Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Data from 2017 analyzed by the Peterson Center on Healthcare/Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that the life expectancy of the American man is five years less than the American woman. Since it’s June and Men’s Health Month, Panhandle Home Health (PHH) wants to celebrate men by focusing on simple steps they can take to improve the length and quality of their lives.
Why do men get the short end of the longevity stick? In response to his wife’s question, “Why do you assume you’ll die before me?,” Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing, presented the following:
- Biological destiny – The frontal lobe of the brain that controls judgment and considers consequences of actions develops more slowly in men than women; consequently, more men die in accidents or due to violence, and they are more likely to engage in destructive lifestyle choices, like drinking to excess and smoking.
- Dangerous jobs – The riskier jobs are still male-dominated, including construction work, firefighting, and military combat.
- Heart disease – Men are fifty percent more likely than women to die of heart disease, and at an earlier age. The fact that men have less estrogen than women plays a part. Other contributors are poorly treated high blood pressure and undesirable cholesterol levels.
- Larger size – Bigger animals tend to die earlier than smaller ones, across many species.
- Suicide – Although depression is considered to be more common among women and women make more unsuccessful suicide attempts, men avoid seeking care for mental illness.
- Less socially engaged – People with fewer and less substantial social connections tend to higher death rates.
- Doctor averse – Men are more likely to avoid routine health screenings and medical attention.
Of particular note today is the fact that more men than women develop severe illness and die from COVID-19. According to ScienceNews, this may be attributed to more men having underlying health issues, like hypertension and diabetes. Also, females demonstrate a stronger immune response than males, making women less susceptible to viral infections than men.
While some of these factors are beyond one’s control, others can be addressed through choice and habit. The Centers for Disease Control reminds women that they can support the health of the men who are important to them by modeling and encouraging those good choices and habits.
- Eat healthfully, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain vitamins and minerals that offer protection from chronic disease, and limit foods and drinks that are high in calories, sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol.
- Engage in at least one hundred fifty minutes of physical activity each week. Exercise helps with weight control, reduces the risk of heart disease and some cancers, improves mood, and reduces stress.
- Quit smoking, for immediate and long-term health benefits. The West Virginia Tobacco Quitline is one of the busiest, per capita, in the United States, and it’s free to West Virginia residents who are over eighteen. Participants receive individual phone coaching and are eligible for eight weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).
- Recognize and manage stress.
- See a health care professional for regular check-ups, and be aware of your family health history.
- Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, which include pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, shoulder, chest, or arms; feeling weak, light-headed, or faint; and shortness of breath
- Don’t delay seeking help for depression, which is exhibited by persistent sadness, irritability, feeling hopeless, decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide.
The Cleveland Clinic adds getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night to its healthy- habit recommendations for men over the age of fifty. And, while encouraging men to talk to their physicians to determine the health screenings they should have (and how often), the Cleveland Clinic deems blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate cancer, and colon cancer screenings “some of the most important.”
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) gets a lot of attention in the media today as a means for men to remain more youthful and vigorous. The Mayo Clinic explains that testosterone is a hormone produced primarily in the testicles, and it helps maintain men’s bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, red blood cell and sperm production, and sex drive. Testosterone levels, which are at their peak during men’s adolescence and early adulthood, decline by about one percent per year after the age of thirty or forty. A blood test diagnoses a low testosterone level.
It is critical to determine, in consultation with a physician, if a low testosterone level is due to a natural decline or if it is due to a disease called hypogonadism. Medications, depression, diabetes, thyroid issues, and obstructive sleep apnea may also cause low testosterone levels. And while it’s clear that TRT can help reverse the effects of hypogonadism, it’s not certain whether it benefits men who are older but otherwise healthy. According to the American College of Physicians, TRT may improve sexual function somewhat in some men, but there is little evidence it improves vitality and energy.
Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic cautions that TRT presents risks, including exacerbating sleep apnea, causing acne or skin reactions, stimulating non-cancerous growth of the prostate and growth of existing prostate cancer, enlarging the breasts, limiting sperm production, contributing to blood clots, and increasing the risk of heart disease. It’s imperative that a man considering TRT weigh the risks and benefits with his doctor.
Medical News Today reports that natural ways to boost testosterone do exist, and they involve many of the healthy choices and habits previously mentioned: getting sufficient sleep, losing weight, eating a balanced diet, staying active, reducing stress, and avoiding drugs and alcohol. Discuss with your doctor whether vitamins and supplements are appropriate for you. Deficiencies in vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc may be responsible for a decrease in testosterone levels. Creatine, which is found in salmon, tuna, and beef, “is known for its small but reliable testosterone increases.”
PHH hopes that we’ve offered the men in our lives some practical tips for optimizing their wellness: You deserve to take the time to make the most of yourself! But should your well-being ever require the support of home health care, remember that PHH is ready to work with you for your health.