Men face unique health challenges, and one of the most dangerous is their reluctance to seek health care. In fact, according to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), men are 24 percent less likely than women to have seen a doctor in the past year.
A snapshot of men's health in the United States shows that they sometimes experience different, but no less serious, health problems than women. Heart disease, cancer, and accidents (unintentional injuries) are the top causes of death for men. The most commonly diagnosed cancers among men include prostate, lung, and colorectal types. A recent study shows that men die from heart disease and chronic liver disease at a greater rate than women.
Many of the major health risks that men face – such as heart disease and colon cancer – can actually be prevented and treated with earlier diagnosis. Screening tests can often find these diseases early, when they are easier to treat. For these reasons, it is crucial that men go against their tendency of avoiding health care and begin having regular checkups and screenings – for their sake and the sake of their families.
Monitoring your health can help you stay one step ahead of some of the things that put you at risk for discomfort and disease. Ask your health care provider about how often you should come in for a checkup. And, if there's something that's bothering you – a new ache or pain that's hanging around for more than a week – or getting worse, check in with your health care provider. He or she can help you decide what may be causing the discomfort.
Some common things to be screened for are:
The frequency of screenings depends on your age and your risk factors for disease. Your health care provider can help you figure out how often you should be screened. Weight and body mass index are easy to determine. You can weigh yourself in your home, at the fitness center, etc. Then just plug your weight and your height into a BMI calculator, like the one in the sidebar on the Heart Health page, to determine if you're at a healthy weight or not.
Another great way to prevent pain and disease is through immunization. The CDC recommends that you get a yearly flu shot. This will protect you from the most likely strains to hit that particular season. If you have certain medical complications or you're over 65, you should also get a shot to prevent pneumonia. In addition, if you plan to travel internationally or you're sexually active, you may also want to consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. Discuss which immunization would be best for you on your next visit with your health care provider.
If you have been diagnosed with some chronic – or even short-term-condition or disorder, it may be time to make a slight attitude adjustment and take control of your health and your condition. You might even tell yourself: "Now's the time I need to concentrate on healing and taking better care of myself."
Men's Health Month is a chance for both men and women to increase their awareness of the potentially significant health problems that men face, as well as what steps they can take to prevent such problems. Taking care of yourself is part of being the best man you can be. There's nothing manly—or beneficial—about ignoring your health.