The arrival of Father’s Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on some very important issues in men’s health. On average, men die at a significantly younger age than women. In fact, in eight out of 10 of the leading causes of death, the rate is much higher for men than for women. Men not only become ill and die at a younger age than women, they develop more chronic diseases throughout their lifetimes.

Some of this difference can be attributed to biological reasons, however there are quite a few cultural factors that are to blame as well. Some of the most prevalent issues surrounding men’s health are:

  • Lack of awareness and understanding about the health issues men face;
  • Men prefer not to discuss health and how they’re feeling, and are reluctant to take action when they don’t feel physically or mentally well;
  • Stigmas surrounding both physical and mental health.

    So how can you start fighting these cultural barriers to better health? First, consider how knowledgeable you are about your own health. Make sure you “know your numbers,” by making note of your body mass index (BMI), LDL cholesterol (unhealthy cholesterol), HDL cholesterol (healthy cholesterol), blood glucose, waist measurement and blood pressure.

    If you are unsure of these numbers or of what they mean, it is time to set up an appointment with your health care provider to get a baseline. You should also make sure that you know your family’s health history, and that your health care provider is aware of illnesses and causes of death of immediate family.

    Next, it is time to seriously evaluate the way you live; eating well, exercising, avoiding tobacco use, getting enough sleep and managing stress should become top priorities. Make regular appointments with your health care provider, and talk about regular screenings that you should be getting, including colon cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and depression.

    Finally, if anything feels “off,” talk to your provider right away. Most conditions are manageable or curable if caught early, yet men are 24 percent less likely to see their health care providers this year. In fighting the urge to ignore your feelings when something is not right, you are actively taking steps toward a healthier life.

    Nancy Campbell is a physician assistant at Woodburn Family Medicine. To schedule an appointment, call 503-982-2174.

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