June 16, 2021
by Matthew Gooch, MD, Internal Medicine, Athens Family Practice
There is a long-standing perception that women tend to focus on their health more than men do. Unfortunately, it’s a perception that rings all too true. A survey cited in a 2019 article from AARP found that only half of the men surveyed get regular check-ups and 72 percent preferred household chores over going to the doctor. While it’s true that women are more accustomed to regular doctor visits from an early age, it’s not an excuse for men to take their eye off the ball when it comes to their health.
Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that life expectancy for men is five years less than women. There are a number of factors contributing to this statistic. While heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, men tend to have it earlier and are 50 percent more likely than women to die from it. Suicide rates are higher for men, and it’s been shown that men are less likely than women to maintain healthy eating and exercise.
So, how can men defy the stats and get and stay healthy? Here are four simple things you can do to give your health the attention it needs now.
Go to the doctor
Many times, men only visit the doctor when they absolutely have to – whether it’s an illness they can’t manage at home, an injury, or other ailment that needs immediate attention. The problem lies in the fact that many medical conditions men deal with may not have obvious symptoms. A regular check-up with a primary care provider can help you build a trusting relationship with a provider who can help you stay on top of your health and flag any issues before they become serious. A primary care provider can also help you stay up to date with screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, colon and prostate cancer and more, as appropriate.
A healthy and well-balanced diet is one of the best things you can do for your health. Keeping a variety of healthy foods in your daily intake will help you ensure that you’re getting the nutrients your body needs, including vitamins, minerals, fiber and lean protein. Planning ahead and even prepping your weekly meals in advance can help you stay on target and avoid temptation. If you’re not sure where to start with a good eating plan, a dietitian or nutritionist can help you get started. Another health guideline recommended by the CDC includes limiting alcohol intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men.
No, not that kind of moving. While loading and unloading boxes during a house move can be good physical activity, we’re talking about getting up and moving your body on a regular basis. The benefits of regular exercise are pretty impressive: longer life expectancy; a lower risk for a number of common health issues; stronger muscles, bones and joints; and improved mental health – all great motives for getting moving. Exercise can come in many forms, too, so find what works for you – whether it’s walking, jogging, lifting, fitness classes or a local intramural sports league. Be sure and talk to your provider before you start a new exercise routine.
Destigmatize mental health
Mental health plays a vital role in your overall well-being, so it’s unfortunate that there has been such a stigma and discomfort around discussing it. If you’re suffering from or have questions about anxiety, stress, depression or any mental health issue, there are two very important things to remember: you are not alone, and it is ok to ask for help. If you’re suffering, seek help and treatment from a mental health professional. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support for suicidal crisis and emotional distress 24/7 at 800.273.8255. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Your health is everything. It’s what powers you to be able to enjoy all the people and things in your life that you love. Take control of it today so you can live tomorrow to its fullest.