May 26, 2020
According to a story reported by the Wall Street Journal, when Muhammad Ali was a rising boxing star known as Cassius Clay, he boarded a plane to fly to a big fight. While preparing for takeoff, a flight attendant noticed that he had not fastened his seat belt. When asked to buckle up, he ignored the request. When the flight attendant asked again, he replied, "Superman don't need no seat belt." She replied, “Superman don't need no airplane. Buckle up." And he did.
Like Ali, some men today think they are too tough to get sick. Unfortunately, statistics are not on their side. On average, men die five years younger than women, and die at higher rates from nine of the top 10 causes of death. Men are affected by the diseases that also affect women—heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, depression—but they also have unique issues such as prostate and testicular cancer.
While each man carries a unique set of genetic links and risk factors for diseases, experts think there are also social factors that contribute to men being more at risk for certain illnesses. “Men generally have less social support than women,” explains Dr. Jeremy Alland, sports medicine physician, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “Additionally, men are much more likely to minimize symptoms and therefore come to the doctor at a later stage of the disease.”
“Men generally have less social support than women,” explains Dr. Jeremy Alland, sports medicine physician, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. “Additionally, men are much more likely to minimize symptoms and therefore come to the doctor at a later stage of the disease.”
Research shows that men also engage in unhealthy behaviors at a greater rate than women. “While women have certainly shown signs of ‘catching up,’ I continue to see, on average, more men who smoke, are overweight, abuse alcohol, and don’t exercise enough,” Alland says. “I also tend to see more orthopedic injuries in men related to risk-taking behaviors, such as extreme sports and violence.”
June is National Men’s Health Month and a perfect time to talk with the men in your life about what they can do to improve their health. Remind them that better health means they can improve their ability to be influential fathers and grandfathers, supportive partners, and involved community members.
Tips for living a healthy lifestyle
Get a physical
Most factors that contribute to men’s shorter life spans are preventable. That prevention can start with seeing a doctor. The doctor will screen for risk factors by checking blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight as well as surveying for signs of depression and stress. This allows for the early detection of preventable disease. Recommended screenings can be found here: www.healthfinder.gov.
Stop tobacco use
Stop tobacco use in all of its forms. Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease in the U.S. Call your state’s tobacco quit line (for English speakers, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW; for Spanish speakers, call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA.
That means eating more whole foods and less processed foods. Eat more whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes, fish, low- or non-fat dairy products, nuts, and seeds. Eat less red meat, dairy products, poultry skin, salty processed foods, sweets, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates. Consult a nutritionist for help. We all need coaches and this is often covered by insurance.
The current recommendation is at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week. This can include walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming or playing sports like tennis and basketball. Mix in a strength workout 2 times a week and a flexibility/stability workout at least once a week.
Limit alcohol consumption
Limit yourself to 1-2 drinks a day. One drink = 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Get enough sleep and exercise, especially during stressful periods. Reach out to friends, talk to family members and get community support. Add daily meditation.
Stop risky behaviors
Risky behavior includes things such as drug abuse, unsafe sex, dangerous driving, violence, and unsafe firearm use.
Don’t ignore mental health
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Pay attention to signs of depression or other mental conditions, especially if you have a family history of mental illness, suicide or substance abuse. A simple PHQ-9 score found online can help you determine if you have these signs and should speak to a physician.