By Laura Greene
Did you know that June is International Men’s Health Month? Did you know that men on Maui are expected to live 4.4 years less than their female counterparts? Did you know that prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men in Hawaii? If this is news to you, or if you never give your health serious thought, then the following tips could work wonders for you and your body.
As part of a Congressional health education program, Men’s Health Month happens every June and its purpose is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
There may only be a week left in June, but if you want to start living a healthier lifestyle then the next seven days could be the perfect place to start.
Try to drink in moderation. Image by Laura Greene.
1. Cut Down On Alcohol
When it comes to booze, moderation is key. Maui’s levels of excessive drinking are above the national benchmark by 12%. That’s 20% of Maui’s adult population who report binge drinking at least once a month. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as alcohol consumption that brings your blood alcohol levels to 0.08% or more. This pattern usually corresponds to 5 or more drinks on one occasion for men. As we are often reminded, long-term drinking can cause a range of health problems from liver cirrhosis, heart disease, cancer and more, while one out of every two motor vehicle deaths in the islands are due to alcohol. Remember the risks and keep your intake low – moderate guidelines suggest no more than two alcoholic drinks for men per day.
2. Visit Your Doctor
The American Health Association published a study in 1990 that found that men don’t go to the doctor because of ‘fear, denial, embarrassment and threatened masculinity.’ Maui can boast the fact that we have a very low rate of uninsured men but there’s no use having health insurance if you never use it. Regular check-ups could improve your health or even save your life; a simple blood pressure reading could be a critical warning of your risk of heart attack, a diabetes test could be pivotal in avoiding future complications and a doctor can be crucial in reducing the impact of any stress-related illnesses.
3. Eat Healthily and Exercise
Hawaii’s life expectancy at birth is one of the nation’s longest and life expectancy for men is at its best here on Maui. According to a 2005 profile of the health care system on the Valley Isle, men are expected to live to 78.4 years. In recent years, life expectancy has been said to increase by one year every decade. If this is to be maintained, then a healthy lifestyle has to be too. Eat healthily – make the most of the fresh fish, fruits and vegetables that are accessible to us. Exercise – take up surfing, swimming, running, tennis, golf; the opportunities are endless. Stay healthy and you’ll give yourself a better chance of living stronger and longer.
4. Cancer Awareness
If you are one of America’s nine million men who haven’t seen a doctor in the last five years you should learn how to spot the warning signs of cancer and how to take measures to prevent it. Although Hawaii has one of the nation’s lowest incidences of cancer-related deaths in the country, skin cancer and prostate cancer are the two major types seen in men on our shores. It’s easy to take precautions against the sun’s harmful UV rays – wear sunscreen, a protective hat, a long-sleeved rash guard or t-shirt, or avoid the sun completely during its strongest midday hours – take any steps you can – your skin will thank you for it. Although many men are diagnosed through testing, be aware of the ‘high risk’ symptoms of prostate cancer; urinating more frequently, difficulty while urinating, blood in the urine or semen, bone pain in the lower back or ribs. These symptoms could be caused by other problems but get them checked out by a doctor if you are worried.
5. Make One Change
An entire overhaul to your lifestyle is not always going to be achievable, desirable or even possible so if you can’t make every area of your life as healthy as you‘d like, try to make just one change at a time. Perhaps you can make a dietary change and start eating fruit instead of candy or swapping red meat for fish. How about a physical change? Take up a new sport like Stand Up Paddling or Crossfit. Or you could focus on cutting down your tobacco and/or alcohol consumption. If you can get healthier and feel better in just one area of your life then you’ve made a great start!