Men’s Health Month is celebrated across the country during the month of June with screenings, health fairs, media appearances and other health education and outreach activities. The focus is all about raising awareness of preventable health issues and encouraging men, boys and their families to practice healthy living decisions, such as exercising and eating healthy. Health care providers, public policy makers, the media and individuals participate to encourage men and boys to get regular medical check-ups and early treatment for physical and mental health issues.
Take Charge of Your Health
It’s never too late to take your health into your own hands. If you’ve been putting off getting a check-up, schedule one with your doctor soon and make it a yearly ritual. Discovering the important role you can play in your health care begins with education. A great place to start is the Veterans Health Library, a culmination of comprehensive, consistent, Veteran-focused health information made available for all Veterans. You’ll find that men’s health care issues are very different from those of women:
- Male life expectancy is about five years less than that of women, possibly as a result of dedicating less time to their personal health.
- Men have higher mortality rates than women from some cancers and heart disease.
- Men are nearly 10 times more likely to develop inguinal hernias than women.
- Men are three times more likely than women to develop kidney stones.
- Men have been known to sometimes ignore unusual symptoms and avoid going to the doctor.
Keeping tabs on potential health risk factors, like excess weight, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, can help prevent some issues, like cardiovascular disease. Your doctor can help monitor all three, and can recommend lifestyle changes, medications or other treatments to help improve your health. Your annual check-up gives you the opportunity to ask your doctor questions about anything that concerns you. It’s a good idea to write down your questions before your appointment.
Build Healthy Eating Habits
Research has been mounting for decades showing that the food we eat is directly related to the quality of our health. Packaged and processed foods are often full of added sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, artificial additives and excessive calories. When buying groceries, shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you’ll typically find the freshest foods. Spend less time inside the aisles, where processed foods tend to be located. Cut back on fast food and highly processed foods and eat a wide variety of:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole-grain products, such as brown rice and whole-grain breads
- Fiber-rich foods, such as beans and leafy greens
- Lean cuts of meat and poultry, such as skinless chicken breast and lean ground beef
- Fish, such as salmon
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adding an array of colors to your plate. Dark, leafy greens, oranges and tomatoes, even fresh herbs, are loaded with vitamins, fiber and minerals. Adding frozen peppers, broccoli or onions to stews and omelets gives them a quick and convenient boost of color and nutrients.
The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Weight
The CDC says the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about adopting a lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity and balancing the calories you consume with the calories your body uses. When you maintain a healthy weight, you:
- Are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, gallstones, osteoarthritis, breathing problems and sleep apnea
- May feel better about yourself and have more energy to make other positive health changes
- Are more motivated to exercise and be physically active
- Experience better quality sleep and a longer lifespan
Go Outside and Get Moving
One of the key components of good health and maintaining a healthy weight is through physical activity. Gaining the benefits from exercise doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Walking can be a great way to get more active. According to the National Institutes of Health, walking is the most popular physical activity among adults. It requires no special clothes or equipment, and it’s free. Regular walking can have many health benefits:
It’s important to stay informed on men’s health issues and play an active role in your health care along with your providers.
- It may lower your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
- Your bones and muscles could get stronger.
- A healthy weight may be easier to maintain.
- Exercise is a scientifically proven mood booster.
- The whole family can participate together.
If you have not been physically active for a while and you are ready to get started again, the CDC offers these tips for adding physical activity to your daily routine:
- Look for opportunities to reduce sedentary time and to increase active time. For example, instead of watching TV, take a walk after dinner.
- Set aside specific times to make physical activity part of your daily or weekly routine.
- Start with activities, locations and times you enjoy. For example, you might like morning walks in your neighborhood; others might prefer an online exercise class after work.
- Try activities with members of your household for motivation and mutual encouragement.
- Start slowly and work your way up to more physically challenging activities.
The Veterans Health Administration Helps You Stay Healthy
It’s important to stay informed on men’s health issues and play an active role in your health care along with your providers. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides a helpful preventive care recommendation chart with guidelines for screening tests, medications, health counseling and recommended vaccines for men of average risk. VHA embraces a whole health approach to men’s health focusing on a variety of self-care approaches. Whole health emphasizes mindful awareness and Veteran self-care along with conventional and integrative approaches to health and well-being. Visit VHA’s Whole Health Library for helpful tools and more information about this approach.