June is Men's Health Month - a time to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
Consider these statistics:
- 350,000 men die of cardiovascular disease each year (CDC).
- More than 700,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each year; 300,000 of those cases will result in death (Men's Health Resource Center).
- 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. It's 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 an educational campaign for men's health, The Cleveland Clinic surveyed more than 500 American men ages 18-70 about their use of healthcare resources and found:
- Only 3 out of 5 men get annual physicals
- Over 40% of men only go to the doctor when they think they have a serious medical condition
- More than half of 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 noteworthy facts that can be the starting point for crucial dialogue regarding men's health.
Fact 1: Men are less likely to seek healthcare than women.
Who doesn't love superheroes like Captain America and Superman? They're the paragon of toughness and grit, fearlessness and brawn. But as popular as these heroes are, their influence may have unwittingly created a problem in the healthcare field.
There's a culture- and media-driven expectation for men to be strong and, like superheroes, rarely show signs of weakness. This socially-ingrained mindset subconsciously trains men to believe that going to the doctor exhibits weakness. A survey conducted by The Cleveland Clinic confirmed this trend, finding that 40 percent of men go to the doctor only when they have a serious health issue, and never go for routine checkups. This number is far lower than women's frequency of doctor visits. Needless to say, it's a concerning figure.
Men also tend to exhibit a fear of diagnosis. About 21% of men admit to avoiding the doctor because they're too nervous to find out what might be wrong. It seems that the pressure to conceal weaknesses is so strong that it can even lead men into a state of denial, and again, this is a worrying statistic. To be clear: ignoring your medical problems will not make them go away.
This month, let's work together to turn this trend around and create a cultural shift where men don't find it embarrassing or emasculating to seek out medical help.
Fact #2: Prostate cancer affects one in nine men.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 175,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year, and prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Given these statistics, it's important to ensure that at-risk men are being screened for prostate cancer—especially considering men's known reluctance to seek preventive care.
On the bright side, however, prostate cancer typically grows slowly, so many cases don't require immediate treatment and aren't life-threatening. Still, the earlier prostate cancer is caught, the easier it can be contained. It's always better to be on the safe side.
Fact #3: Mental health is one of the most stigmatized issues affecting men.
Many men—perhaps more than we think—struggle with their mental health and the stigma that surrounds 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 may be worsening this issue.
Men are notorious for not talking about their feelings, and no, that's not just another stereotype. It's an actual trend 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 begin sharing their feelings, but the payoff is worth it: 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, to tell you about their emotions, and to be open with you. They may be resistant at first, but persistence is powerful, and you'll be doing your part to improve men's mental health.
Fact #4: Men should be making better lifestyle choices.
The stats back it up: men drink more heavily and smoke more frequently than women. Habitual drinking and smoking can have severe health implications. Drugs and alcohol can cause issues 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 far 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 are influencing this trend, too. Cultural expectations can play a subliminal role in men's dietary choices and can have consequences over time.
Partly due to health behaviors, men have a shorter life expectancy than women. This gap has only continued to widen over time, and men are currently expected to live 5 fewer years than women, on average. So if anyone asks why we need a month for men's health, this disparity in lifespan should speak for itself—men simply aren't as healthy as they could be, and it's time to fix that.
Summit Medical Group has more than 350 providers that can evaluate, diagnose, and treat most health issues facing men. Standard screenings, such as a PSA test (prostate health), calcium cardiac screenings (heart disease), lung cancer screenings and more are available at Summit Medical Group offices and 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.