While Father’s Day is officially the end of Men’s Health Week, a daily focus on preventing disease and adopting healthy lifestyle habits seemed like a priceless gift. We scoured through reliable online resources and spoke with local experts to compile tips for achieving a healthy lifestyle. We also encourage you to forward this information to the men in your life.
“Prevention is something that should start in childhood and continue through adolescence into the adult years,” she says.
While Daley’s research indicates we have done a good job alerting women of all ages to the benefits of preventive health screenings and exams, there is no real corollary for men.
“Public health and medical professionals acknowledge that good preventive is not a gender issue," she says. “It’s a human issue.”
Consider the facts. The leading causes of death in men are:
- cardiovascular disease
- injuries from accidents
According to Kenneth L. Savage Jr., a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a family practice physician on staff at University Community Hospital, men are generally less likely than women to establish a professional relationship with a physician. The reasons are varied, somewhat cultural, and gender specific. They span the range from hectic work schedules to embarrassment. Yet given these statistics, they ought to seek the care of a medical professional:
- only 37 percent of men (over 18) exercise regularly and at the right rate
- 23 percent of men over 18 smoke, or use tobacco products regularly
- 32 percent drink more than five alcoholic drinks in one day, more than once during the past year
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 32 percent of American adult males are also overweight. Most health experts agree that following these simple steps, could improve health for American males:
- improved diet and nutrition
- keeping the mid-section lean
- maintaining a normal blood pressure preventing or controlling diabetes
- watching cholesterol
- managing stress
- increasing physical activity
The Far Eastern practice of Tai Chi gets high marks for using gentle physical movements and blending them with meditative breathing techniques. It’s also good medicine for cardiac patients, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine.
There are a few other tips for improving overall health. They include taking extra precautions to prevent eye injuries during sports activity, wearing sunblock when out in the Florida heat, and wearing protective equipment when working with machinery, to minimize the risk of injury.
Nutrition also plays a central role in maintaining good health:
- eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily–they are good sources of nutrients and carbohydrates
- choose whole grains versus processed
- watch your calories, saturated fat and sugar intake (processed meats, such as sausage, ham and bacon, have been associated with higher levels of cardiovascular problems, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes)
- drink at least 64 ounces of water daily
- reduce your salt intake
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only consume 2,300 mg or less of salt, each day. If you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors, you will want to halve that number.
According to experts, volunteer work, listening to music and cultivating a network of friends should be on your list of healthy behaviors. Try a new hobby, learn a language, or take a class to ensure mental acuity into older age.
They also say exercise is good for hearts, minds and bones. It helps improve and maintain good balance and allows you to stay alert. Keeping your core strong helps prevent debilitating injury. Losing belly fat has positive impacts that extend to cardiovascular and pulmonary health. Portion control should be part of your strategy.
Savage says that while men typically avoid discussing the pressures they face, depression can strike at any age. Symptoms include:
- a marked change in appetite
- change in motor coordination
- declining interest in activities or social interactions/work
- poor or interrupted sleep (sleeping too much, or too little)
- reduced ability to concentrate
- thoughts of death, suicide
Coping strategies include seeking support, or someone to talk to (family, friend or a physician). However, if you feel despondent or have suicidal thoughts, you should speak with a Tampa Bay Crisis Center counselor free of charge, by dialing 211. If any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, Savage encourages you to seek professional help.
There are cancers that affect men, says Savage:
- Colorectal cancer is considered one of the most preventable cancers, if you know to look for it. Experts recommend screening colonoscopies after age 50. If you are less than 50 years old and cancer runs in your family, have your first colonoscopy 10 years before the person was diagnosed.
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. And while the concept makes some men run for cover, a yearly exam after age 40 is worth the discomfort, experts say. Add lycopene-rich foods to your diet, to reduce your risk. With the arrival of warmer weather, it’s easy to add a few servings of watermelon and tomatoes to your daily meals.
- Testicular cancer is more common among men between the ages of 15 and 35 and usually linked to a strong family history. Savage says you should perform monthly exams, being alert for lumps and bumps, testicular enlargement or a full sensation in the lower abdomen.
You can develop a customized list of screening tests tailored to fit your family history, exposure risks, and concerns. Savage encourages you to develop a professional relationship with a physician so you can discuss concern and ensure ongoing and vital communications. The goal is prevention and early detection. He says choosing a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting enough sleep, and having regular check-ups works to your advantage. Moderation and prevention are key strategies to ensuring good health.
More resources that help define diseases and identify symptoms include:
Alzheimer’s disease: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/alzheimersdisease.html
Colorectal Cancer: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/colorectalcancer.html
To report a case: 1-800-CDC-INFO (24/7)
Kidney Disease: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/kidneydiseases.html
Lung Cancer: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lungcancer.html