Home > Letís Talk About Menís Health: Take Steps Toward a Healthier You -Expert advice from Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director

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Let’s Talk About Men’s Health: Take Steps Toward a Healthier You
Expert advice from Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director
June is not only the official start of summer, it also is the month when we celebrate Men’s Health Week. This year it’s June 13-19. This week is a great opportunity to recognize the important contribution men make to our lives – at work, home and in the community. It is also a time to talk about male-specific health issues. Improving men’s health is not just about visiting the doctor – it starts with taking steps every day to living a safer and healthier lifestyle.
African-American men continue to have shorter life spans. The most recent national statistics indicate that the life expectancy of an African American man is 69.7 years, compared to white males who can expect to live 75.7 years and black women who have a life expectancy of 77 years. The best thing that you can do for your health is to be proactive. Every positive change is a step toward better health, happiness and living longer. There are a few simple steps that men can take starting today.
Get a Health Check-up
Most men care about their health, but they are less likely to see a doctor until there is a crisis. If you have not recently visited a doctor or a local health clinic, plan to do so this summer. Your health care provider may recommend things you can do to help prevent disease such as exercising more, changing your diet or using screening tests to help detect disease early. Be sure to share your family history since this can influence your risks of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer.
(photo: Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director)
Be Active
Exercise will improve your physical, mental and sexual health. By getting into a routine that includes 30 minutes of physical exercise a day, you can be well on your way to ensuring your health for the future.
Eat Healthy – Every Day, Every Meal
·         Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day.
·         Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol.
·         Eat a balanced diet to help keep a healthy weight.
It can be hard to change the way you eat, so start small and make little changes such as eating a piece of fruit instead of dessert or not adding salt to your food.
Measure Your Blood Pressure
Starting at age 18, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years, and more often if high blood pressure runs in your family. A normal blood pressure is below 120/80. Your blood pressure is high if it is 140/90 or above. High blood pressure means your heart has to work harder. This puts you at a greater risk for strokes, heart attacks and kidney or eye problems. High blood pressure does not have physical symptoms, so get your blood pressure checked regularly.
Be Safe
Wear helmets and use seat belts when biking or riding in a motor vehicle.  Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Be ready for emergencies. Make a supply kit.
Get Screened for Prostate and Colorectal Cancer
Prostate and colorectal cancers are two of the most common forms of cancer in males.  Talk to your doctor about getting screened for these cancers, especially if you are over the age of 40.
Find out if you are at Risk for Diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control, African-Americans are more than twice as likely as Caucasians to have diabetes. There are simple and easy tests that any health care provider can do to diagnose diabetes. Know your risk for developing diabetes. Higher risks for diabetes are linked to:
  • Family history of diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Being over 45 years old.
  • Being overweight.
  • Being physically inactive.
Additional Tests and Screenings
Other common tests include depression screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to your doctor about your family history and your lifestyle to determine what tests may be appropriate for you.
10 Quick Tips for a Healthier Summer
1.    Take the stairs instead of riding an elevator when possible. 
  1. Eat smaller portions – enjoy your favorite foods, just eat less.
  2. Carry a water bottle and drink more water.
  3. Switch to low-fat milk.
  4. Get off the bus a stop early or park your car further away from your destination and enjoy the beautiful summer weather as you walk.
6.    Give up the salt shaker – and instead, use a variety of spices and herbs to season your food.
  1. Take time to relax – enjoy time with friends and family.
  2. Get some sleep – aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
  3. Recognize the symptoms of depression in yourself and others – it is the first step to beating it.
  4. Manage stress – lower your stress from everyday life by taking deep breaths, practicing prayer and meditation and get positive support from a person you trust.
Today can be the day you lead your family to a healthier lifestyle. It’s important to keep in mind what health issues you may be susceptible to as a man. Begin making small changes today. They don’t all have to come overnight. It is okay to temporarily slip up, just don’t give up. Keep trying and you may be surprised by what you can accomplish.
Dr. Rhonda Johnson is the medical director of health equity and quality services at Highmark Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. She leads Highmark’s efforts to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities among Highmark members through clinical interventions and improvements in health literacy, language access and health-plan cultural competency.
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