Wright Medicine: Focusing on Men’s Health | Community columns
June is Men’s Health Month, a national celebration that raises awareness about healthcare for men. It’s also the month we celebrate Father’s Day, making June a great time to celebrate and remind the men in your life of the importance of regular check-ups and screenings.
Besides being a doctor, I’m also a father, husband and son, so the subject of men’s health is one that I don’t take lightly. Quite simply, we need to do a better job as a society to promote the virtues of proactive health in men young and old. Fortunately, national awareness campaigns like Men’s Health Month do an admirable job of spreading this crucial message.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy of men in the United States is five years less than that of women. Meanwhile, death rates for men are higher than those for women when it comes to the three leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer and unintentional injury. For minority men, the numbers are even darker.
why is this the case? Well, there are many contributing factors, lingering cultural stereotypes that men are tough and hate to admit their weakness to sheer stubbornness. According to a 2018 study published by the Cleveland Clinic, about 40% of men only see a doctor when they have serious health problems. And, in a 2016 survey by the Orlando Health Hospital System, more than 20% of men polled admitted they were reluctant to go to the doctor because they feared what they might find out.
So what does better male health look like? Well, there are a number of things that men can easily fit into their lives. It’s making annual visits to your primary care physician. These are regular prostate exams and colonoscopies to decrease the risk of serious prostate or colorectal cancer. It improves your diet to fight heart disease and diabetes. It’s all about getting a gym membership and sticking to a regular exercise program. It is investing in managing your stress level and overall mental health by following yoga, meditation and / or mental health therapy.
And men’s health education should begin at a very young age, which means families should instill in their boys the importance of healthy lifelong habits.
The centerpiece of Men’s Health Month is National Men’s Health Week, which takes place this year from June 14 to 20. The week includes the June 18 celebration of Wear Blue Day, an awareness campaign sponsored by Men’s Health Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving male well-being. On Wear Blue Day, individuals, organizations and employers are encouraged to wear blue and organize awareness and / or fundraising events on behalf of the cause.
We should all be doing our part to promote better male health. So, for one of the important men in your life – your dad, your husband, your kids, your friends, your coworkers, etc. – check in this month to show them that you really care about them and their well-being by encouraging them to be more proactive about their long-term health. You will feel great and, if they take your advice to heart, they will too.
Jignesh Y. Sheth, MD, a dual-board certified primary care physician in internal medicine and addiction medicine, heads the Wright Center for Community Health as chief medical officer and serves as senior vice president of clinical operations for the Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. He sees patients at the Wright Center’s Jermyn practice and lives with his family at Clarks Summit. Send your medical questions to [email protected]