June is Men's Health Month, a good time for men to take stock of their wellbeing and make healthier choices. It's not just about prostate health. Men are more likely than women to engage in unhealthy and risky behavior, such as drinking to excess, smoking, and delaying regular medical checkups. EHE Health encourages men to make prevention a priority for improved health, productivity, and longevity.
Where to start? With small improvements in big areas. We recommend following these basic guidelines:
Get Enough Sleep
Adequate sleep is vital to health and wellbeing. According to the CDC, inadequate sleep is associated with numerous chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Poor sleep habits can cause many important aspects of life to suffer, including work performance, relationships, productivity, and safety. Most adults need approximately seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Do Not Smoke
Perhaps the most important step that men can take to protect their health is to stop smoking. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the United States. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, "study after study has confirmed the magnitude of the harm caused to the human body by exposure to toxicants and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke." Smoking negatively affects nearly every organ in the body and impacts a man’s overall health tremendously.
Engage in Regular Physical Activity
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the American Heart Association (AHA), and the American Cancer Society (ACS) all agree that most adults should engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate–intensity exercise each week. Regular physical activity offers many benefits, including weight management, stress relief, an improved sense of well-being, a reduction in the risk of many diseases and conditions, improvement in the overall quality of one’s life, and the maintenance of functional independence among older adults. According to the CDC, adults who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.
Consume a Healthy Diet
A healthy eating pattern is fundamental to the maintenance of good health and wellbeing. Try to limit the intake of salt, saturated fats, added sugars and sweeteners, solid fats, and refined grains. A healthy diet also emphasizes the consumption of plant–based foods that are low in calorie density and high in nutrient density (i.e., fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, intact whole grains, and legumes) and lean proteins.
While women report higher stress levels than men, men are less likely than women to engage in an activity to help relieve or manage stress. Research has shown that high levels of stress can exacerbate existing illnesses and contribute to the development of conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and obesity. Because stress can have such a negative impact on a man’s health, the importance of stress management cannot be overstated.
Receive Regular Preventive Screenings
Preventive medical screenings and exams are conducted to establish a physical health baseline. General screening guidelines are as follows: Blood pressure: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSF) recommends that, beginning at age 18, men with normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80 millimeters of mercury [mmHg]) have their blood pressure checked at least once every two years; men with blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 should have their blood pressure checked annually. "High" blood pressure (HBP) is classified as 140/90 or higher, and men with HBP should consult with a physician for the appropriate screening schedule. Cholesterol: According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), adults aged 20 and older should have their cholesterol tested at least once every five years. Adults who have risk factors such as diabetes, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, and/or a history of heart disease, tobacco use, or high blood pressure should be tested more often. Optimal cholesterol levels are as follows:
Diabetes: According to Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2014, men without risk factors should be tested for diabetes at age 45 with repeated testing at least every 3 years if results are normal. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) also recommends that men who are overweight (a BMI greater than 25) and have additional risk factors be screened for diabetes regardless of age, while the USPSTF recommends screening for men whose blood pressure is higher than 135/80. Depression: Depression is a serious mental health condition that can last for weeks, months, or even years and greatly impact a man’s daily functioning. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), men often experience depression differently than women. Men may be more likely to feel very tired and irritable, lose interest in their work, family, or hobbies, and be more likely to have difficulty sleeping. Additionally, while women who suffer from depression are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to die by suicide. Men who experience symptoms of depression should discuss screening options with a healthcare professional.
Many factors affect your health. Although some factors cannot be controlled such as one’s genetic makeup or age, there are important preventive steps that can be taken in order to live a longer, healthier life. Having regular physical exams, getting appropriate screenings throughout one’s lifespan, and leading a healthy lifestyle are three of the most important preventive measures that can be controlled. This year, celebrate Men’s Health Month by encouraging the men in your life to make their health a priority and to follow these simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life.