Father’s Day isn’t the only celebration this month for men. June is Men’s Health Month, an observance to raise awareness of preventable health problems, encourage early detection and treatment of disease, and improve overall well-being among men and boys. Spread the word that the key to long and healthy lives for men starts with preventive health care, healthy eating, and exercise.
It is time to spread the word about the many preventable health problems men face and empower them to take steps toward a longer, healthier, and happier life. The men’s health statistics and facts speak for themselves.
- Men are more likely to put their health at risk by smoking, drinking alcohol, and making other unhealthy life choices.
- One in two men are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
- Men lead the death rate for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and suicide.
The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to change those statistics by focusing on prevention through regular check-ups, nutrition, and exercise.
What Steps Can Men Take?
Men are more likely to be uninsured and half as likely to visit the doctor as women. The reasons why men are less likely to seek both urgent and preventive medical care vary.
“In our 20s, we think we’re indestructible and see going to the doctor as a waste of time and money. In our 30s, we’re too busy with our careers and family to go. By the time we reach our 40s, we don’t go because we’re afraid of what we’ll find out or we don’t want to have a rectal exam.”
If you can’t remember your last physical or if your gut feeling says something is off, it is time to do something about it. Follow these steps to improve your well-being and prolong your life:
- Choose a primary care provider and go regularly.
- Get screening tests based on your age and family history.
- Eat healthy to prevent or manage chronic conditions.
- Get and stay active.
The good news is it’s never too late to start taking better care of your health.
Follow these steps, encourage other men to do the same, and set a good example for the next generation.
Step 1: Choose a Primary Care Provider
Many people think of the doctor as someone to see when they are sick. Doctors also provide services to keep you from getting sick in the first place. The first step is to choose a primary care provider. See your primary doctor proactively to complete annual physicals and screenings. You should also keep your flu shots and vaccinations up to date.
Be sure to visit the doctor for regular check-ups even if you feel fine. Some diseases don’t have symptoms at first. Seeing a doctor will give you a chance to catch diseases early and learn more about your health.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your health. Before you go to the doctor, start by talking to family members to learn which diseases run in your family. Share this information with your doctor. This will help the doctor determine what screenings to do and health risks to watch for.
Step 2: Schedule Your Screening Tests
Medical screenings are tests doctors use to check for diseases and health conditions before there are any signs or symptoms. Screenings help find problems early, when they may be easier to treat. If you are a member of a high-risk group or have a family history of disease, you should talk to your doctor about the benefits of earlier screenings.
Your Preventive Maintenance Schedule
Much like a vehicle maintenance schedule, certain check-ups and screenings need to take place as you age. Some tests will be done yearly, and others will need to be completed at certain age milestones. Your primary care provider will determine the right frequency for you. Download the entire Get it Checked checklist.
- Check your blood pressure at least once every two years.
- Have an electrocardiogram or EKG starting at age 30.
- Screen for colon and prostate problems with a rectal exam every year.
- Complete routine lab work checking for high cholesterol, heart health, diabetes, kidney, or thyroid problems.
- If you are age 65 to 75 and have ever smoked, talk with your doctor about your risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
- If you feel stressed, anxious, or sad, ask your doctor to screen you for depression. Most people with depression feel better when they get treatment.
- If you are at risk of heart attack or colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about taking aspirin every day to lower your risk.
- Complete self-exams of your testicles, skin, mouth, and breasts to catch cancer early. Report any changes or lumps to your doctor.
More than half of men’s premature deaths are preventable. You can’t prevent something you don’t know exists. Most people don’t enjoy going to the doctor or being poked and prodded for medical tests, but making this a part of your routine could extend your life.
Men’s Cancer Screenings
Every year, more than 300,000 men in the United States lose their lives to cancer. You should talk to your doctor about your risk for each type of cancer and the recommended screenings based on your health needs. The most common kinds of cancer among men in the US are:
- Skin Cancer: The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded there is not enough evidence to recommend for or against routine skin cancer screening for people who do not have a history of skin cancer. You should always report any unusual moles or changes in your skin to your doctor.
- Prostate Cancer: For men aged 55 to 69 years, the decision to undergo periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer should be an individual one. The USPSTF recommends against PSA screening for men who do not have symptoms.
- Lung Cancer: If you are 55 to 80 years old and are a heavy smoker or a past smoker who quit within the last 15 years, ask your doctor about a low-dose CT scan every year.
- Colorectal (Colon) Cancer: If you are 45 to 75 years old, get tested. Starting in your 40s, your doctor may recommend a stool test every year. After 50, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy should be completed every three to four years.
As with most things, the results of specific exams are important, but not nearly as important as changes over time. This is why establishing a relationship with your doctor is so important.
Step 3: Incorporate the Right Nutrition
Food doesn’t just fuel the body; it can help fight off and prevent disease. Eating healthy means getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients – and limiting unhealthy foods and drinks. You want to consume the right number of calories, which varies by individual.
Benefits of a Healthy Diet
Poor diet and lack of physical activity are the most common risk factors for cardiovascular disease, because they often lead to being overweight or obese. To prevent all of the top disease killers of men, you need to avoid meals high in fat, sodium, and sugar.
A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help lower your:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
Keeping these numbers down also lowers your risk of serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you’ve already received a diagnosis, these chronic conditions can be managed by proper nutrition. Find out if you are a candidate for the National Diabetes Prevention Program.
Formulate a Nutrition Game Plan
At each meal, pay attention to how you feel. You want to eat slow enough to recognize when you feel full. That’s your body’s cue to stop eating. Don’t have seconds unless you’re still hungry. You’ll just be consuming extra calories. It can be hard to make drastic changes to your diet all at once. Formulate a nutrition game plan by implementing these ideas:
- Make sure to eat a good breakfast every day.
- Eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal.
- Try a green salad instead of fries.
- Drink water instead of soda or juice.
- Prevent getting “hangry” by scheduling healthy snacks.
Over time, these suggestions will turn into healthy habits in your daily routine. Take a short quiz and receive a personalized daily food plan from MyPlate.
Step 4: Get Moving
Current physical activity guidelines recommend adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. That equals 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. Physical activity helps you feel better, function better, and sleep better. It also reduces anxiety.
Active people generally live longer and are at less risk for serious health problems. For people with chronic diseases, physical activity can help manage these conditions and complications.
Little ways to increase your activity include playing with your kids or grandkids outside or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If you are a smoker, take a walk instead of having a cigarette. Small changes can add up to big results over time.
How Will You Celebrate Men’s Health Month?
You can be in complete control by making prevention a priority, eating healthily, and moving more. Let’s make this June the year you take responsibility for your health. Remember, anyone can play a role in the men’s health movement. Women should also learn about men’s health issues and encourage the men and boys they love to take action to improve their health and wellness for long and happy lives.