Today, the health picture for men in North Carolina is much brighter than it was 65 years ago. Men generally live longer and healthier lives. However, North Carolina men still lag behind in several important indicators of health. With some of those indicators, such as death rates from stroke and lung cancer, our men have actually lost ground. What’s more, over half of all premature deaths among men are preventable. Men, on average, die six years younger than women. Nationally, men have higher mortality rates than women for each of the top 10 causes of death including heart disease, lung cancer, colon cancer and stroke. The picture is even worse for minority men. Why is this?
Minority men in North Carolina are, on average, less healthy than white men and have higher mortality rates for nearly all of the major causes of death, including diabetes at twice the rate. In addition, minority men have higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity and asthma and higher death rates from lung, prostate and colorectal cancers.
What we know is men are much less likely to go to the doctor unless they are really sick. The disparity between the health of men and women could be that females are taught early in life that preventive health screenings and regular checkups are important. Men often don’t interact with the health care system until they’re in their 50’s or 60’s for preventive care. Is there a connection?
Health screenings starting early in life along with taking steps toward good health can go a long way toward helping men avoid health risks. Regular visits to the doctor should begin in the early 20’s for screenings recommended by the medical community. Screenings are tests that look for diseases before there are symptoms. Blood pressure checks and tests for high cholesterol are examples of screenings. Other screenings recommended are as follows:
• Tetanus booster every 10 years
• Influenza vaccines
• Hepatitis B vaccination
20’s and 30’s:
• Regular blood pressure checks
• Baseline cholesterol test
• STD tests (if not in a monogamous relationship)
• Lipid panel profile (total cholesterol – HDL, LDL and Triglycerides)
• Baseline Prostate Cancer (PSA) reading
• Digital Rectal Exam
• Colonoscopy (every 5 years)
• Annual Prostate Cancer (PSA) readings
At 65 and over:
• Annual flu vaccination
• Vaccine for Shingles
• Pneumonia vaccination
It is also important that men get screened for Diabetes if they have a blood pressure higher than 135/80 or if they are taking medication for high blood pressure. Diabetes (high blood sugar) can cause problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves and other body parts. High Blood Pressure can cause strokes, heart attacks, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure. Overweight or obesity can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Aside from the health screenings that are so important to men’s health today, there are steps you can take to decrease your risk for developing a life-long chronic disease. If you are not already physically active, start today! Regular exercise can help reduce a number of factors that lead to chronic diseases! Get to a healthy weight and stay there! Eat healthy! Be tobacco free and if you drink alcohol, limit to no more than two drinks per day. Manage stress because emotional health is as important as your physical health.
While many men are diligent about their physical well being, many are not. Be good to yourself. Health is not just the absence of disease, it’s a lifestyle. Take the steps to balance work, home and play. Pay attention to your health and make healthy living a part of your life.
For information on Men’s Health there are several websites available such as www.ahrq.gov/healthymen; www.healthfinder.gov; www.cancer.org; and others. Or, contact Kathie Cox, Health Educator/Healthy Carolinians Coordinator, at (910) 277-2440 for more information.