The month of June is recognized as Men’s Health Month, a national observance to raise awareness of preventable health problems and early detection of diseases in men. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, on an average, men die 5 years earlier than women in the United States. They are also less likely to be insured than women.
Although various social and lifestyle factors play a role in mortality rates, there is evidence to suggest that biological and genetic factors also come into play. For instance, men carry one X and one Y chromosome and women carry two X chromosomes. This biological difference makes men more vulnerable than women to genetic mutation leading to life-threatening conditions. Blood samples of healthy individuals have also revealed that the loss of infection fighting white blood cells (WHC) occurs faster in men than women. Testosterone, the primary hormone in men responsible for male strength and virility, may also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer later in life. Estrogen, the female hormone responsible for female sex traits, on the other hand, appears to protect against disease. Estrogen’s antioxidant properties help to eliminate chemicals that may cause cell damage
You can support the men and young boys in your life by setting an example and encouraging them to make healthy lifestyle choices:
- Make regular appointments with your healthcare provider. Most factors that lead to shorter lifespan of men are preventable. It has been observed that adult men in the U.S. visit their primary physician less often than women. Regularly monitoring cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and screening prostate-specific antigen (PSA) will enable the healthcare provider to identify any dangerous condition early while it is still treatable.
A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures PSA levels in the blood. PSA is a substance produced by the prostate gland that is found in high levels in people with prostate cancer. Infection or inflammation of the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH: enlarged non-cancerous prostate) can also cause increased PSA levels. Older men are more susceptible to prostate cancer. More deaths are caused by prostate cancer in men than by any other cancer except lung cancer.
- Limit the intake of food and drinks high in sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol. Eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables (rich in vitamins and minerals) everyday will help protect you from chronic diseases.
- You may find it difficult to get motivated and commit to regular exercise. Be aware of the extensive benefits of physical activity on health. Adults require 2½ hours of physical activity every week. Regular physical activity helps to control weight, prevent heart diseases and some cancers, besides improving mental health.
- There are almost immediate and long-term benefits if you also quit smoking. It lowers your risk of acquiring certain types of cancer besides not exposing others to secondhand smoke.
Smoking increases risk of infertility as it damages the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in men’s sperm. Smoking also causes heart disease which is the leading cause of death, followed by cancer and stroke, the fifth leading cause of death in men in the United States. Smoking also causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with approximately 80 percent of COPD deaths resulting from smoking. People with COPD find themselves having difficulty breathing and slowly start to die from lack of air.
- Men are often too busy taking care of everyone else that they neglect their own health. What they do not realize is that if they die early, they will be hurting the ones they have been taking care of. During the Men’s Health Month, remind the men in your family that you love them and encourage them to take care of their own health along with the rest of the family.
As media, public policy makers, healthcare providers, along with various other institutions celebrate Men’s Health month to create awareness, many wear blue to show their solidarity with men during this month.
For more information, see Men's Health Concerns Sourcebook, 6th Ed.