Men, on average, live six years less than women. Contributing factors include risk-taking behaviours associated with masculine norms, occupational hazards, and the complacency with which society regards men’s health needs.
While it is widely known that a balanced diet and an active lifestyle improve health, not enough is said about the importance of health screening as a preventative measure against chronic disease, nor how mental health affects physical health, especially for men. This “blindspot” in men’s health is exacerbated by gender normative behaviour, such as men avoiding the doctor, ignoring body discomfort, and staying silent on how they feel physically and mentally.
All this is changing, however. Movements such as International Men’s Day and Movember seek to increase awareness of men’s health and to re-educate men on chronic diseases and mental health.
Read on for four positive changes men can make to improve their health and quality of life.
Pay attention to changes in the body
Excessive snoring, numbing or tingling sensations in your hands or feet, difficulty swallowing, moles and other noticeable skin changes, breathlessness, body aches and pains, frequent heartburn, fatigue, memory loss, bowel and urinary changes, unusual coughing, impotence, and unexplained weight loss are just a handful of examples that can indicate underlying health issues such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, among others.
Brushing aside symptoms as an inconvenience or normalising symptoms in the hopes that they will subside and resolve on their increases the risk of illness and disease not being diagnosed early, missing chances for early detection and intervention.
Prioritise regular check-ups and screenings
The WHO states that men are less likely to visit a doctor when they are ill and, when they see a doctor, are less likely to report the symptoms of disease or illness. There is a lack of understanding of what health screening is among men, with many perceiving that check-ups are unnecessary when in seemingly good health. This only causes men to seek treatment when suffering from complications or emergencies.
Annual check-ups and screenings are recommended for men aged 30. They can help identify current or future health issues that should be managed or addressed with lifestyle changes or medication to mitigate chronic diseases and keep symptoms in check.
Here are some screenings and tests that are pertinent to men’s health:
Blood pressure screening
Cholesterol screening for heart health
Dental and eye exams
Infectious disease screening
Testicular and prostate exam
Manage mental health with a good support system
Rigid, outdated gender ideas of masculinity such as “men should be capable of everything”, “men shouldn’t rely on others“, “men should not cry”, “men do not complain”, and “men are unemotional” place insurmountable pressure on men to fit into society’s expectations of them.
Destigmatising men’s mental health is pivotal in improving men’s health. Having the support of friends and family, talking about internalised issues, positive masculinity, and coping tools such as meditation and professional therapy can help manage overwhelming feelings.
Break unhealthy habits, form good ones
Most adults, both men and women, may not even realise that they are functioning below-optimum levels simply because they need more sleep than they are getting. Simple yet positive habits such as a consistent sleep schedule, using sunscreen, not smoking, regular exercise or sports, keeping alcohol consumption in moderation, and healthy eating all maintain or improve overall physical and mental health.
With proper education on men’s physical and mental health, and the importance of yearly checkups with the doctor to monitor weight, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, cancer markers, and more, men can make lifestyle changes and take their health into their own hands.
This article was brought to you by Naluri’s Mental Health Coaches. Naluri empowers you to develop healthy lifestyle habits, achieve meaningful health outcomes, and be healthier and happier through personalised coaching, structured programmes, self-guided lessons, and health tools and devices. Download the Naluri App today or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on utilising digital health coaching and therapy to become a happier, healthier you.