June is recognized as Men’s Health Month and focuses on ways men can lead healthier lives. Why devote an entire month to men’s health? Typically men tend not to focus on their own health. But after more than a year of COVID-19, it’s important for men to take charge and take care of themselves.
Throughout the pandemic, men have suffered a higher rate of mortality from the virus. Yet, according to a Centers of Disease and Prevention (CDC) report, only about 40 percent of people receiving vaccine doses are male.
Many underlying conditions that put men at higher risk for coronavirus are also the biggest threats to their overall health. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are the leading causes of death among men in Louisiana. According to American Cancer Society statistics, Louisiana men are also at a higher risk for prostate cancer than the national average with an estimated 4,000 new cases expected statewide in 2021.
Men can gain an advantage to fighting disease by starting with the basics.
Go to the doctor.
The National Institute of Health recommends that men 40–64 visit a healthcare provider regularly for routine screenings such as:
• Blood pressure—high blood pressure can indicate heart disease, diabetes and other conditions;
• Cholesterol—check every 5 years unless levels are high;
• Diabetes—screen every 3 years unless there are risk factors;
• Osteoporosis—consider a bone density test if there are risk factors such as smoking, heavy alcohol use, low body weight, fracture after age 50 or family history;
• Colorectal cancer—men age 50–75 can choose from among several screening tests; colonoscopies, the most common, are performed every 10 years;
• Prostate cancer—annual screenings are recommended for all men 50 and older; it consists of a blood test to measure prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels.
During annual exams, providers typically offer healthy lifestyle information to help you:
• Manage weight and diet;
• Exercise more;
• Stop smoking; long-term smokers should have annual lung cancer screenings.
Make mental health a priority.
The suicide rate among Louisiana men is higher than the national average and more than four times the rate for women. Mental health issues worsened over the past year with isolation, unemployment and health and financial worries. According to the CDC, from August 2020 through February 2021, the percentage of adults with symptoms of anxiety or depression increased more than five percent across the country.
Discussing their problems are often difficult for men. But depression and anxiety are common and should not be overlooked.
Schedule a dentist appointment.
Regular dental exams and cleanings—once or twice a year—are important to preventive healthcare. While cleaning your teeth and gums, dentists also check the face, neck and mouth for other conditions that may show first show up in the mouth.
Have an eye exam.
If there are no vision problems, men 40-54 should have a routine eye exam every 2–4 years. From ages 55–64, an exam every 1–3 years is recommended. Patients with diabetes need annual exams.
Get the stick.
The COVID-19 vaccine is critical for safeguarding your health, but don’t forget about other immunizations:
• Annual flu shot;
• Pneumonia vaccine starting at age 65;
• Shingles vaccine after age 50;
• Tetanus-diphtheria (Tdap) booster every 10 years.
Men’s Health Network offers a comprehensive checklist of health reminders for men at various life stages from ages 20 to 50+.