June is National Men’s Health Month. It’s a time to focus on helping men get healthy and stay healthy.
As much as factors affecting men’s health have changed in the last 10 years or so, the basics are the same. We’re looking at some of the easy things men can do while they’re still young to set themselves up for longer lives.
“That’s the time we can start to choose the health behaviors that really make those later decades more enjoyable, healthier and decrease the likelihood that you’re going to die at a younger age,” said Wake Forest Baptist Health family physician Dr. Chris Miles.
He says two decisions can be the difference between long, healthy life and the alternative. The first: the substances you put in your body.
“We talk about things like alcohol, and using alcohol in moderation or not at all can help decrease the risk of heart problems and dementia problems and liver problems later in life," Miles said.
He also urges people to quit using tobacco or to not start at all. That includes e-cigarettes.
Miles says physical activity is the number one medicine that you have to make your later years less painful and more enjoyable and healthier in general.
We spoke with Calvin Foster, a local youth pastor who started back exercising this spring. On average, he works out for about two hours a day.
He tells us he was in the best shape of his life two years ago — but then old habits came back, and so did the pounds. His upcoming wedding was the motivation he needed to put his health first again.
“Getting married and wanting to look good in those pictures that you’re going to look at for years to come was one of those motivations,” Foster said. “And then just wanting to be healthier, have a healthier lifestyle, make healthier choices.”
Miles says staying active can decrease the risk of just about every condition you can think of. For Foster, it’s diabetes.
“Understanding just because something runs in my family, it doesn’t have to run my family and it can stop with me," Foster said.
We also talked to Dr. Miles about how much men’s health has changed in the last decade or so and he mentioned a few things that a lot of people may not realize. He says there’s been an uptick in Hepatitis C infections among people born between 1945 and 1965. So, he recommends everyone in that age group get screened. One other major shift in men’s health and healthcare has been prostate cancer screening.
“It’s absolutely something that men, even a decade or two decades ago, everybody at 50 or 45 would get a blood test and a prostate exam manually," Miles said. "And we’ve really gotten away from that and found that perhaps we were over-diagnosing and over-treating that condition and causing more problems than the benefit of what we were finding.”
He recommends checking with your doctor to see when is best for you to get screened.