Do you know the greatest threats to men’s health? The list is surprisingly short and prevention pays off. Of course, it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices such as healthy eating, staying hydrated and being active, but it’s also as important to manage risky behaviors such as smoking, dipping, drinking too much or engaging in casual sex. Of course, common sense precautions such as using safety ladders, wearing seat belts, and not texting while driving count too.
Let’s consider the top seven men’s health threats, compiled from statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading organizations that reflect men’s health risks in the United States.
No. 1: Heart Disease – the leading health threat for men. Take charge of heart health by making healthier lifestyle choices. Quit smoking, eat healthier, drink plenty of water, manage chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and keep your blood sugar under control. Be active, get to and maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol and manage stress.
No. 2: Cancer – lung, skin, prostate and colorectal cancers are of particular concern for men. Again, quitting smoking or using tobacco (the number ONE cause of preventable death), maintaining a healthy weight, wearing sunscreen and get moving may help lower the risk of certain types of cancer. Take early detection seriously and get the recommended cancer screenings.
No. 3: Accidents – motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatal accidents among men. Stay safe on the road and use common sense. Wear your seat belt, follow the speed limit, don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and please don’t text while driving.
No. 4: Chronic Lung Conditions – including bronchitis and emphysema. Quit smoking and minimize exposure to chemicals and pollution. Prevent respiratory infections by washing your hands often and getting an annual flu and/or pneumonia vaccine.
No. 5: Stroke – there are some risk factors such as family history, age and race that you cannot control, but you can control other contributing factors: Manage chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and if you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control. Quit smoking, limit alcohol, eat healthy by limiting foods high in saturated fat, sugar and cholesterol. Increase your physical activity and if you are overweight, lose those excess pounds.
No. 6: Type 2 Diabetes – the most common type – affects the way your body uses blood sugar (Glucose). Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage and other complications. Get serious about your lifestyle choices.
No. 7: Suicide – another leading men’s health risk. An important risk factor for suicide among men is depression (feelings of sadness, unhappiness and loss of interest in normal activities). Consult your doctor, as treatment is available.
Learning about and understanding health risks is one thing; taking action to reduce your risks is another. Think about your body like you would a prized automobile — it’s valuable! You have to take that vehicle in for regular checkups to ensure it runs well and retains its value. Not into cars? How about that expensive set of golf clubs, or the fishing or ski boat, or your brand new camper? All of these things have to be maintained to work well. Having your own checkups can improve your health, lengthen your life and just as important, help maintain a better quality of life.
While many men are diligent about their physical well being, many are not. Be good to yourself. Health is not just the absence of disease, it’s a lifestyle! Take the steps to balance work, home and play and get those check-ups and recommended health screenings as they ensure good health and early detection of any illness. Pay attention to your health and make healthy living a part of your life. It’s worth it!
Information on Men’s Health can be found online at www.ahrq.gov/healthymen; www.healthfinder.gov; www.cancer.org; for smoking cessation — QuitlineNC.org and others.
Kathie Cox is Health Educator II and public information officer for the Scotland County Health Department. Reach her at 910-277-2470, Ext. 4478, for information on resources and available programs, or for presentation requests.