June is National Men’s Health Month 

 

SPRINGFIELD — Men, if you think you are invincible along with your health, think again. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women and die at higher rates from the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer and unintentional injuries. 

Dr. Spencer Haller of Baystate Medical Practices – Northern Edge Adult and Pediatric Medicine in Springfield, noted there are many different factors for the grim death statistics. 

“Some of it has to do with engaging in riskier professions, but this doesn’t explain all of it. In general, there’s more risk-taking behavior in men, such as more smoking, more drinking, and driving more aggressively,” he said. “Lower estrogen levels increase the risk of heart disease, so this might be a factor as well. Suicide rates are also higher in men. And, men tend to go to the doctor less. The good news is that we can improve much of this.” 

June is Men’s Health Month, a national observance used to raise awareness about 

health care for men and focus on encouraging boys, men, and their families to practice and implement healthy living decisions such as exercising and eating healthy. 

“Anything we can do to bring awareness and help people, men especially during Men’s Health Month in June, to improve their health is always a good thing,” said Haller. 

While many parents/caregivers today are diligent about keeping their children’s well-visits and vaccinations up-to-date, these children as they reach young adulthood will need to find a new doctor unless they are seeing a family physician who can continue to see them. 

Men’s health issues differ with age. Cancer, with the exception of testicular cancer and heart disease are rare in young men. Special to this group, however, are serious health problems that are most often found in a lack of safety precautions resulting in motor vehicle and work-related injuries, as well as smoking, excessive drinking and risky behavior. Men’s mental health, including issues with anxiety and depression, can occur at all ages. 

Haller noted that he believes establishing healthy routines from age 25 to 45 with the guidance of your doctor is essential to your future health. 

“At this stage in your life, you have outgrown many childhood illnesses. Testicular cancer is less common, for example, and men are still young for many of the other cancers like prostate and colon cancer,” he said. “So, it’s a really nice time to make sure that you have set up good routines that will keep you healthy throughout life: getting enough sleep, eating right, getting regular physical activity, not drinking too much alcohol, not smoking, and having friends and family you care about.” 

Middle-aged men need to understand what modifiable risk factors they have for heart disease and reducing those risks, whether it means losing weight, working with their doctor to identify the best exercise for their age and condition, or taking medications to lower their cholesterol or blood pressure. There are more routine screenings that become important as men have more birthdays. Last year doctors began recommending colon cancer screening to begin at age 45. Prostate cancer screening is worth a discussion with your doctor, noted Dr. Haller.   

Older men have the same needs as middle-aged men and more. They often have at least one chronic condition that also needs to be managed such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, or heart disease. Older men also have more concerns about impaired eyesight and hearing.  

There are also guidelines now recommending that individuals between 55 and 80 years old, who are at high risk for lung cancer as a result of heavy smoking (defined as those who have smoked for greater than 30 years at an average of one pack per day), receive an annual low-dose CT lung cancer screening. 

As far as how to remain active at any age, it is a good idea to check with your doctor that the activity you choose if appropriate for your age and ability. 

“I would always recommend doing things that you enjoy. I think it’s hard enough to manage all of life’s demands without thinking that you are going to schedule in some other activity that you don’t even look forward to. If you like to go to the gym, go to the gym. If you prefer hiking, cycling, walking, do that. If you’d rather work on the yard and around the house, great. If you like to golf, try to walk at least the front 9,” said Haller. 

A recommended “maintenance schedule” for men detailing checkup and screening guidelines can be found at menshealthnetwork.org. 

Most doctors also recommend that patients create a checklist of questions to bring with them so they won’t forget any concerns they many want to discuss with their doctor. Also, because many men are procrastinators when it comes to their health, they shouldn’t wait until arriving at their physician’s office to hurriedly write their questions down, but instead give them some real thought beforehand.