Natasha J. Thomas, MD
Get it Checked: June is Men's Health Month
When it comes to June and men, most of us think about Father's Day. However, this month, the global community observes International Men's Health Month. And in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law National Men's Health Week. Overall, this is a time to refocus on all areas of men's health, which is frequently neglected. Women are 100% more likely than men to visit their doctor for annual exams and preventative services. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT!!! I believe this figure. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that 99% of the men I treat have come to me at the recommendation of a woman - either their mother, girlfriend, or wife. Come on, guys, we can do better than that!
Why Does it Matter?
Well, because we love and need you, and want you around!
At the time the National Men's Health Week resolution was passed, men's life expectancy was 7 years shorter than that of women. Death rates due to prostate cancer were also double that of breast cancer. And African-American men had the highest rates of cancer in the entire world.
International Men's Health Month and National Men's Health Week (this year taking place from June 14th - 20th), are efforts to remove the fear, misinformation, and barriers like cost from the paths of men open to advocating for their health.
What Can I Do?
We all know that the things that are good for us, are good for us!
1. Start out by eating food you can be proud of. Once in a while, a splurge on a huge fast-food meal can be fine. But it can't be a lifestyle - especially not as we age. Choose things that improve your mineral intake. You know the deal: fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, beans & legumes. REAL FOOD.
2. Get your body moving. It's so easy these days to think we're being active when we spend tons of time watching others be active on TV and online. Or when we play those intense video games that capture our attention for hours. However, we've got to actually get out there and move. You don't have to be training for a triathlon to get your body active. Simple stuff like yard work, car washing, playing with the kids, and getting in some dedicated YOU time helps.
3. Prevention is key. We know we have an infinitely higher chance of better outcomes when we can prevent a problem, rather than having to go back and fix it. The same is true for our bodies. And that's where the next section comes in...
What Things Do I Need to Get Checked?
Recommendations on checkup and screening guidelines for men cover broad health concerns. Generally, they are divided in necessity by age group. All men ages 20 and up should have their blood pressure checked at least once a year. Men between ages 20 and 39 should have a physical examination every three years, accompanied by blood tests and urinalysis. These tests help to identify problems with blood sugar, cholesterol, and kidney function before symptoms develop. The frequency for physical examination should be every other year from ages 40 to 49 and every year for men 50 and older.
At 30 years old, it is recommended that men receive a baseline electrocardiogram (often called an EKG). This test screens for abnormalities in heart function and rhythm. Once men reach 50, they should have a baseline EKG performed every year.
Other important, periodic tests include:
Rectal exam - screens for hemorrhoids, lower colon problems, colon and prostate cancer.
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) - this blood marker helps indicate infection, enlargement, and cancer of the prostate. Yearly checkups are recommended at age 50 but African-American males may benefit from early screening at age 40, due to higher risk.
Sigmoidoscopy or Colonoscopy - a flexible scope examines the rectum, sigmoid, and colon for early signs of cancer - when it's most treatable. Also searches for polyps.
Hemoccult Screening - detects microscopic blood in the stool which may be an indicator of polyps or colon cancer.
And men should ask their doctors if they need:
Bone Mineral Density tests
Sexually Transmitted Disease Screening
Click here for the full "Get It Checked: Checkup and Screening Guidelines for Men" poster. You can also visit www.menshealthnetwork.org or call (202) 543-MHN-1 for more information.
Men's Health Month Online Resources:
Men's Health Month
Men's Health Network
Get It Checked
Talking About Men's Health
Men's Health Resource Center
Men's Health Resources Throughout the Year:
Men's Health Library
Prostate Health Guide
Testicular Cancer Awareness Month
Healthy E-Male Newsletter
Of course this wouldn't be a Hope Grove Psychiatry post without a specific link on mental health tips! Check out Jack.org for more resources, online support groups, & help finding mental health providers - just for men.