By Lauren A. Shirey, Program Evaluator, U.S. Army Public Health CommandJune 1, 2015
American men are at risk for living less healthy and shorter lives than American women. According to the Men's Health Network, this risk may be a "silent health crisis" in the United States and is also one that we can act on.
There are several reasons that men may be at higher risk for sickness and death than women. For example, a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that women are 100 percent more likely to visit the doctor for annual exams and for services to support health than men.
Men are also more likely than women to smoke cigarettes, to die in motor vehicle accidents and experience other preventable events. According to the Men's Health Network, for younger men, much of the difference comes from increased risk-taking and suicide). Society also often does not promote healthy behaviors for boys and men.
Men aren't the only ones affected by these health issues and these risks. Since women generally live longer than men, they see their dads, brothers, sons, husbands and friends suffer or die early. Each June, the nation celebrates Men's Health Month to increase awareness of preventable health issues and encourage early detection and treatment for men and boys. To reduce men's health risks and identify and treat any health conditions or diseases early, focus on the following three areas:
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
• Get quality sleep, engage in physical activity and improve nutrition. These are the focus of the Army Medicine's Performance Triad campaign and they are fundamental mechanisms to optimize health.
• Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
• Drink alcohol only in moderation and find a designated driver to ensure that no one drinks and drives.
Army Wellness Centers, and installation resources such as athletic centers and recreational programs can help make and continue these important changes for health.
Taking care of mental and emotional health is also of key importance. Men often experience stress and suffer from depression. They are also less likely to seek help for depression than women are and are four times as likely to commit suicide as women. Depression affects overall health and well-being and shouldn't be ignored. To help improve mental and emotional health:
• Find ways to de-stress, including maximizing physical activity and sleep.
• Talk to a chaplain or health care professional if there is a struggle with negative thoughts, excessive worries or hopelessness.
• If there are suicidal thoughts or plans for suicide, speak to a chaplain, behavioral health professional, healthcare provider or to a member of the chain of command immediately.
Get Regular Health Exams
• Schedule an appointment to see a health care provider for a health check-up at least once per year.
• Go to the exam prepared to share personal medical history, including current or past substance use, risk factors for sexually transmitted diseases, diet and exercise habits and symptoms of depression. Although it may seem hard to share, it is important to communicate this information to the medical provider.
• Bring up any questions or concerns about any particular health issues, signs, or symptoms, with the provider during the exam.
Get Screened for Early Detection
Early detection of many conditions or diseases can lead to early treatment and can often reduce suffering or risk of death. To ensure appropriate preventive screenings are received and to increase chances of finding any health issue early:
• Know the medical history of family and share it with the health care provider. If a family member was recently diagnosed with a disease, be sure to update this information with the provider. Knowing family medical history can help the provider identify any screenings that might be of special importance.
• Keep any follow-up screening appointments that the provider recommends. Screenings like colonoscopies, blood pressure checks and blood tests are all important parts of prevention and early detection of illness and disease.
Women are in a unique position to help men to overcome barriers they face in getting health care and in detecting potential health risks or diseases early. Men can be supported through positive encouragement and letting them know it is a sign of strength to prevent and address health risks or conditions. Men and women can both help boys and teenagers develop these habits early in life, which is the best course of prevention.
For more information on how to make healthy lifestyle choices, obtain a health exam or seek early screening, contact your primary care provider.