When it comes to men’s health, concerns can often take a backseat as men are more likely to forget their annual doctor visits. Most men are too busy trying to make money to take care of themselves and their families; others are busy working day and night to rise up the career ladder. There’s just no time to squeeze in a doctor visit, especially when they don’t feel ill. However, skipping annual screenings can cause grave consequences as we age! Thus, the topic of men’s health shouldn’t be underestimated.
June is Men’s health Awareness Month and we are thankful because this serves as a reminder to encourage all the men in our lives to make their health a priority. No matter your age or state of health, annual exams and screenings are vital if you want to stay healthy, and stay around for a long time.
Let’s take a deeper look at why most men dodge the doctor’s office. I already mentioned that most of them have very busy schedules and just can’t find the time. However, there’s also a saying that goes “If something is important to you, you will make time for it.” And surely, our health is the most important thing. A few other reasons include a Macho Attitude. Most men that have a macho attitude seldom go to the clinic or talk about their health concerns.
Studies about the ‘Macho Man’ phenomenon have revealed a link between self-reported masculinity and resisting routine exams.
Most macho men are half as likely to go to the doctor for preventative care as they see it as being ‘weak’. This attitude is a recipe for disaster as most health problems when not detected early can easily spin out of control. Another reason men avoid hospitals and clinics may be due to fear.
A recent survey revealed 20% of men report fearing a poor diagnosis as the main reason for getting regular checkups. Also, most men report being uncomfortable with exams, especially rectal exams and other invasive tests are apt to give men hesitation about seeking preventative care.
All these reasons and more are why most men wait until symptoms are persistent before seeking medical care. This can be an unfortunate mistake as many conditions are preventable or treatable when detected early. Below are some important health screenings for men, including the appropriate timing for each.
Blood Pressure: Every man should have their blood pressure checked regularly, and those with other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, smoking etc should check their blood pressure more frequently.
More than half of Nigerians have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the biggest risk for heart disease and a significant risk for other serious health conditions. Risk in men increases with age and begins to climb when men hit age 45. High blood pressure is especially dangerous, because people can have it for years without knowing, which is why regular screening is important.
Cholesterol: There are two types of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (or LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (or HDL).
LDL is responsible for blocking arteries through a buildup of fatty deposits. This build-up can block blood flow to the heart muscle, reducing its oxygen supply leading to stroke or heart attack. HDL is the good cholesterol which helps remove LDL from the blood and eventually from the body. Annual blood testing will screen for high cholesterol and should be started at age 35 for men.
Type2 Diabetes: Did you know men develop diabetes slightly more often than women do? Meanwhile many men don’t generally seek help until they have full-blown diabetes. Early detection and lifestyle changes make it so much easier and quicker to reverse prediabetes. Diabetes screening should start at age 40 years old and should be repeated every three years.
However those with multiple risk factors should start earlier and have more frequent screening
Colorectal cancer (a collective term that includes both colon cancer and rectal cancer) is a leading cause of death in both men and women. Colorectal cancer screening is recommended beginning at age 45 for men. Risk factors include older age as most cases occur after age 50, anyone with family history should be screened earlier.
Anyone who has previously had cancer is at increased risk for having it again, drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day, obesity, smoking, a high-fat diet, excessive meat intake are all risk factors associated with colorectal cancer.
Prostate Cancer: This is the most common cancer that affects men. 1 in 5 men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
All men, as they get older should also undergo proper screening methods specifically because prostate cancer can be treated when caught early. Screening for prostate cancer should start at 50 years old.
As an African man, screening should start at age 45, and if there is a history of prostate cancer in your family, screening should start as early as 40 years of age.
Mental Health Screening: Don’t ignore your mental health. Millions of men suffer from depression each year, and many of these men are under-diagnosed and under-treated. Talk to your doctor about getting screened for depression if you have been experiences feelings of prolonged sadness, mood changes, lack of excitement, loneliness, suicidal ideation for more than two weeks etc Most men also suffer from excessive stress which is also linked to mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.
Obesity: A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, a BMI above 25 is overweight, and a BMI greater than 30 is obese.
Men who are obese and have a waist circumference of over 35 inches are at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancers, depression, and many other ailments. It’s important to manage weight for disease prevention. Thus, eating better and being physically active are the main keys to achieving a healthy weight.
Only 3 out of 5 men get an annual checkup. The fact that men go to the doctor less than women may account for men’s shorter life span.
Going for regular preventive screenings may not be easy or convenient, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying! Remember that the key to living a healthy disease-free life is making better choices each day and one of the best choices you can make is to go for regular health checkups to ensure optimal health.
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