It is commonly said that men and women are different. You may have heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus or men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. These differences go far beyond behaviors and personality characteristics. Although men and women are 98.5% the same, men have some biological differences that set them apart!
Men have thicker skin and stronger bones. On average, men tend to have more muscle mass too making their muscles faster and more powerful. There are also differences in men’s brains which allows them to process information differently. Men have larger Adam’s apples due to having larger voice boxes. They tend to carry less body fat than women and burn more carbohydrates. Some of these differences mean that men typically require higher protein diets. Men also tend to have more red blood cells and are less sensitive to cold temperatures among other fascinating facts.
Let’s break down the mortality differences among men of different races. Black men live an average of seven years less than white men. Black men are more likely to die of serious chronic illnesses than white men. Latino men die at rates comparable to black men. Black men also have a higher incidence of several types of cancer than other groups of men.
Studies show that men may need more of a push to take care of themselves. Despite certain biological advances, men tend to die six years earlier than women. This could be in part because men are less likely to seek routine medical attention. Also of note is that when men do seek medical attention it is out of pure necessity and they are more likely to hide or lie about their symptoms. As June is Men’s Health Month we'll delve deeper into what men can do to improve their health and their health outcomes.
Here are the 5 top causes of death in men:
1. Heart Disease (leading cause in women too)
2. Cancer (Lung cancer is number 1)
3. Unintentional injuries
4. Chronic respiratory diseases
Starting with heart disease, here is what men can do and what family and friends can do to support and encourage men to work toward optimal heart health.
1. Get regular checkups; at least yearly. Many men don’t know their risk factors because most do not get regular checkups. Learn your family history. Silent killers such as high blood pressure and diabetes can present with very little clues. Getting at least a yearly checkup provides men with the opportunity to have their blood work and vital signs checked that could prevent or detect health concerns early. It is important to note that men’s blood pressure starts climbing around the age of 45. For black men, blood pressure usually starts climbing younger than 45 years old. By getting a checkup men are able to discuss issues such as erectile dysfunction which can be an early sign of heart disease.
2. Watch what you eat. Eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat. Fruits and vegetables are generally lower in calories but higher in fiber and antioxidants that can help keep blood pressure in check. They are also packed with potassium which helps lower blood pressure. Meat is higher in saturated fat. This can have negative effects on your heart. Foods such as bacon, red meat, and ice cream should be eaten in moderation. Avoiding trans fats that are found in fried foods and commercial baked goods are also beneficial for heart health. Healthy fats such as unsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, almonds, and walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that can prevent sudden death from heart attacks. It is found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna but can also be taken in supplements.
3. Get moving! Aerobic exercise helps heart health. There is a common misconception among men about exercise. Many men think that lifting weight to gain muscle mass is the only exercise needed but aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging is what promotes heart health. Moderate-intensity exercise for 30 minutes a day is beneficial. Men, don’t be discouraged about not having the same exercise prowess of your high school or college days. That is to be expected and shouldn’t stop you from being the best you can be now.
4. Manage your stress. Women tend to talk about their stressors, men tend to bottle it up inside which over time can lead to heart issues. Consider talking with trusted friends or family. Consider seeing a mental health professional. Try stress-reducing activities such as relaxation techniques, massage, mindfulness, and deep breathing. It is also important to get enough sleep and to prioritize self-care.
5. Quit smoking, including smokeless tobacco. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease among other health conditions. Encourage men to stop smoking but be supportive of their efforts. Smoking is a very difficult habit to break. Many people stop and start back several times before stopping for good. Resources such as 1-800-QUIT- NOW can help.
Ladies, support, and encourage the men in your life to get checkups. Gently nudge, but don’t nag regarding habits that could be changed. Also, lead by example and do activities together. Men, encourage your fellow man to take better care of himself by taking better care of yourself. Prevention is the best treatment and early intervention is key. Call a man who matters to you today and ask him about his health. You may help him more than you know.
When was the last time you had a checkup? What areas of health could you work to improve? Do you have someone you trust to talk about your stress?