Men’s Preventive Care: Take Charge of Your Health
The era of men leaving their well-being in the hands of spouses, partners, and/or loved ones is officially over. No longer is it anyone else’s responsibility to look after your health. Guys, today your health is on you.
Preventive health care
The expression ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ perfectly sums up the benefits of taking a proactive approach. It is far less expensive or painful to maintain your health than it is to endure major surgery, intensive drug therapies, or long-term treatment to address a preventable condition.
Affordable Care Act
A long list of preventive care services are available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that make it convenient for you to manage your health and detect possible threats. Below is a sample of the many screenings that are covered under ACA Marketplace health plans and require no copayment:
- Blood pressure
- Colorectal cancer
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Lung cancer
- Sexually transmitted infections
View a full list of preventive care screenings covered by the ACA.
There are several health threats that African-American men need to be especially mindful of today. At the top of the list is heart disease, which can also be exacerbated by conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Here are some sobering numbers:
- In the U.S., 44 percent of black men and nearly 48 percent of black women have some form of heart disease.
- 45 percent of African-American men suffer from high blood pressure compared to 35 percent of white men.
- 48 percent of African Americans are classified as obese compared to 35 percent of white Americans.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to lower cholesterol and your risk for heart disease and conditions that can contribute to it:
- Stop smoking
- Make regular exercise a priority—at least 30 minutes a day
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight
- Replace red meat in your diet with poultry and fish
- Strive to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day
Another major threat to African-American men is prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer in their early 50’s—and to die of the disease—as white men. While there is no single major reason for this disparity, a few factors may include:
- Access to quality medical care
- Dietary habits
- Mistrust of physicians/missing early detection opportunities
There is also growing speculation that vitamin D may play a role in helping to protect against prostate cancer. It is believed that African-American men may not produce sufficient levels of vitamin D due to not getting enough sunlight to maintain adequate levels. In addition, higher levels of melanin in the skin may also prevent Vitamin D synthesis.
To help lower the risk of prostate cancer, black men should have their vitamin D levels checked by their physician, get adequate sunlight, and consider adding foods naturally rich in vitamin D, such as fish and egg yolks, to their diet.
Steps to better overall health
Preventive health care is based on the simple idea of not waiting until an issue appears before taking action. It’s all about strengthening your body and immune system so that you’re in a better position to avoid or withstand major health threats. The first step is to talk to your doctor to create a plan based on your current health and family history. You can also supplement your plan with the following:
- Get dental and eye exams annually.
- Get the flu vaccine annually.
- Have your blood pressure checked at least every other year.
- Get screened for colon cancer starting at age 45.
- Get vaccinated for shingles and pneumonia around age 60.
As mentioned earlier, virtually all preventive health care is covered by the Affordable Care Act and private health plans. Managing your health is more convenient and accessible than ever—take advantage of that and start being the boss of your health now.
David Anderson, M.D.
Specializes in Internal Medicine
Learn more about Dr. Anderson.