Man Up and Call the Doctor

June Is Men’s Health Month

June is men’s health month—a time to focus on common health issues and encourage men to care for both their mental and physical health. Even though men die, on average, five years earlier than women, they are also less likely to go to the doctor, according to a study from Rutgers University. The researchers found that men who held more traditional views of masculinity—believing that they should be “tough,” independent and not express emotion—were more likely to disregard health issues than women or even men with less traditional views of masculinity. The researchers also found that these men who subscribed to the “tough” masculine ideal were more likely to downplay symptoms when visiting the doctor. In turn, this led to worse health outcomes. 

Of course, social conditioning should not deter anyone from seeking help for health issues. Still, sometimes it can be difficult to know when a visit to the doctor is really necessary, particularly if you have avoided the doctor’s office in the past. Knowing what symptoms to watch out for and when to get help can help you live a longer, more fulfilling life.

Heart Disease

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, resulting in nearly 25% of deaths. However, the American Heart Association estimates that 80% of heart disease events are preventable with lifestyle changes and education. 

Eating a healthy diet and incorporating regular physical activity into your day-to-day lifestyle can go a long way in preventing heart disease. 

When to See the Doc 

It is important to listen to your body and its discomfort — particularly chest pain — or discomfort in areas such as the arms, neck, shoulders or abdominal area. Nausea, light-headedness or unusual fatigue can also be symptoms of a heart disease event. You should seek help immediately if you are experiencing one of these symptoms. 

Injuries

Accidents are the third most common cause of death for men, according to the CDC. In fact, men are almost twice as likely to die from unintentional injuries than women.  Many of these deaths, which are often caused by falls and impaired driving, are preventable. Managing risky behavior can save lives. Taking simple steps like wearing a seatbelt, wearing a helmet and not driving under the influence of alcohol can make a difference. 

When to see the Doc

If you’ve been injured or in an accident — even if you don’t think it’s serious — a trip to the doctor is prudent. 

Cancer

Cancer is reported by the CDC to be the second leading cause of death for men, causing over 20% of male deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Other common types include prostate, colon, lung and skin cancers. 

Outside factors can play a role in increasing your risk of developing cancer, including obesity, smoking, sun exposure and physical inactivity. However, other risk factors cannot be avoided, like age, and family history. Much like with heart disease, lifestyle changes lower your likelihood of developing cancer. These changes include avoiding highly processed foods and red meat; eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; plus incorporating regular physical activity into your daily routine. 

When to See the Doc

Because certain cancers have no outside factors, screening for these cancers will ensure it is caught early, an important factor in increasing your survival odds. Talk to your doctor about what age is right for you to begin regular cancer screening tests. Setting up annual check-ups can also help you discuss possible concerns with your doctor.

Suicide

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), nearly 4 times as many men die by suicide compared to women, making it one of the most common causes of death for men. Although mental health issues can develop due to a myriad of causes, social pressures that prevent men from discussing their emotions can play a role in preventing them from seeking help.

Close friendships can play an important role in helping both men and women maintain mental health. These relationships can create a sense of belonging and purpose, help men lead a happier life and boost self-esteem. Friendships also create a safety net when times get rough. 

When to See the Doc

Depression deserves attention from a mental health professional long before it escalates into suicidal thoughts. For a depression checklist, visit https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/pdfs/ppdchecklist.pdf. 

Whether you are struggling with your mental or physical health, it is important for you to remember that help is out there, and it is not shameful to seek it. Regular physician visits can set you on the path to a healthier life.

Written by: Sarah Harder

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