Data shows that men generally live sicker and die sooner than women. Why? There are multiple reasons that men are at a higher risk for disease and earlier death. Not only are there biological predispositions that leave men more at risk, but also a long history of societal stigmas that have kept men from speaking up about or taking action towards improving their physical or mental health. Though this narrative is slowly changing, many generations of men were subject to harsh working conditions, minimal healthcare options, and swayed into unhealthy lifestyles or habits to "keep them tough". This information gap has created a large disconnect with men and health information that will keep them living their best and healthiest lives! National Men's Health Week is all about shining a light on these disparities and educating men on the best ways to take control of their health!
So, what can men do to improve their health and take action against disease prevention? Here are 5 recommendations we have!
Limit tobacco and alcohol consumption:
Both are substances that increase the risk for common diseases such as heart disease or cancer. Men are already at a 20% higher risk of developing cancer than women. Men are also 2x more likely than women to have a heart attack.
Speak up about your mental health:
Men are over 3x more at risk of suicide than women. Experts attribute this to the fact that historically, men have generally been discouraged from discussing feelings and any struggles they may be facing. The conversations surrounding mental health are much more inclusive in recent years and the stigma against mental illness is slowly breaking down. Opening up to a family or friend is a great way to start discussing mental health and feelings. To those who would prefer to remain anonymous, there are multiple text and talk lines available as well as mobile apps that provide immediate guidance and counseling services.
Go to your yearly physical:
Women are more likely to seek out health care than men. Researchers credit this to things such as belief in having the “tough guy” mentality, fear of unexpected diagnosis, and general discomfort with exams. Regardless of these, it is important to remember that annual exams are the best way to get ahead of any potential issues before they get too out of hand.
Schedule and follow through with preventative exams:
Testicular cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and colorectal cancer are common cancers that men are most susceptible to. They are all treatable in their early stages and have mostly obvious symptoms that can often be identified during an office visit. Consistent screenings and general check-ups are the best way to avoid a diagnosis of a later stage of cancer, as well as the stress and difficulties that come along with it.
Eat, sleep, and move well:
Eating a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, protein and whole grains helps keep a body in balance. Overindulging in sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods can increase one's chances of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, among other things. Men are already more susceptible to these already common diseases. Therefore, implementing a healthy diet early in life is a great preventative measure everyone, but especially men. Getting adequate sleep and moderate exercise balances cortisol levels which helps the body and mind adapt to stress better. Being able to handle stress in a more productive way can keep someone from experiencing harsher effects of mental or physical ailments.
These five lifestyle recommendations will not completely eliminate a man's risk of disease or poor health. However, following them is a great way to start taking control of their health and working towards living a long and happy life!
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 or Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
- Why Don't Men Go to the Doctor as Often as Women? - Tri-City Medical Center (tricitymed.org)
- Silent Health Crisis: MHN flyer - current data (menshealthnetwork.org)
- Men's Health Facts - flyer from MHN (menshealthnetwork.org)
- Men's Health Week (nfcr.org)