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Richard: June is Men’s Health Month

The COVID-19 pandemic that has turned our world upside down emphasizes the need for all of us to safeguard our health. During June, designated as national Men’s Health Month, awareness turns to men and boys to practice healthy living decisions such as exercising, eating nutritiously and practicing preventive medicine.

Men are dying an average of five years younger than women are, and lead in nine of the 10 top causes of death in the United States. Statistics from the Men’s Health Network show that in Louisiana the average male life expectancy is 72.7 years, compared to 81.2 years for females. In Louisiana, cancer and cardiovascular disease are leading causes of death for males and females of all races. National Cancer Institute data indicates that compared to the national average, males in Louisiana are at higher risk to die from prostate cancer.

Why the Disparity?

The biggest threat to men’s longevity may be a lack of awareness of their own health needs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are less likely to have regular contact with a doctor over their lifetime and are half as likely as women to seek preventive health exams.

Men also tend to ignore symptoms or delay seeking medical care when they are sick or in pain. Their devotion to work may contribute to this behavior, as CDC studies show they are less likely than women to take off work for health issues.

What Should Men Do?

Overall, medical professionals recommend that men start taking better care of themselves and visit health care providers regularly. These visits can help to avoid problems in the future. For example, the only way to detect high blood pressure is to check it regularly. Likewise, there may be no early symptoms for high blood sugar or high cholesterol levels. However, a doctor can check for these with a simple blood test.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) encourages men ages 40 to 64 to visit a provider regularly, even if they feel healthy, for

  • Routine screenings;
  • Assessing medical risks;
  • Healthy lifestyle information;
  • Updating vaccinations;
  • Getting to know the provider better in case of illness.

At age 50, men should also begin screenings for colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and osteoporosis. The NIH also recommends annual lung cancer screenings for men ages 55 to 80 who are long-term smokers or may have quit within the past 15 years.

Other general health reminders include:

  • Annual flu shot;
  • Pneumonia vaccine starting at age 65;
  • Shingles vaccine after age 50;
  • Tetanus-diphtheria (Tdap) booster every 10 years;
  • Annual or bi-annual dental exam;
  • Regular eye exams.

For more information on health and wellness, contact Thibodaux Regional Wellness Education Center at 985.493.4765.

 

Katie Richard, MA, BSN, RN, is education and training coordinator for Thibodaux Regional Health System and may be contacted at 985.493.4765.