June is National Men’s Health Month: an annual observance aimed at raising awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment of diseases including cancer, heart disease, and depression. If you are a man over 50, or have a loved one who is, June is a great time to focus on taking care of your body by eating right, exercising, and incorporating some basic suggestions for wellness.
(If you are trying to encourage a man in your life to pay better attention to his health, share this article with him—it’s a wonderful way to show him how much you care.)
Why is Men’s Health Month so Important?
- Men typically die 5 years younger than women. The average life expectancy for men in the U.S. is roughly 75. For women, it’s more than 80.
- Heart disease is the number one killer of men.
- 1 in 2 men are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
- Men die at higher rates from 9 of the top 10 causes of death.
The good news: early detection of health issues can improve the health and life expectancy of men. Men’s Health Month is an opportunity to take a fresh approach to lifelong wellness. So wear your blue ribbon (the symbol of the month) and be inspired!
10 Things Every Man Should Be Doing to Live a Healthier Life:
1. Eat better.
If the idea of rethinking your diet makes you roll your eyes, try this: just make a few changes during Men’s Health Month. Then see if you feel better, stronger, or have more energy. If so, consider making it a permanent change. According to webmd.com, building healthy diet habits can help men over the age of 50 reduce their risk for a variety of health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Plus, you benefit from better sleep and more energy. Try eating more vegetables and fruits. Fewer dishes that contain heavy fats or cholesterol. And remember, men over 50 need more calcium, vitamin D, fiber and potassium. Mushrooms are good choices. So are eggs and avocados. Halibut and tuna. Don’t forget to cut back on alcohol and drink more water.
2. Get regular checkups/screenings.
Many men would rather clean out the garage than go to the doctor, especially if they are feeling okay. But getting a regular annual exam is one of the most important suggestions of Men’s Health Month. Schedule a regular checkup on your business calendar if you are still working and keep the appointment. Be sure you tell your doctor about any medications you are taking, so they can help you avoid any potentially life-threatening drug interactions. As one ages, it’s common to be taking more medications, which means the risk of side effects and adverse interactions can increase. So giving your physician a complete list of drugs is vital. In addition to a regular checkup, it’s a good idea to maintain a schedule for health screenings. Here are some recommended by Johns Hopkins for men 65+: ● Abdominal aortic aneurysm ● Blood pressure ● Colorectal cancer ● Depression ● Diabetes mellitus, type 2 ● Lipid disorders
3. Keep up with shots.
Rolling up your sleeves and getting things done is a rallying cry for most males in our society. It’s no different with staying current on vaccinations. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as a man ages, his immune system weakens and it can be more difficult to fight off infections. You’re more likely to get diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and shingles—and to have complications that can lead to long-term illness, hospitalization, and even death. So mark your calendar when the time comes and get your shots.
4. Move more.
Some men can’t seem to sit still. They’re either sweeping the front walk or playing with the dog or walking around the block. But many men are sitting too many hours a day, whether at a desk if they are still working, or on the couch watching TV. June is the perfect time to get moving! Men’s Health Month reminds us that it’s important to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity in each day, 5 days a week. Regular exercise tones up your heart, circulation, and muscles; strengthens bones; boosts brain function; lifts your mood; and can help prevent and ease depression. And if you have reduced mobility, there are cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility exercises that offer you the health benefits you need.
5. Wear sunscreen.
June is when so many older adults are enjoying walks outside, watching grandchildren play softball or even a day at the beach. And getting Vitamin D from being outdoors is great—as long as you’re careful. Up to 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have at least one skin cancer. It’s never too late to take steps to prevent further damage from the sun. Try to avoid the sun during peak hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., wear a hat and sunglasses, and liberally apply SPF 30 or greater sunscreen to all exposed skin.
6. Know the warning signs of a heart attack.
Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack. Additionally, heart disease is the leading cause of death in males. About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking. Other risk factors can include obesity, diabetes, stress, and lack of physical activity.
That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that every person know the signs of a heart attack:
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
- Feeling weak, light-headed or faint
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulders
- Shortness of breath
The more signs and symptoms you have, the greater the chance you're having a heart attack. If you notice these signs in yourself or someone, call 911 right away.
7. Stop smoking.
Tobacco smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S. and the primary cause of COPD and lung cancer. In addition, smoking increases the risk of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and blindness, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). When you smoke, your muscles tire more easily. Wounds are harder to heal. And smoking can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction. The CDC reports that the life expectancy of a smoker is at least 10 years shorter than it is for a non-smoker. And no, cigars aren’t safer than cigarettes, even if you don’t inhale the smoke. So when that new grandbaby is born, don’t light up—celebrate in a healthy way!
8. See a physician when you are ill.
Sounds easy enough, right? But so many men convince themselves they can soldier on no matter what. The simple truth is if something doesn’t feel right, it’s worth investigating. A Health and Aging survey reported that 40% of men said that when sick, they delay seeking medical care for a few days, and 17% said they would wait at least a week. That is not good medicine! In fact, seeking medical care early can be the difference between life and death.
9. Spend time with others.
Who says being healthy has to be boring? One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to build strong social connections with others. Find people you enjoy, and share activities and events with them. Rather than sit alone at home, walk with a friend. Have lunch with a neighbor. Volunteer at the local theater. Mentor a budding entrepreneur. Having a purpose, being connected, and pursuing positive leisure experiences is just plain good for your health. Socialization can enhance your immune system, improve memory, reduce stress, boost self-esteem, help you sleep better, and fight off depression. Make it a priority to be around others and have some fun—your body (and your mind) will thank you.
10. Listen to your body.
After a life of building a career, raising a family, being a good friend and achieving goals, you want to be as healthy as you can be so you can enjoy it all. Men’s Health Month is a reminder to take a moment and listen to your body. Set new goals. Decide what needs attention. Would you feel better if you lost a few pounds? Started a new strength training program so you could feel stronger? Redesigned your eating habits for more energy? Think about coming up with a plan, and talk with your doctor.
National Men’s Health Month Can Be Just the Beginning.
How you take care of yourself is up to you—let this June be the kickoff of new energy and new wellness for you and your loved ones. If you have an older adult you are concerned about, take a moment in honor of Men’s Health Month to share your concerns and schedule time to talk about making changes that will keep you both healthier. For those who need additional support, senior living communities can also be a great option for access to nutritious meals, regular physical and mental exercises, social engagement opportunities, and much more.
At Clearwater Living, our diverse programs, amenities, and events promote physical activity, stimulate the mind, bring purpose and meaning to life, encourage social engagement, provide an environment that’s beautiful for effortless living, and nourish the mind and body. We call it Empowered Living. Contact us to learn more.