In 2003 two Australian men, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, decided to start growing their facial hair for a fundraiser in order to raise money for cancer awareness. Since then Movember, the term delegated to raising awareness for cancer in the month of November, has become a national movement to promote men’s health. The Richmond City Health District has started many initiatives to promote awareness and preventative measures for men’s health. Charles Lee, health promotions coordinator at the Richmond City Health District, said that men’s health is a very important issue and men need to pay attention to how to be healthier.
According to a 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control, the leading causes of death in men are heart disease, cancer and accidents. “The same is true for African American men. In addition, cancer, diabetes and mental health issues are also health concerns for men. Men are more likely to skip doctors and wellness checkups than women. But prevention goes a long way to reducing one’s risk of developing future health issues,” Lee said.
In a 2007 survey on men’s health, the American Academy of Family Physicians surveyed 2,282 men and women in the United States regarding their “health behaviors.” They found that 55 percent of men often go without seeing their doctor for an entire year. The causes vary; however, 29 percent of the men surveyed said they wanted to wait as long as possible before going to see their physician. This “wait and see” game often does not end well. Men often find lumps and bumps in different places but decide not to go to the physician because they fear the results. However, knowing the body and getting that screening early can oftentimes save lives.
In order to stay healthy and save lives, Men’s Health Magazine advises that men find a physician they like and respect. They can do this by “meeting with several physicians in your area before an emergency strikes. See who asks the most questions about your medical history.” That way, men and their physicians can develop a better relationship so that the fears and superstitions can be alleviated . Once the doctor is found, Men’s Health Magazine said it’s a good idea to schedule regular checkups with a physician. Making regular checkups, especially for men over the age of 40, can help get past that awkward stage of getting to know a new physician. Which brings up another point made in Men’s Health Magazine: most men become embarrassed about prostate exams or exams to determine if they have STDs. They feel that rectal exams take away their “manhood” and they don’t want to go through the pain of a urethra swab. Doctors in Men’s Health Magazine, such as urologist Sheldon Marks, said that because of doctor-patient confidentiality, doctors are unable to discuss with other doctors things they have seen from their patients. The only stories told, he says, are the ones where men would rather wait it out than get checked out.
In waiting to get checked out Lee said that in order to successfully fight disease and maintain their health, men need to know their body. Knowing the body can be easily accomplished by going to the doctor and learning what exactly is wrong and how to prevent it. “All men can help prevent and be made more aware of these issues by having regular physical examinations and talking with their doctor about any and all health concerns; knowing their numbers such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels; quitting smoking; getting a good night’s sleep and managing stress,” Lee said. He also added that “in addition, all men should engage in healthy eating habits and participate in a regular exercise program.”
Lee said that accidental injuries, another leading cause of death among men, can be avoided as well. “Unintentional injuries are events such as car accidents, drug overdose, falls and fires. Death can occur from many types of accidents.” Some steps Lee listed to lower one’s risk include:
Not driving while tired or if you’ve had lack of sleep. Don’t drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Also, don’t accept a ride with an impaired driver.
Additional steps include:
- Wearing your seat belt.
- Driving the speed limit, and obey traffic laws.
- Looking for safety issues around your home, and fix or remove problems. Remove tripping hazards that can cause falls, such as cords or loose rugs.
- Making sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working.
- Using the handrail when walking up or down stairs.
- Using safety gear during sports activities, such as a helmet when biking.
- Following workplace safety guidelines and OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) standards.
- Learning to swim. This is a big one for African American men because according to the United States Swimming Foundation, 70 percent of African American children cannot swim, something the Atlanta Journal Constitution says could be linked to parent fears.
- Using care with ladders, power equipment, and chemicals when working around the home.
In order to prevent statistics from increasing and more deaths among men, following the above advice is extremely beneficial because of how men’s health behavior today affects men’s health behavior tomorrow. According to the National Institutes of Health, all men should be going to see their physician every two years. Those between the ages of 18 and 39 should be going to the doctor, depending on the lifestyle, to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases every year. Those between the ages of 40 and 64 should follow the same pattern, but should start getting their stool tested every year. For those men who are 65 and older, they should be talking to their doctors about different health screenings such as colonoscopy screenings. Following these guidelines and actually performing the steps offered to maintain a healthy lifestyle, will ultimately have a better influence on the sons, brothers and nephews of the next generation.