AF Men’s Health Month promotes better health, better care

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- According to the National Institutes of Health, compared to women, men are more likely to smoke, drink, make unhealthy choices and delay regular checkups and medical care. While mental health issues are more common in women, men are much less likely to seek care.

Many of the major health risks faced by men can be prevented or treated with early diagnosis, according to NIH. Lt. Col. (Dr.) Lori Diseati, chief of Health Promotions, Air Force Medical Operations Agency, encourages men to adhere to recommended screenings and routine check-ups, including mental health care, which can lead to fuller, healthier lives.

In the U.S., the top causes of death among adult men include heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Lt. Col. Diseati, 70 percent of diseases that kill are preventable through changes in controlling weight, stress, tobacco use, poor sleep and other factors related to lifestyle. Even small personal lifestyle changes can significantly lower the risk of the greatest health threats.

Lt. Col. Diseati provided these men’s health tips and guidance for better health and better care:

- High BMI, stress, tobacco, poor sleep and other behavior contribute to heart attacks and stroke. Regular physical activity can help to reduce stress and is associated with lower rates of diseases like osteoporosis, dementia, anxiety and depression, along with better libido and better mental health. Exercising as little as 10 minutes a day can lead to an increased lifespan. The recommended target for each week is 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, including strength training at least twice per week. Some men use supplements to enhance body building or health. While some supplements are safe, their contents are not regulated. It is important to exercise safe supplement use and review safety reports prior to taking dietary supplements.

- It is recommended that adults get at least six to seven hours of restorative sleep each night. If you do not feel refreshed after a night’s rest on two or more nights per week, seek help from a primary care provider to learn how to get better sleep.

- Men have higher risk of heart disease than women. Risk increases over the age of 45. Other risk factors for men include a strong family history of heart disease, smoking, high blood pressure and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Men with these risk factors should be screened for cholesterol disorders starting at age 20.

- Men without heart disease should get cholesterol testing starting at age 35.

- For men over 50, regular screening is critical to preventing colorectal cancer. Men with a family history of cancer or who have other diseases should get screened more frequently and see a specialist about this recommendation. Prostate cancer screening standards have changed. Starting at age 40, men should have a discussion with their primary care manager to find out if screening is necessary in their specific situation.

- Men who have ever been regular smokers should have a screening for aortic aneurysm, even if they quit smoking many years ago. An ultrasound of the aorta is recommended for men between the ages of 65 and 75.

“In terms of health behavior and a healthy lifestyle, there is a strong movement towards mindfulness –the state of active, open attention to the present,” said Lt. Col. Diseati. “When we observe our actions, we can make better decisions if we step back and think about why we are making the decisions we make. It is important to be more deliberate in our actions. This is the foundation for making desired health changes.”

For more information on approaching your lifestyle in a mindful way, contact your local military treatment facility or health promotion coordinator.