Saturday, August 5, 2017

Healthy Habits: Ask a Nurse Practitioner - Keeping the Men in Your Life Healthy

As the health care decision makers for American families, moms help ensure the health of their entire family -- including their husbands.  These FAQs can help ready you with the information you need to keep the men in your life healthy.
What’s the biggest health issue facing men today?
Regular health care visits. An alarmingly high number of men, 60 percent to be exact, choose not to get regular health check-ups. Finding a health care provider and scheduling regular well  visits should be at the top of every man’s to-do list. For the majority of men who tend to delay seeking care, health issues that could be easily managed may snowball into something much worse if left unaddressed by a nurse practitioner (NP) or other health care provider. 

What do you think are the most underreported health issues for men?
Mental health—particularly depression—is one. According to the CDC, men commit suicide at almost four times the rate of women, and represent 79 percent of all suicides in the U.S.  While men have higher suicide rates than women, African Americans have higher attempted suicide rates than whites.  According to Mental Health America, African American men are extremely concerned with the stigma of psychological problems, causing a lack of appropriate treatment.   African Americans are 20 percent more likely to face mental health issues than are adult whites.  

July is Minority Mental Health Month, and roughly 6.8 million African Americans face a diagnosable mental illness - more than the populations of Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia combined. Anxiety, stress and depression often go undiagnosed and untreated in men because they have different symptoms than women (like anger and irritability) and because men are often raised not to show weakness or emotion.

Heart disease is another, which might sound strange considering it’s the biggest killer. But more than 600,000 men die of heart disease every year, almost twice the rate of women. Some heart conditions are congenital and can’t necessarily be prevented. But many can be prevented or managed with healthy lifestyle choices – not smoking, getting plenty of exercise, eating a balanced diet and moderating alcohol consumption. Heart conditions also can be detected and treated with regular visits with a nurse practitioner.

Everyone faces cancer risks, but what kinds of cancer risks do men face?
Cancer kills 592,000 men in the U.S. every year, with skin, prostate, lung and colon cancers being the top killers, according to the CDC. Studies have shown that men are less likely to wear sunscreen, more likely to use tobacco, and generally are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including delaying health care, which can undermine identifying and fighting cancers.

What advice would you offer to improve men’s health?
First and foremost, get regular check-ups from a health care provider like a nurse practitioner. NPs can detect, diagnose, treat and manage the acute and chronic conditions men face. There are also some common-sense health tips everyone should follow—eat healthy foods, exercise and avoid needlessly risky behavior—and regular testing specific to men, such as diabetes screening, prostate cancer screening, and regular blood pressure checks.  Studies have shown that there are links between social connections and positive health behaviors. 

Women should actively urge the men in our lives—husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, cousins and uncles—to take care of their health. Our men play an essential role in our lives and the lives of our children. Ask them to please see an NP -- if not for themselves, then for us.

Dr. Joyce M. Knestrick, CRNP, FAANP, President of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Dr. Knestrick is also an Associate Professor and Director of Distance Educations at Georgetown University. She practices as a family nurse practitioner at Wheeling Health Rite in West Virginia.

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