June is Men’s Health Month. It was created to raise awareness about the healthcare gap between men and women. Men seek healthcare, especially preventative healthcare, less often than women. Men are also more likely to binge drink, smoke, and eat diets high in red meat. These differences add up to increased mortality among men of all ages and a shorter average lifespan than women. This month is a great time to motivate yourself or a man in your life to take better care of their health.
Here are five things men can do to live healthier, longer lives:
1. Don’t Put Off Seeing Your Doctor
Men often blow off symptoms like fatigue, aches and pains, and changes in bowel habits or weight. Unfortunately, ignoring symptoms like these can allow a serious condition to go untreated. Heart disease and cancer can cause vague symptoms that may not seem serious.
This doesn’t mean you need to panic every time you feel under the weather, but if you’ve noticed a persistent change in how you feel over two weeks or more, it’s a good idea to make an appointment. Your doctor will screen you for common cancers and other illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and liver and kidney problems. All of these concerns are easier to treat when caught early.
2. Embrace Preventative Care
Seeing your doctor when you aren’t feeling well is important, but seeing them before you start to feel unwell is even better. Most insurance companies cover 100% of the cost of a yearly preventative exam. This means you can get a physical exam, routine blood tests, and cancer screenings for free. Simple tests can tell you if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. These conditions are precursors to heart disease but typically don’t cause symptoms. The only way to know if you are a heart-attack-waiting-to-happen is to see your doctor. Don’t put off these appointments for fear of bad news. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are treatable conditions, and managing them now could add years to your life.
Diabetes is another common illness that contributes to mortality from all causes, including heart disease. Type two diabetes– the most common kind diagnosed in adults– is usually caused by lifestyle issues that can be corrected. Genes may also play a role, so it’s especially important to get screened if diabetes runs in your family. If your doctor determines that your blood sugar is high, they can treat you with diet, lifestyle changes, and possibly medication. You are less likely to need medication if you catch diabetes in its early stages or while your sugars are only slightly elevated (pre-diabetes).
3. Don’t Push Through Joint Pain
Your father may not have had many treatment options available when his knees started to hurt, but that isn’t the case anymore. Men are more likely than women to suffer from osteoarthritis. This is the type of arthritis caused by wear and tear. It causes cartilage degeneration, inflammation, and pain and may require surgery if it progresses to the “bone on bone” stage.
Fortunately, there are now several treatment options that can reduce pain and stiffness and slow progression. Seeking treatment in the early stages of arthritis will produce better treatment results and make you less likely to need surgery down the road.
PRP and hyaluronic acid injections are two of the best state-of-the-art treatments for joint pain. PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections use platelets from the patient’s blood to jump start healing within the joint. They’ve been proven to reduce pain and inflammation in patients with arthritis of the knee or other joints, low back pain, and rotator cuff injuries. Hyaluronic acid is a substance naturally produced by the human body. It lubricants joints and gives shape to the skin. As we age, we produce less of it, leaving the fluid in our joints thin and ineffective, like old motor oil. Injecting hyaluronic acid within the knee joint cushions cartilage, coats nerves, and reduces inflammation.
Both of these treatments are proven to reduce symptoms and slow arthritis progression when used individually, but they work even better together. Best of all, they are safe, minimally invasive, and produce long-lasting results.
4. Improve Your Diet
We know you don’t want to hear that you need to eat less steak, especially right before Father’s Day. The truth is that red meat in moderation is fine, but eating more than one 3 oz serving of red or processed meat (sausage, jerky) per week increases your risk of cancer. Excess inflammation is to blame for many illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. Red and processed meats, along with sugar, white flour, and chemical additives, increase inflammation. They can also add to your waistline, and men in particular need to be careful about how much belly fat they carry. Belly fat contributes to heart problems more than fat stored in other parts of the body.
No one can go wrong with adding more fruits, vegetables, fiber, and good fats to their diet. In cultures where their diet contains high amounts of these foods, and low amounts of bad fats and sugar, heart disease and cancer rates are significantly lower. Fiber can decrease your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, and colon cancer. Talk about a superfood! You can get more fiber and nutrients by switching out white flour products for whole wheat, upping your intake of beans (yes, baked beans and chile count) and eating more plant-based foods.
5. Kick Bad Habits
If you are a smoker or drink more than four drinks a day, you should consider quitting or cutting back. Smoking and heavy or binge drinking elevate your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and liver and kidney disease. You can dial 211 in the United States to get free help finding services in your area that can help you kick your bad habits and improve your mental health.
Many people drink or smoke to self-medicate for mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. There are healthier, more effective treatments for these conditions, and there’s no shame in seeking help. There’s a good chance that the people in your life will be proud of you for taking control of your health.
Treatment for Joint Pain in Houston
At Vanguard Spine & Sport, we offer chiropractic care, physical therapy, and joint injections. Living pain-free is the first step to wellness and quality of life. Schedule a consultation today to find out how we can help you feel better and be more active.