June is Men’s Health Month – a time to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of diseases in men and boys.
Consider these stats:
- 350,000 men die every year from cardiovascular disease (CDC).
- More than 700,000 men are diagnosed with cancer every year; 300,000 of those cases will result in death (Men’s Health Resource Center).
- Every year 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is the second leading cause of death in men (Cancer.org)
- More than 60% of adult American men are overweight or obese (National Institutes of Health).
As part of a men’s health education campaign, The Cleveland Clinic surveyed more than 500 American men ages 18-70 about their use of health care tools and found:
- Only 3 out of 5 men get annual physical examination
- More than 40% of men only go to the doctor if they think they have a serious medical condition
- More than half of the men said their health wasn’t something they talk about.
It’s time for men to take a proactive approach to health – both physical and mental health. Here are four remarkable facts that could be the starting point for a crucial dialogue about men’s health.
Fact 1: Men are less likely to seek care than women.
Who doesn’t love superheroes like Captain America and Superman? They are the epitome of toughness and guts, fearlessness and strength. But as popular as these heroes are, their influence may have unwittingly created a health problem.
There is a culture and media driven expectation that men are strong and, like superheroes, rarely show signs of weakness. This socially entrenched mindset unconsciously trains men to believe that going to the doctor shows weakness. A survey conducted by The Cleveland Clinic confirmed this trend, finding that 40 percent of men only go to the doctor when they have a serious health problem and never go for routine checkups. This number is much lower than the frequency of doctor visits by women. Needless to say, it’s a worrying number.
Men also tend to exhibit fear of diagnosis. About 21% of men admit to avoiding the doctor because they are too nervous to figure out what might be wrong. It seems that the pressure to hide weaknesses is so strong that it can put even men in a state of denial, and again, this is a disturbing statistic. To be clear, if you ignore your medical problems, they won’t go away.
This month, let’s work together to reverse this trend and create a cultural shift where men don’t find it embarrassing or debunking to seek medical help.
Fact #2: Prostate cancer affects one in nine men.
About 175,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society, and prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. Given these statistics, it is important to ensure that men at increased risk are screened for prostate cancer, especially given the known reluctance of men to seek preventive care.
On the bright side, however, prostate cancer usually grows slowly, so many cases do not require immediate treatment and are not life-threatening. Still, the earlier prostate cancer is detected, the easier it can be contained. It is always better to stay on the safe side.
Fact #3: Mental health is one of the most stigmatized issues facing men.
Many men — perhaps more than we think — struggle with their mental health and the stigma surrounding it. The American Psychological Association reports that 30.6% of men have suffered from depression in their lifetime. Again, men’s hesitation to seek care can exacerbate this problem.
Men are notorious for not talking about their feelings, and no, that’s not just a stereotype. It’s a real trend that psychologists have documented. In the eyes of many men, discussing emotions is just another form of vulnerability that can lead to discomfort. It can be scary for many men to share their feelings, but it pays off: Men who express their feelings verbally are less likely to express them in other ways.
Talk to the men in your life. Encourage them to talk about their day, tell you about their emotions, and be open with you. They may be resistant at first, but perseverance is powerful and you will do your part to improve men’s mental health.
Fact #4: Men should make better lifestyle choices.
The statistics confirm it: men drink more heavily and smoke more often than women. Drinking and smoking habitually can have serious health consequences. Drugs and alcohol can cause problems ranging from lung and heart disease to liver problems to preventable accidents.
Men also tend to make less healthy choices in the kitchen. Women eat much more fruits and vegetables than men, while men prefer meat and dairy. Yes, we know we’re starting to sound like a broken record about the impact of cultural factors, but it’s likely that social norms influence this trend as well. Cultural expectations can play a subliminal role in men’s dietary choices and can have repercussions over time.
Partly due to health behaviour, men have a shorter life expectancy than women. This gap has only widened over time and men are currently expected to live an average of 5 years less than women. So if someone asks why we need a month for men’s health, this longevity difference should speak for itself – men are just not as healthy as they could be, and it’s time to correct that.
Summit Medical Group has more than 350 providers who can evaluate, diagnose, and treat most of the health problems faced by men. Standard screenings, such as a PSA (prostate health) test, calcium cardiac screenings (heart disease), lung cancer screenings, and more are available at the offices of the Summit Medical Group and the Diagnostic Imaging Centers. If you or someone you know is looking for a primary care physician, call Summit Medical Group at 865-212-3618 or visit us online at www.summitmedical.com.