesses, if mental illness isn’t treated, it can worsen and lead to serious consequences. Support and encourage the men you know who could use care from a mental or behavioral health professional. And guys—there’s more strength in seeking the care you need to live a healthier, better life. Mental illness is real—and recovery is possible. Access mental assessments or learn more about the importance of safeguarding your mental health at Mental Health America.
Melanoma—the most serious skin cancer—strikes men harder than women. According to research shared by the American Academy of Dermatology Association, white adolescent males and young adult men are twice as likely to die of the cancer as white females of the same age. As men age, the risk of developing melanoma increases—jumping at age 50—than again at age 65. And by age 80, men are three times more likely than women in the same age group to develop the deadly cancer. Also noted in recent research, men know less about skincare in general which makes them less likely to protect their skin from the sun. Men, save yourself from this potentially deadly cancer. Wear sunscreen regularly—and reapply it. Check your skin regularly—and be mindful of any changes in moles, spots—and check for new ones. And talk to your primary care provider about anything unusual on your skin. All skin cancer is dangerous—but when found early, it is highly treatable—and beatable.
Men have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes—at a lower weight—than women do. One reason is because men store fat in their bellies—which raises the risk for this chronic condition. Diabetes puts people at greater risk for stroke, heart disease, vision loss and ambulation. For men, it can also lead to urologic issues like an overactive bladder, incontinence, urinary tract infections, retrograde ejaculation (semen released into the bladder) and erectile dysfunction. Managing your weight and regular exercise helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and keeping annual wellness visits helps providers conduct necessary screenings to gauge health risks and take action early (if needed). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a Prediabetes Risk Test to help evaluate your risk for prediabetes
Men don’t like to talk about urological problems or sexual health issues; of course, who does? Yet staying on top of urologic health is critical to overall health and well-being. If you—or a man in your life—have concerns about prostate or bladder cancers, fertility, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence or kidney stones, seek care from a physician who specializes in urologic issues—the sooner the better before small concerns evolve into bigger health risks. At Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, men don’t have to travel for the specialty urologic care they need. Dr. Nicholas Johnson, a board-certified urologist from St. Luke’s Urology Associates, comes to EBCH to provide complete evaluations—and personalized treatment options—so patients can receive care where it’s closer and more convenient. Now there’s no reason to make excuses; make an appointment instead. Dr. Johnson will be at EBCH Monday, August 1 and Monday, October 17. Contact your primary care provider for a referral and call 218-365-8793 with questions or to learn more.
Prevention, prevention, prevention
To all the men out there: you deserve to live your healthiest, happiest life. During Men’s Health Month—and all year long—take care of yourself, seek the care you need and encourage others to do the same. You’ve always been there for those who need you. At EBCH, we’re here for you.