Preventative Steps to Take for Men's Health Month
June marks Men’s Health Awareness Month, an important reminder to take charge of your health and wellness. Men are less likely to go to the doctor than women, missing or delaying critical screenings and tests, and they also have a lower life expectancy. In honor of Men’s Health Month, commit to taking a proactive and preventive approach to your well-being. Here’s more information on three of the top men’s health issues to help you get started.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men in the U.S., affecting about 1 in 8 men, and the second most fatal. It occurs when cancerous cells in the prostate gland, a male organ that helps produce semen, grow uncontrollably. Early-stage prostate cancer often doesn’t cause visible signs, but common symptoms of more advanced cases include trouble urinating, blood in your urine and/or semen, bone pain, weight loss, and erectile dysfunction.
Despite the seriousness and the prevalence of this disease, it has a high survival rate when detected at an early stage. More than 3.1 million men in the U.S. who have had prostate cancer are alive today. As with any health issue, the best way to prevent prostate cancer is to know your risk and be vigilant about screening.
Researchers have identified several key risk factors for prostate cancer:
- Age: Your chances for getting prostate cancer increase significantly as you age, with roughly 6 in 10 instances of this cancer occurring in men over 65.
- Race/ethnicity: For reasons not yet clear, Black men are about 1.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men from other racial and ethnic backgrounds. When diagnosed, they are also more likely to face more aggressive forms.
- Family history: While most instances of prostate cancer occur in men without a family history of the disease, having an immediate relative who has had prostate cancer more than doubles your risk of developing it. The risk is higher if your relatives had it at a younger age.
The American Urological Association recommends prostate cancer screening every two years for men ages 55 to 69. However, if you are at higher risk, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings. Consult with your doctor about your screening needs.
Heart disease, the leading cause of adult death in the United States, is a top health issue for men: 25% of all adult male fatalities are from heart disease. In general, men face a greater risk for heart disease than women, in part explained by protective effects of sex hormones, and they are also twice as likely to have a heart attack.
The sooner you detect heart disease, the easier it is to treat. Here are some common symptoms to recognize:
- Chest tightness or pressure
- Dizziness or fainting
- Heart palpitations
- Pain or numbness in your legs or arms
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms, consult with your doctor right away to determine the best treatment plan.
Learn more about heart health warning signs.
And since men are more likely to skip out on annual physicals than women, they are also less likely to have regular heart health-related screenings. If it’s been a while since your last physical exam, try to schedule one soon — regular doctor’s visits are essential to prioritizing heart health.
Here are some guidelines for staying on top of heart health screenings:
- If your blood pressure is normal, below 120/80 mm Hg, get screened at least once per year. If you have high blood pressure, a reading consistently above 130/80 mm Hg, consult with your doctor about recommended screening frequency.
- Check your cholesterol every 4-6 years if your risk is normal (under 200 mg/dL). Ask your doctor about recommended screening frequency if you have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Get a blood glucose test for diabetes at least every three years, with more frequent screening if you have prediabetes.
- Discuss healthy lifestyle habits including smoking, exercise, and diet at each regular visit.
Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and PTSD affect all people, but men are less likely to seek support and treatment than women, in part because of the misconception that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Left unaddressed, a mental health disorder can greatly impact a person’s physical health.
Here are some common warning signs of the three most prevalent mental health issues:
- Change in mood, weight, or work performance
- Withdrawing from activities you once enjoyed
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Sleep disturbances
- Physical symptoms, including headaches or stomach issues
- Nervousness, restlessness, or feeling tense
- Difficulty focusing
- Rapid heart rate and/or rapid breathing
- Weakness and lethargy
- Intrusive memories about the traumatic event
- Avoiding people, places, or activities that remind you of the traumatic event
- Hopelessness about the future
- Difficulty maintaining close friendships
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
If you have experienced any of the symptoms above or are concerned about your mental health, talk to your doctor and ask for support. Your emotional well-being matters, and mental health disorders are treatable.
Read ‘How Mental Health Affects Heart Health’ to learn more about the heart-head connection.
Men’s health matters all year long
To live your healthiest life, take an active role in your well-being year round, not just during Men’s Health Month. That means learning more about your risk for men’s top health issues, staying up to date with recommended screenings, and prioritizing healthy lifestyle choices. Most men’s health issues are preventable or treatable, but staying proactive is key.
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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.