Tom Bertoli, MD (contributed photo)
By Thomas Bertoli, MD, MPH
June is National Men’s Health Month, a great time to encourage the men in your life to take care of their bodies by exercising, eating right, and taking other steps to prevent disease.
Although men seem to pay more attention to their health now, the life expectancy until 2021 is still much lower than that of women – 73 years compared to 79 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By focusing on a few key areas of their health, men can increase their chances of living longer, happier lives.
Heart disease: the number one killer
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, accounting for one in four male deaths, according to the CDC. Heart disease refers to a number of conditions that affect the heart, all of which share common risk factors. The good thing is that we, as men, can do something about almost everything.
Risk factors we can control include smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, and an unhealthy diet. They include family history and being a man that we have no control over.
Heart disease is scary, but lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
Simplify your exercise
I like to keep exercise as simple as possible. If you sweat, you’re exercising, and you should be sweating for about 150 minutes each week. You can vary that exercise however you like, and you don’t have to do it in the gym. Gardening, yard work, and playing basketball are all forms of exercise—as long as you’re moving and sweating!
I like to wake up early and start my day with a few miles on the stationary bike, followed by some stretching. When I do my first workout in the morning, I can cross it off my list and go about my day. Who knew I would feel like exercising if I waited until the evening? Whether you choose to exercise before or after work, getting into a routine is crucial to staying consistent.
Now is the time to quit smoking.
Smoking is extremely addictive and bad for your health – all for a little nicotine buzz. If you don’t smoke, keep it that way. If you smoke or know someone who does, consider encouraging them to quit.
In addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, smoking can also cause lung cancer, erectile dysfunction, and infertility. No wonder 70 percent of smokers want to quit, according to The Truth Project. If you need help to quit, talk to your doctor who can direct you to the right support and resources.
Do not neglect preventive care
If you don’t already have an established medical provider, finding one can be difficult, but important. A primary care doctor can help you stay healthy and treat problems in their early stages.
When it comes to prevention, start by knowing your family history, including major illnesses and chronic health conditions that run in the family. Your healthcare provider will adjust your care based on this history.
Regardless of your health history, I recommend getting your skin checked by your primary care provider if you spend a lot of time in the sun. (We’re seeing a lot of skin cancer these days, and if you catch it early, the outcome is generally good.) You should also keep up with your vaccinations, including for covid, tetanus, pneumococcal and shingles, and get a colonoscopy. or another colon cancer diagnosis when they turn 45.
Mental health is important
Sometimes I see guys who don’t want to admit they’re depressed. I tell them that being healthy is not only the absence of disease, but also a good feeling and a spiritual feeling. Taking care of your mental health is one of the best things you can do for your well-being. Depression, anxiety and other behavioral health issues increase the risk of major illnesses and shorten life expectancy. Everyone can benefit from counseling.
Bad habits can be hard to kick, so be kind to yourself. If you smoke or exercise a little more, don’t try to change everything in a week. Maybe you’ll burn out and go back to your old ways. Instead, focus on making one small change at a time so you can easily incorporate changes into your routine. Before you know it, you’ll be living a happy and healthy life.
Thomas Bertoli, MD, is a primary care provider at MCHC Health Centers – a local, not-for-profit, federally qualified health center that provides medical, dental and behavioral health care to people in Lake and Mendocino counties.