By Stacey Gowen, RN-BSN, Chester County Hospital; Master of Public Health (MPH) Candidate, West Chester University
The time of year for barbeques, beach parties and camping is here. Summer is a social season known for light-hearted fun, but when it comes to men’s health issues, summer is not the time to let down your guard.
Habits such as overeating, physical inactivity, not getting enough sleep and excessive drinking can increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular problems and cancers and may also contribute to the high rate of accidental deaths. Here’s the tough love: The leading causes of death among men are heart disease, cancer and accidents.
According to the CDC, nearly three-quarters of American men are overweight (BMI greater than 25), and approximately one-third are obese (BMI greater than 30). Most men store extra fat in their abdomens, while women tend to store extra fat in the underlying tissue of their hips and thighs. As men age and their metabolism slows down, they can develop a pot belly or beer belly.
Men with a waist size of greater than 40 inches are at a higher risk of developing problems such as sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Obesity is associated with all of the leading causes of death and disability, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.
What You Can Do
Increase your level of physical activity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain health benefits. About 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week produces substantial health benefits.
In addition to exercise, it is important to reduce the number of calories you take in. You should increase the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat and decrease saturated fat, salt and empty calories (including those found in beer and other alcohol). The good news is that when you do start to lose weight, much of the initial weight loss will be from your mid-section.
Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Adults need an average of 7–8 hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and obesity.
People who drive while drowsy are less attentive, have slower reaction times and impaired ability to make decisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for an average of 83,000 crashes, including 886 fatal crashes, every year.
Another sleep-related issue is sleep apnea, which is twice as common in men as it is in women. Complications of sleep apnea include an increased risk of high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, stroke and diabetes. Inadequate sleep also causes daytime drowsiness, which may lead to motor vehicle accidents.
What You Can Do
Go to bed at the same time every night in a quiet, dark room from which all computers, TVs and phones have been removed. This will encourage a full night of restful sleep.
If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea (daytime drowsiness, loud snoring, pauses in breathing while sleeping, attention difficulties), mention them to you doctor, who may want to screen you for a sleeping disorder.
According to the CDC, men are responsible for 4 out of 5 episodes of drinking and driving. One in three traffic deaths in the United States involves a drunk driver. Other risks of excessive alcohol consumption include increased rates of violence, alcohol poisoning and unsafe sexual behavior.
Over time, people who drink excessively are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, cancers and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
What You Can Do
A CDC survey finds that 63% of adult men consumed alcohol in the past month, and 31% consumed five or more drinks in one sitting at least once in the past year. If you do drink, arrange for someone else to drive and limit your consumption. Encourage your friends to drink responsibly as well. Talk to a health care professional if drinking is causing health, work or social problems.
New Year’s isn’t the only time resolutions can be made. Summer is a great time for men—and women—to refocus on your health, make some important lifestyle changes and schedule appointments with your primary care physician to address any underlying concerns.
Need a physician? Call (800) 789-PENN to get started. Want to find a program to help you make lifestyle changes? Visit www.chestercountyhospital.org.