November is a pivotal month when it comes to men's health. I wanted to shine a light on this by putting together some tips for all the men out there, to make sure they're staying on top of their physical and mental health.
Everyone’s health matters, but men are notorious for neglecting their health and avoiding visits to the doctor. This includes general check-ups, and even times when experiencing obvious and sometimes debilitating symptoms. This attitude is often summed up in sentiments like “she’ll be right” or “I’ll suck it up”. It’s such a common phenomenon that some suggest it partially explains why the life expectancy of men is around 4 years shorter than women. Avoiding help and medical support often means missed opportunities for prevention, early diagnosis and early intervention. It also contributes to a lack of discipline in dietary health, exercise, alcohol consumption, work/life balance, stress, and other physical and mental health outcomes. This month is widely known as Movember, so in support, I'm shining the light on men’s health with some tips to keep men’s health in check.
Stop in and visit the DR.
In many cases, we avoid the doctor because we think we are in good health and think it’s simply unnecessary. Other times it may be because we aren’t comfortable with the idea of getting an exam or a blood test. Maybe we have the “dread factor,” thinking we are going to learn bad news or get a lecture about the lifestyle we lead. Regardless of whether you think you are in good health or not, the reality is that at any age we need routine check-ups. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of men and can affect men in their 40s and surprisingly younger. Heart disease can often be prevented, and prevention is better than ongoing treatment. Cancer is the next biggest killer, and there are important screening tests based on age and family history. The earlier health issues are found, the easier they are to deal with. You can talk to your doctor about everything from mental health, high blood pressure and excess weight. It varies by age range, but visits every 6 months to a year are ideal. Just like your car needs regular servicing to run well and avoid breaking down, you too should care for yourself with the same diligence. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t put it off.
Change up your exercise routine
Regular exercise is more of a must do, especially as you get older. It improves blood pressure, helps blood sugar balance, improves cholesterol levels and reduces stress. Focus on sustainable and specific exercise goals with a workout and exercise routine that is appropriate for your age and fitness level. It’s easy to do the same workout over and over, but it’s not necessarily the best approach. It’s much more beneficial to keep varying your exercise routine. This means including an appropriate mix of aerobics, weight training and stretching.
Eat regular and eat right
Good nutrition is essential for overall health and wellbeing. It plays a crucial role in every function of your body including focus, memory, mood, and your body’s ability to fight off disease. Eat a nutrient-dense diet that is high in plant-based foods and animal products while limiting processed foods and hydrogenated oils. Choose foods based on nutrients rather than calories and aim to eat a variety of healthy foods. You can still eat right on a busy schedule. This may just mean a bit more meal prep and making choices like pistachios instead of potato chips.
I don’t mean actual ants; ANTS are Automatic Negative Thoughts that trigger anxiety and flood the body with stress hormones. Whenever an ANT enters your mind, try to interrupt it, write it down and forget about it for now. Review your ANTS later to try determining where they are coming from and devise a plan to correct negative thinking. There are a variety of ways to interrupt negative or anxious thinking, including listening to music or a podcast, reverting your attention to a task or focusing on a pleasant thought. Avoiding ANTS can even be a great excuse to watch the footy replay!
Relaxation and regular breaks
Performing self-care is an important part of maintaining our health. This means taking time to do relaxing activities and taking regular breaks from obligations in life. We all have our own ways to reduce stress and relax, so find your outlet. It might be a gym session, a run after work or even some yoga. You may even find other activities that are stress relievers for you. For example, fishing, golf, a kick of the footy at the local park or listening to some of your favourite music. Find what works for you!
Get some sunshine
If you are a tradie or regularly spend time outdoors doing your hobbies, you probably get your fair share of Vitamin D. But those of us who work inside all day don’t often get the very real benefits of vitamin D as well as the soothing effect of some good old-fashioned fresh air and sunshine. It gets the happy endorphins happening, so get more sunshine during your workday by trying a walking meeting or having your lunch or coffee outside.
Check out your local Men’s Shed
Men’s sheds are community-based, non-commercial organisations for all men, aimed at improving health and wellbeing. Members find it highly beneficial to have a place to make friends, share meaningful activities, talk, and access health information and resources. The positive aspects of the shed environment are often linked to peer support, learning, a sense of belonging and giving back to the community, and how each participant is both a teacher and a learner. Here is a helpful link to your nearest Men’s Shed.
It’s okay to talk to a mate
Men are more likely to neglect their mental health. This includes everything from mild anxiety and stress to depression. If you are having issues with your mental health, it’s important to try to overcome the stigma of it and reach out for some support. Even if you don’t think you need therapy, opening up to your mates can make a difference. Don’t think you have to keep everything bottled up inside. Have a chat over a drink or a round of golf. If you’re not feeling right, it’s important to vent and get things off your chest.
Take time to focus on better health this November and get your Movember moustache on. The purpose of Movember is to raise awareness about men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. The Movember Foundation runs the Movember charity event with the goal of “changing the face of men’s health”. It will be the most important Mo you’ll ever grow. If you are after more info, head here.
The information provided here is general in nature, please visit your medical practitioner for specific advice about your personal circumstances and individual needs. If you need immediate assistance call 000, Lifeline 13 11 44 or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.