June is Men’s Health month. Neglecting healthcare monitoring earlier in life leads to greater risks of disease and death. On average, women survive men by over 5 years. Men often wait for a condition to become serious before seeking medical help. Young men should see a healthcare provider for regular checkups even when feeling healthy. Starting in your early 20s, a comprehensive physical is recommended every 2 years and should include all of the following: heart rate and blood pressure screening, cholesterol, height/weight/BMI, diet and exercise, infectious disease testing, depression screening, alcohol/drug and tobacco use, and safety/work hazards. Below are five health risks prevalent among African American males.
Smoking remains the number one cause of premature, preventable death. It has been linked to heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. It is harmful to nearly every bodily organ. There are at least 250 known harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, 69 of which can cause cancer. African American men have a disproportionately high cardiovascular mortality rate when compared to white men. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) usually starts with smokers cough. Quitting at a younger age is the most beneficial to a persons’ health. Heart rate and blood pressure return to normal almost immediately. Circulation improves within a few weeks. There are several known methods to assist with smoking cessation including: counseling, nicotine products such as gum, lozenges and patches, and meds such as Zyban and Chantix which work by lessening cravings and withdrawal symptoms. While E-cigarettes have increased in popularity as being “less harmful” than their counterparts, more studies are necessary to understand the risks versus benefits. Seek additional help when necessary. Two great resources are: smokefree.gov or NCI Smoking Quitline @ 1-877-44U-QUIT.
Obesity related health issues are the second leading cause of preventable death. According to the CDC, 60% of males over the age of 20 are considered to be overweight or obese. 38% of African American males fall into the obese category. Obesity has been linked to stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver and gallbladder diseases, and diabetes. Type II diabetes and high blood pressure disproportionately affects African Americans. Stroke targets 2.8 million men and high blood pressure is common in younger men.
Technology has taken away opportunities to move. The 24-7 lifestyle we live leads to stress which has been shown to lead to weight gain. Diet and exercise are both important factors in maintaining a healthy weight. Focus on: (1) decreasing the amount of fast food and processed foods you consume, (2) increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume, and (3) increasing physical activity to at least 30 minutes a day on most days.
Infectious disease screening should include all sexually transmitted infections. Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs. Possible symptoms include pain with urination or discharge from penis. At least 50% of men may show no symptoms. Gonorrhea and herpes infections are also being diagnosed with increased frequency in young adults. Having an STI increases your risk for contracting HIV. As of 2009, 69% of new HIV infections were young males. While African Americans make up 14% of US population, they make up 44% of new HIV cases. The rate of infection is 7 times that of white men and 2 times that of Latinos. HIV can lead to AIDS which damages the immune system leading to serious infections and cancers without treatment.
AIDS is a leading cause of death among African American males. It should be noted that with treatment, you are unlikely to develop AIDS and can have a near normal life expectancy. This is why it is important to be tested if you think you have been exposed. Exposure risks include unprotected sex, shared drug needles, and tattooing or piercings with unsterile equipment. Preventative methods include: always using latex condoms with water based lubricants, asking partners previous sex and drug history, making sure tattooing and piercing is done with sterile equipment, getting tested, and getting information. Ask your healthcare provider about Truvada, which is an approved drug to prevent HIV in conjunction with safe sex.
Society expects men to be tough and ignore pain. As a result, depression often goes undiagnosed among men. Instead of sadness, men may express depression with unexplained anger, aggression, work burnout, risk taking and alcohol/drug abuse. Men binge twice as much as women. Alcohol abuse increases risks of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon. It interferes with testicular function which can result in impotence and infertility. It also increases suicide risks. Men are 4 times as likely to commit suicide as women. A recent study showed an increase in suicide among young black boys. Seek professional help when necessary to deal with depression or alcohol/drug dependency.
Injuries and accidents are frequent among young males. Motor vehicle death is high. There has been an increase in injuries and deaths among motorcycle riders. Male workers account for 92% of fatal occupational injuries. Risk taking is common among young males as a result of feeling invincible. Safety precautions should be followed at all times.
The importance of adopting healthy habits early in life cannot be overstated. With increased access to healthcare insurance, there should be nothing standing in the way of you making that appointment with a healthcare provider. A comprehensive physical is recommended every two years. A refined gentleman should pay as much attention to his health (mental and physical) as he does to his appearance.
Remember the Mr. Refined’s motto: Look Better. Feel Better. Live Better.