“Man is his own worst enemy.” So says Marcus Tullius Cicero, 1st Century BC Roman philosopher, statesman and writer. Maybe the Romans in Cicero’s time were as hesitant to see their doctors as contemporary men are today! Although men are getting better, women are still 33 percent more likely to visit a physician for a health- related issue. That’s according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Men also tend to wait until a problem is serious before they break down and make an appointment.
Doctor’s appointments aside, the reality is that the average life expectancy for men in the US is 76.2 years. For women, it is 81, almost five years longer than men. Also, death rates for men top those of women in all 15 leading causes of death except one, Alzheimer’s disease. The bottom line is that men need to do a better job with their health, and a few key prevention strategies are a good place to start.
June is Men’s Health Month. Let’s take a look at a couple of the top men’s health concerns and some ways you can lower your risks and improve your outlook. For a more comprehensive look at the issues men face, the CDC has an entire website dedicated to men’s health, with everything from yearly statistics to articles on specific disorders. For now, let’s look at the top three men’s health threats.
Cardiovascular disease continues to rank at the top of the list, killing as many as 27.2 percent of men. The biggest culprit is the build up of fatty plaque in the arteries, particularly the coronary arteries surrounding and feeding the heart muscle. This eventually blocks the smooth flow of blood, leading to symptoms and – possibly – disaster. The goal is to prevent and even reduce the plaque bulk accumulating in your blood vessels.
Some important things to do include having your cholesterol checked regularly and keeping it at a recommended level, as well as getting and keeping your blood pressure under control if it’s high. Yes, guys. That means an occasional trip to your doctor’s office. Also, stop smoking if you do, get plenty of aerobic exercise and eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Stay away from foods high in salt, cholesterol and saturated and trans fats. Watch your drinking, too. Excess alcohol should be avoided.
Cancer in general is number two on the list of heath threats to men, but the top cancers for men are lung, prostate and colorectal. Although smoking is a huge trigger for lung cancer, most cancers in general can’t be totally prevented. However, risk factors for many cancers can be affected by changing lifestyle habits, such as stopping smoking, getting regular exercise, eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Also, regular screenings are important for catching cancers in their earliest, most treatable stages, so following your doctor’s recommendations for cancer screenings is essential to control and defeat the disease. It really won’t hurt you to see your doctor once in a while!
The third health threat might surprise you – chronic lower respiratory disease or, as it’s most commonly called, COPD. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) actually includes two disorders, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both of these disorders, which can occur at the same time, interfere with normal breathing and often result in shortness of breath and wheezing. Smoking most often triggers COPD. (Prevention alert!) Both chronic bronchitis and emphysema are progressive, which means they get worse over time.
In addition to quitting smoking yourself, try to avoid secondhand smoke as well. When possible, limit your time in dusty or polluted environments. Research suggests exposure to certain chemicals can also have an impact, so if you work around hazardous chemicals – any chemicals, really – be sure you take the appropriate safety precautions and have adequate ventilation.
Stay well. Don’t forget to eat a healthy diet, exercise your mind and body, de-stress and get plenty of rest. Do you have any more advice for the guys in your life?