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Men: Take Back Your Health

Author: Dr. Derrick Anderson, Charles Drew Health Center Inc. Family Medicine Physician

June is Men’s Health Month but knowing what you should – and shouldn’t do – for your health isn’t always easy. Like women, men need to actively take control of their health through: healthy eating, staying physically active, routine visits to the doctor, and speaking up about mental health. Here are four key factors for men to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Beginning to take an active role in your health doesn’t need to begin with a drastic change. Start by taking small steps through creating a healthy diet. According to EatRight.org, moderately active males need 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day – depending on height, weight and activity level. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are staples for a healthy diet. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts are good sources of protein as well. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol. Consider working with a registered dietitian to develop a custom diet for you.

In addition to healthy diet, physical activity is the best way for men to improve their heart health, muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Not to mention, by continuously staying physically active you can help reduce the risk of some diseases including dementia. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Additionally, you should strive to add strength training at least two times a week and reduce time sitting. Don’t worry if you are just starting to become active. If you are not already physically active, begin by setting reachable goals as you work to the recommended amount. The simplest way is to take the first step.

While diet and exercise are extremely important, the best way to begin living a healthy life is by regularly visiting your primary care provider. Many health conditions – regardless of age or health concerns – can be prevented or detected early with regular checkups. Screenings are tests that look for diseases in their early stages. Common screenings are high blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate and colon cancer. In addition to routinely visiting your health care provider, know your family history – and share it with your provider. This will allow you and your provider to develop a plan centered around you to minimize risks and increase early detection.

Did you know 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental health problem each year? Yet, women are twice as likely than men to be diagnosed with a mental illness. According to MentalHealthAmerica.net, an overall healthy lifestyle can help prevent onset or worsening of mental health conditions, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. There are 5 major mental health problems that affect men: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis and schizophrenia, as well as eating disorders. Men and women can develop the same mental disorders but experience different symptoms. Symptoms can include: anger or irritability; changes in mood, energy levels or appetite; increased worry or feelings of stress; substance abuse or suicidal thoughts to name a few. Though men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health, the first step you can take is to talk with a licensed provider. For immediate help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

Taking charge of your health is important at any age or for any gender. Creating healthy eating and exercise habits, sticking to routine visits with your health care provider, along with speaking up about your mental health you can start to lead a healthy lifestyle. Take the first step by giving us a call to schedule an appointment at (402) 451-3553.