Did you know June is Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day anchors Men’s Health Week? Celebrate dad on Father’s Day and thank him for all he has done, but also make sure to seize an opportunity sometime this month to have a conversation with him about his health. This awareness campaign has the critical purpose of informing men that avoiding preventive healthcare puts them at real and serious risk of contracting a disease or acquiring a chronic condition. Studies consistently show the numbers go against men, particularly as they advance into their senior years.
Even with dramatic advances in diagnosis and treatment over the past 100 years, men’s life expectancy still lags significantly behind women. According to Harvard Health, the gap is widening. In 1900, the life expectancy for women was 48.3 years vs. 46.3 for men. In 2017, it was 81.1 years for women vs. 76.1 for men. Harvard Health reports that at age 65, for every 100 American women there are only 77 men.
While life expectancy has increased, experts disagree on whether it will continue among the aging seniors without dramatic advances against major killers such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that certain societies like Japan have achieved significantly higher life expectancies through a better educated population that has adopted a healthier lifestyle and takes advantage of modern technologies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes of death of American men are:
1) Heart disease and heart attacks
2) Cancer (lung, prostate, colon)
3) Unintentional injuries (from falls, impaired driving, home fire, etc.)
5) Chronic lower respiratory diseases (like COPD)
7) Alzheimer’s disease
9) Influenza and pneumonia
10) Chronic liver disease
Yes, it probably will be challenging to talk to dad or another beloved man in your life (stepfather, brother, uncle, grandfather) about transitioning to a health-conscious lifestyle. Many men of the Post War and Baby Boomer generations haven’t really concerned themselves with getting the right nutrition and exercise—instead of being active by nature when they were young. Surveys by healthcare systems like Cleveland Clinic revealed that 60 to 70 percent of older adult men queried would rather clean the bathroom, mow the lawn or even go shopping with their spouse than see a doctor.
But talk we must because the leading health threats that men face are largely preventable. As always, early detection is key to nipping any budding disease. Even if dad or another loved one already is dealing with a chronic condition, you still can encourage him to adopt good practices and introduce exercise programs and a healthy diet. Caregivers with specialized training like those at Amada Senior Care have the knowledge to provide the right in-home care for a client who is trying to manage a health condition.
In addition, leading health experts say it is never too late to take steps toward better health and to improve your quality of life. So, ease into “the talk” about senior health with your loved one by telling him you want him around for a long time because he makes your world a better place. Then, remind him of these easy ways to get started on the road to better health:
Get enough sleep! Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep for optimum health.
Stop smoking. Just stop. Doing so will reduce the risk of cancer, COPD and other lung diseases.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. The potassium in produce helps regulate blood pressure.
Maintain heart health by avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats and salt.
Keep up bone health by choosing foods high in calcium and Vitamin D (but check with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for your unique situation).
Exercise more! Just 30 minutes of walking each day can keep blood pressure lower throughout the day.
Know your health numbers—blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight—because if they are elevated, your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes goes up. Positive health outcomes are more likely when you monitor your numbers since certain conditions like prediabetes have no symptoms or those of diabetes may already be severe before you experience any warning signs. With the help of your physician, you can develop a plan that may include medication, diet and exercises to keep your numbers in a healthy range. Knowing your numbers is critical to managing health, so stay on schedule for check-ups and screenings.
Still getting resistance? Remind him it’s not just his own quality of life that’s at stake. All the fathers, stepfathers, husbands, brothers, grandfathers, male cousins, male friends and male mentors need to embrace the fact that their continued good health matters to all the people whose lives have been made more special by their existence. Happy Father’s Day and Happy Men’s Health Month!
“Dads and Pops: Your Good Health Matters to Us” by Michelle Flores, Amada Blog contributor.