June is Men’s Health Month, a national observance to raise awareness about men’s healthcare.
Did you know the average man pays less attention to his health than the average woman? Compared to women, men are more likely to drink alcohol and use tobacco, make risky choices and not see a doctor for regular checkups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women and die at higher rates from the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer and unintentional injuries. Black men suffer worse health than any other racial group in our nation.
This Men’s Health Month, we’re encouraging Black men to care for their bodies by prioritizing these basic needs: nutrition, exercise, sleep, doctor visits and COVID-19 vaccinations.
Healthy food is healthy fuel. Fresh fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods lead to healthier outcomes. Studies have pinpointed a connection between a diet high in refined sugars and depression.
In a Harvard Health blog, Dr. Eva Selhub writes: “Your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That ‘fuel’ comes from the foods you eat—and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.”
Try eating a “clean” diet for two to three weeks—that means cutting out all processed foods and sugar. See how you feel. Then slowly introduce foods back into your diet, one by one, and see how you feel.
Understanding what good food is will empower Black men to seek better food options. For suggestions on healthy eating, check out the list of 40 Black social media influencers. The list is made up of dietitians, nutritionists, chefs and/or food influencers who promote Black culture one bite at a time.
Emphasis on exercise is everywhere, and for good reason. Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure, which can lower the risk for heart disease. Combined with a healthy diet, regular exercise, including cardio and weight training, can help drop extra pounds while toning and strengthening the body. How much exercise? It is recommended that you get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity—think of it as 30 minutes, five days a week. Strength training helps build strong bones, aids in weight management and improves symptoms associated with chronic conditions.
Sleep is another area of life you need to evaluate. Good sleep improves brain performance, mood and health. Not getting enough quality sleep regularly raises the risk of many diseases and disorders. These range from heart disease and stroke to obesity and dementia.
The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep allows your body to recover from the stressors of the day. It also helps strengthen your muscles and tissues after a workout. Science shows that those who exercise regularly sleep better—another reason to get off the couch and move!
Regular Doctor Visits
No one likes to go to the doctor. But to be proactive in your health means to get annual physicals and checkups. A yearly physical exam is a great way to touch base with your primary doctor, address any health concerns or issues and talk about preventative action. Plus, you want to be sure your vaccinations are up to date and any screenings you may need are done (e.g., diabetes screening).
In addition to a medical physical, be sure to schedule these yearly exams: eye, hearing, dermatological and dental.
Certainly, a lot of information has been disseminated about COVID-19. Many people have expressed “COVID fatigue.” They’re exhausted from fear of catching it, hearing warnings, wearing masks, etc.
Still, it’s important to note that people, many of whom were not vaccinated, have died and are still dying from the virus. But more than a few people have had the virus and feel there’s no need to get vaccinated. That’s not true. “Natural immunity” wanes after weeks.
In areas where the vaccine rate is high, the number of COVID-19 cases has decreased. However, the infection rate among Black people is still higher than other groups, particularly in Southern states, including Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia.
It’s imperative that the Black community gets vaccinated. You can get the first shot of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the Fourth of July, and then three weeks later, get the second shot. Now is the time to step up.
Making health a priority ensures treatable problems don’t lead to untimely deaths. Life is a terrible thing to waste.