Posted on June 13, 2016
Build Strong Families While Saving Lives: Celebrate the Men in Your Life
Around the world people are celebrating June as Men’s Health Month. Monday, June 13 is also the start of Men’s Health Week, a special awareness period recognized by Congress, which ends on Father’s Day, June 19. Men’s Health Month is built on the pillars of Awareness–Prevention–Education–Family. Men’s Health Month is credited with the increase in wellness activities for boys and men resulting in better health outcomes and longer life expectancy.
Men have a shorter overall life expectancy than women by approximately 5% or, put in simpler words, a man born on the same day as a woman is expected to die approximately three years earlier. The reason for this is unclear, but many speculate factors such as physical activity, lifestyle, and other gender differences may be the cause. The leading cause of death in men in the U.S. is heart disease which, if caught early enough, can be treated.
What main health issues do men face?
There’s a crisis in America right now in men’s health, and it affects every community. That crisis revolves around managing chronic medical diseases like heart disease, prostate cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and high cholesterol. These common problems are causing men to die prematurely in the prime of their life.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for men in the U.S. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD)—a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. When a heart attack occurs, blood flow to the heart is reduced or cut off.
The warning signs of a heart attack in men vary slightly from women. Chest pain is a classic male heart attack symptom which may last for more than a few minutes or, it can come and go.
Other signs to be aware of include:
- Discomfort or pain in other areas, such as one or both arms, the back, neck, or jaw;
- Shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea or sweating; and
- Abdominal discomfort that may feel like indigestion.
Ideally, treatments to restore blood flow to heart muscle, for example, clot-dissolving drugs or angioplasty, should begin within one hour after heart attack symptoms begin.
Some men are more at risk than others for developing heart disease. In addition to hereditary, other risk factors are high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, substance abuse, high cholesterol, and lifestyle may play a role.
Preventative measures can lower the chances of having heart disease. Before undertaking any program to improve cardiovascular health, see a medical doctor. A physician may suggest a plan that includes eating certain foods, specific exercises, and appropriate ways to reduce stress.
The prostate is the gland below a man’s bladder that produces fluid for semen. Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40. Risk factors for developing prostate cancer include being over 65 years of age, family history, being African-American, and some genetic changes.
Symptoms of prostate cancer may include:
- Problems passing urine, such as pain, difficulty starting or stopping the stream, or dribbling;
- Low back pain; and
- Pain with ejaculation.
Doctors diagnose prostate cancer by feeling the prostate through the wall of the rectum or doing a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Other tests include ultrasound, X-rays, or a biopsy.
Treatment often depends on the stage of the cancer. How fast the cancer grows and how different it is from surrounding tissue helps determine the stage. Men with prostate cancer have many treatment options. The treatment that’s best for one man may not be best for another. The options include watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy.
According to the CDC, men are slightly more likely than women to develop diabetes. If you have elevated blood sugar and are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you might be able to prevent it. You can still live well with diabetes. With healthy lifestyle behaviors and proper medications, you might be able to prevent or manage complications.
Being proactive is vital. Get a blood test if you can’t remember the last time you had your blood glucose checked, especially if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED), an overactive bladder, the inability to control urination, a urinary tract infection (UTI), or other well-known diabetes complications.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
A diet high in salt isn’t the only thing causing your blood pressure to go through the roof. In fact, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine, a diet high in salt is believed to be responsible for only 20 to 40% of all cases of high blood pressure in the U.S. To improve your odds and protect your heart, avoid the other major culprits:
- Chronic stress can significantly increase your blood pressure. Solution? Grab a glass of milk. Stress lowers levels of serotonin, which is the body’s go-to, stay-calm chemical. Milk contains whey protein, which Dutch researchers found can help boost tryptophan, one of the building blocks of serotonin, by 43%.
- Genetics certainly play a major role in your blood pressure, but that doesn’t mean your fate is sealed. You may be able to lessen the genetic burden by leading an active lifestyle. Case in point: Researchers studied 6,000 people with a family history of high blood pressure, yet hadn’t developed it themselves. At the end of the five-year study, those who walked briskly for at least 150 minutes per week had a 34% lower risk of developing the disease than those who were inactive.
The CDC says adults need at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) on two or more days a week. You don’t have to do it all at once. Spread your activity out during the week, and break it into smaller amounts of time during the day.
When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can build up on artery walls. Too much cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the U.S. There are no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol. Getting your cholesterol checked with a simple blood test is the only way you can know if you are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking will help you prevent high cholesterol and reduce your levels.
Ways to Stay Healthy
- Exercise 30 minutes (at least five days each week).
- Protect your skin from the sun—use sunscreen and dress appropriately.
- Watch your fat intake—no more than 30% of your caloric intake.
- Eat two to three servings of protein (meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts) and dairy products.
- Eat six to 11 servings of grains; three to five servings of vegetables; and two to four servings of fruits.
- Be aware of your alcohol intake. Limit yourself to no more than two drinks per day.
- Examine gums, teeth, lips, and tongue for any changes.
- Do a full-body self-exam for unusual moles or other skin conditions.
- Know your blood pressure level.
- Know your cholesterol.
- Watch your weight—check your BMI (body mass index).
- Have a complete a dental checkup twice a year.
- Have a complete physical exam by your doctor each year after 50.
- Every five years, after the age of 20, have a full lipid profile test for cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Have a physical exam by your doctor every three years after age 30.
- Have a physical exam by your doctor every two years after age 40.
- Discuss options for a colon cancer screening with your doctor after age 50.
Coastal Carolina Health Care (CCHC) offers primary and specialty care services with offices located in New Bern and Morehead City. We also operate the CCHC Urgent Care located in New Bern, off McCarthy Boulevard. CCHC is physician owned and operated and always welcomes new patients. If you would like more information, or would like to join the CCHC family, call our Patient Information Line today at (252) 633-4111 or visit www.cchchealthcare.com.
(Sources: Johns Hopkins Medicine; Globe Newswire; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Health & Wellmobile; Military Heath System; Defense Heath Agency; Institute of Medicine; and Men’s Health Magazine.)