June is Men’s Health Month. Wonder why we need a month devoted to spreading awareness about men’s health issues in particular? Well, because historically, men haven’t been very good at talking about their health. And while this is certainly changing, it doesn’t hurt to keep the conversation going with a yearly reminder each June.
Guys, let’s work together to heighten awareness and push for early detection and treatment of preventable health problems in men. How? By starting a conversation. Ask your male friends about their health, teach your boys how to express themselves when they are feeling unwell, and encourage the men in your family to get regular check-ups with a health professional.
It’s also important to be aware of top health risks for men. The six conditions we’ve outlined below are some of the most commonly diagnosed. Find out what they are, learn to recognize symptoms and understand prevention and treatment options.
1. Heart disease
Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men in the US? Even scarier, 50% of men who die suddenly from heart disease experienced zero symptoms. Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s do what we can to avoid heart disease.
Start a regular exercise routine and cut down on bad cholesterol (the good news is you don’t need to avoid these foods high in good cholesterol!), decrease your alcohol intake, and quit smoking!
Note that if you have diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing heart disease. Speak with your doctor about steps you can take to prevent a diagnosis, as well as what sort of screenings you should have and when.
Type 2 diabetes can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Perhaps that’s why it’s been called “the silent threat for men.” You often won’t even realize you have it until you start noticing you’re constantly needing to relieve your thirst–and your bladder.
While Type 2 diabetes can be managed with the proper medication and some adjustments to your lifestyle, it’s important to understand that men are at higher risk of requiring a diabetes-related amputation than their female counterparts.
Regular exercise and a healthy, low-sugar diet are relatively simple ways to prevent a diagnosis. That said, if you have a family history of diabetes, make sure your doctor is in the know so that the two of you can discuss a prevention plan and screening that is right for you.
There’s a complex relationship between masculinity and vulnerability. For a number of reasons, men have a harder time talking about their emotions or seeking help when anxious, stressed or depressed.
Even so, it’s time we commit to talking about mental health issues affecting the male population. Why? Because more than 75% of suicides involve men. Let that number sink in for a minute.
Depression may be “invisible,” but it is a very real disease, and luckily, there are very real options to get help. Start by learning the symptoms of depression, and consider speaking with a mental health professional if you’ve been feeling down or just not yourself lately. If you’re having thoughts of taking your own life, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately.
4. Erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects more than just your sex life, so listen up! Did you know, for example, that it can be a symptom of heart disease? It’s a sign of unhealthy blood vessels, which can lead to health issues like heart attack and stroke.
Add to that a number of other health conditions that can result in ED, and you’ll realize it’s not the type of thing you want to ignore for long.
Yes, it might result in some awkward moments in the bedroom (and an awkward conversation at the doctor’s office), but getting to the bottom of your ED is important for your quality of life, your relationship and your health in general.
The majority of individuals living with HIV happen to be men—a whopping 76% to be exact! And while men who have sex with other men remain the highest incidence, this is a disease that does not discriminate.
So make it a habit to always use condoms. And if you end up in a monogamous relationship, be safe, get checked, and share your results with your partner. In fact, why not make the appointment together?
Scared to get tested? Don’t be! Knowing your status means you can keep yourself and others healthy.
6. Prostate cancer & testicular cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect men (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). Although it’s commonly thought of as a disease that affects men over 55, there’s a reason millennials like to participate in Movember – and it’s not just because they get to sport a moustache!
Anyone can be at risk of developing prostate cancer, but it’s more of a concern if it runs in the family, if you are of African or Caribbean descent, if you are overweight, or if your diet is high in saturated fats. Make sure to watch out for symptoms, and talk to your doctor about when to screen if you fit into any of the categories above.
Testicular cancer, on the other hand, strikes young. If you are between the age of 15 and 39, learn the signs and be sure to check yourself on a regular basis.
Convinced that it’s time to start putting your health first? Great! Start by making an appointment with your family doctor (how long has it been since you’ve had a check-up?) Then make sure to share your family history and find out if it’s time to start screening for certain preventable diseases.
And don’t forget to talk to a trusted loved one when you are feeling stressed or down—or be a pal when your guy friend needs an ear. The more we talk about our physical and mental health, the easier it is to detect a problem early on. To your health!