Each year, the month of June is recognized as Men’s Health Month in the United States. This national observance is intended to raise awareness about preventable illnesses in men and boys and encourage early detection and treatment of preventable illnesses. Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues related to men’s health.
Leading Causes of Death
Why is awareness of men’s health issues important? According to the Men’s Health Network, men live five years less on average than women, and many of the health concerns affecting men are preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the leading causes of death among men of all ages, races, and origins include1:
- Heart disease: 24.2%
- Cancer: 22.5%
- Unintentional injuries: 7.4%
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 5.2%
- Stroke: 4.2%
- Diabetes: 3.1%
- Alzheimer’s disease: 2.5%
- Suicide: 2.5%
- Chronic liver disease: 1.8%
- Kidney disease: 1.8%
Taken together, these causes represent more than 75% of deaths among men. Many of the illnesses that contribute to these deaths (e.g., high blood pressure and high cholesterol) are preventable, and your risk for others is increased by lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise, unhealthy diet choices, and smoking.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
How can you reduce your risk for preventable illness? The first step is to talk to your healthcare provider. Your provider can help evaluate your risk based on factors such as age, race, ethnicity, and family health history. Your provider can also explain what vaccinations, health screenings, examinations and diagnostic procedures you should have to help with early detection and effective treatment. The Men’s Health Network provides the “Get It Checked” health screening guidelines, which summarize some of the age-appropriate checkups and health screenings your doctor may recommend, for example2:
- Physical examination
- Blood pressure screening
- Skin test for tuberculosis
- Various blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Tetanus booster
- Rectal exam
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test
- Hemoccult screening
- Chest x-ray
- Self examinations of the testicles, skin, mouth, and breast
- Testosterone screening
- Sexually transmitted disease testing
Remember, this list is not exhaustive and the tool is not a substitute for evaluation and treatment by a medical professional. Print out a copy or share it with your provider and ask her/him about the health examinations, screenings, and diagnostic tests that are appropriate for you based on your specific situation.
Men and Mental Health
While physical health is an important part of our overall health and quality of life, it’s important to remember that mental health also plays a key role in our total health and can also impact our physical health. If left untreated, mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, unmanaged stress, fears and phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), relationship challenges, and mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or obsessive compulsive disorder can take a toll on our overall quality of life.
Unfortunately, many people hesitate to seek help when it comes to mental health. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental health, men with mental illnesses are less likely to have received mental health treatment than women in the past year.3 There are many reasons that people don’t seek help for mental health concerns. Some people think they can handle mental health challenges on their own. Some tell themselves the issue really isn’t that bad, even if all of the evidence says otherwise. Some are fearful of a mental health diagnosis. Some imagine feeling embarrassed if anyone found out they were getting therapy. Some are concerned about the financial cost or the time commitment involved in treatment. Others simply don’t know where to turn for help. Regardless of the reason, if you or a man in your life are struggling with a mental health challenge or are thinking about therapy, please reach out to a professional for help.
Make a Plan
Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your goals for both your physical and mental health. What are you hoping to accomplish in the year ahead, and how might improvements in your physical and/or mental health help you along the way? When setting your goals, be sure to make them specific enough so you can develop a plan to achieve them and measurable enough so you can celebrate your successes along the way. Your provider can help you determine if your goals are realistic and that they don’t pose a risk to your overall health.