Why preventive health care? I think most would agree that it makes more sense to live a lifestyle of prevention, rather than to allow disease to develop. Unfortunately, sometimes our health system overemphasizes treating sick people instead of equipping people to live well. In other words, our system often focuses more on treatment and not prevention.
Preventive care is simply care that empowers and educates people on how to engage in practices that will help them to prevent disease.
Preventive care is simply care that empowers and educates people on how to engage in practices that will help them to prevent disease. As a health practitioner, I believe that preventive care is critical for us to increase the overall health of our population, especially for men.
Instead of waiting until diseases develop, there are several major benefits to engaging in preventive health practices. Studies show that participants in preventive care programs had reduced disability days taken, lower hospitalization rates, and lower health care costs.
Preventive care can be especially beneficial for dealing with some of the health challenges men face. Here are some sobering statistics according to the Centers for Disease Control:
- 13.2% aged 18 and over are in poor to fair health
- 14.1% of men aged 18 and over are cigarette smokers.
- 40.5% of men aged 20 and over are obese
- 50.9% of men aged 20 and over have hypertension (measured high blood pressure and/or are taking antihypertensive drugs).
- Also, studies show that in 2020, the 2 leading causes of death for men were heart disease and cancer (prostate cancer for African American men).
Though not always true, for most men, many of these diseases can be prevented through better long term health management and lifestyle modification.
So, what are some practical steps that men can take to engage more fully in preventive health care? Here are a few best practices for lifestyle modification that help men live healthier and more full lives:
- Stop smoking - Research has shown that smokers have a 3-5x higher likelihood of developing cancer and heart disease. The more cigarettes smoked exponentially increases the risk of dying from heart attack or stroke and the average smoker lives 7-8 fewer years than a non-smoker. The good news is that if you stop smoking now, you have a greater chance of regaining your health. Studies have shown that 10 years after quitting, an ex smoker’s risk of dying of lung cancer is 30-50% less than for those that continue smoking.
- Eat a plant based diet - I generally recommend eating a 80-20 diet, 80% plant based and 20% lean meats. Plant based diets that include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and a rainbow assortment of fruits and vegetables are protective against many of the chronic illnesses that develop as a result of the SAD (Standard American Diet). Conversely, studies suggest that high intake of red and processed meats exponentiates the risk of early death from heart disease and cancers.
- Decrease intake of dietary fats - Studies show that diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol is directly linked to the increased prevalence of developing heart disease and cancers. Bad fats (LDL) are certainly bad in abundance, but we still have to be careful not to eat too many good fats (HDLs) which are found in sources like avocados and wild game like venison and lamb.
- Nutritional Supplementation - This is important because of the nature of our food system today. Unsustainable farming practices and genetic modification has resulted in fruits and vegetables that are literally not as nutritious as they could be. Literally, the ground does not provide the nutrients that these plants should contain. To figure out what you need best please see your nearest Naturopathic doctor or nutritionist.
- Counseling - Listen! I have to say here as I usually do, “EVERY SANE PERSON I KNOW HAS A THERAPIST”. It does not mean you are weak or deficient. It does not mean you are broken. We have all been going through a lot with race relations, world affairs, job issues, and COVID. Please go talk to someone. It is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself, and your family.