June is Men’s Health Month, a month that serves as a reminder for men to evaluate their health and take proper steps toward improving it. Though Men’s Health Month occurs every year, awareness about men’s health issues is now more critical than ever. Numbers indicate that men are much less healthy than women and trends suggest that men’s health is on the decline:
- On average, men die five years earlier than women .
- Of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, men experience higher rates for nine of them .
- Women are three times more likely to see a doctor on a regular basis than men .
- Men exercise more than women but have higher combined overweight and obesity rates .
- Obesity is more deadly for men than women .
- Men are more likely than women to commit suicide .
- Men are 25 percent more likely to die from influenza or pneumonia .
Additionally, while both genders have gender-specific health concerns (men need to monitor for prostate and testicular cancer, for example), there are certain conditions that are more prevalent in men: colon cancer, skin cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease are just a few.
You are the Master of Your Fate
Some of the differences between the men and women’s health may be biological, however many of the health concerns for men are brought on by preventable behaviors. Statistics indicate that men are more likely to smoke, binge drink alcohol, participate in risky behaviors, fail to open up to others about their mental health, and fail to visit the doctor for regular, preventative screenings. According to the CDC, “poor diet, inactivity and smoking are responsible for 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of type 2 diabetes, and up to 40 percent of cancer.”
While this is bad news, the good news is that these behaviors can change. Here are five changes men can make today to improve their health.
- Stop smoking – According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in both men and women, and men are more likely to use tobacco products. Employers have a unique opportunity to help men in this area. A 2018 smoking cessation study found financial incentives are extremely effective. People who were offered $600 to quit smoking were three times more likely to successfully stop smoking than if they were only offered cessation aids. Those who submitted a $600 redeemable deposit were five times more likely to quit than those who were given just cessation
- Exercise – Even if it’s a lunchtime walk, all adults need to move Men need 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (mowing the lawn or going for a brisk walk) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (running, playing basketball or interval training) each week. Doctors also recommend adding resistance strength-training sessions (weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, etc.) to build muscle, bone density and strength.
- Incorporate more fruits and vegetables – While 90 percent of Americans fail to consume the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables, men are significantly less likely to do so. Consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables—5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day—can curb obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and more. A simple way to do this is by adding a salad with dinner or snacking on fruit for a mid-afternoon snack. It’s a simple habit that can save men from poor health and heavy medical bills down the line.
- See a doctor – 60 percent of men don’t visit their doctor for regular checkups and Even for those who feel fine, regular screenings are imperative, especially as they get older. Taking a few hours every year to get a checkup and get the necessary care can save men thousands of dollars in more expensive treatments down the road—and importantly, can save their lives. The following is a good guide of the health issues for which men should be screened based on their age.
- Get together with friends – This will be a suggestion most men can get behind. A study conducted by the University of Oxford suggests that men need to meet up with a group of their friends twice a week in order to experience the full benefits of male friendship. According to the study, men in consistent contact with close male friends, “are less likely to suffer from depression caused by worries about money and job insecurity. They’re even able to recover quicker from illnesses than those with less social contact.” Furthermore, benefits of strong male friendships include a stronger immune system, the release of endorphins and lower anxiety.
Numbers indicate that women will outlive men by an average of seven years by the year 2030. That is, unless men start taking the proper steps toward better health. Being aware of how behavior impacts health and then making small adjustments over time can go a long way toward improving the health of our men.