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Men, Can We Talk?

Abigail Largaespada

The average lifespan is about five years longer for women than men in the U.S., which may stem from men not being as proactive about their health. 

Since June is Men’s Health Month, we decided to celebrate it by going out into the community to see how men feel about their health. Our purpose is to bring awareness to preventable men’s health issues and encourage men to seek preventative care and early treatment if disease or injury occur. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night, which many of the men we spoke with say is not feasible due to their hectic schedules. Angel De La Cruz, a 21-year-old resident of San Bernardino, admitted that he regularly skimps on sleep. He stated, “I’m a night owl. I usually stay up until 5 a.m. and I’ll be lucky if I get five hours of sleep each day.” 

Although it is tempting to trade sleep for the “to-do’s” on our lists, this can have a negative impact on health. In a recent UCR Health article, Dr. Luanne Carlson explained, “too little sleep can increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also wreak havoc on your mental health and put you at increased risk of stroke or even premature death.” 

One of the main components of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is eating healthy. Reflecting on his health, Angel stated, “Although I exercise regularly, I know I am not healthy because I eat a lot of junk food. Many days I have this mentality that I’m young and it won’t affect me now.” 

Although younger men have faster metabolisms, it is just as important to have a well-balanced diet of dairy, protein, complex carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. 

A 55-year-old resident of Riverside who did not wish to be identified, also mentioned his poor eating habits. “I eat a lot of junk food and microwavable foods because it is easy, and I don’t know how to cook.” 

Although these types of food are readily accessible, they have high levels of salt and fat, which can wreak havoc on your body. As Dr. Carlson illustrated, “healthy eating can help you avoid weight gain in your belly, where more men than women tend to carry their extra pounds.” 

In conjunction with eating healthy, it is also important to stay active. Dr.Carlson suggested, “[to] work your way up to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day, five days a week.” 

Kevin Curtis, a 60-year-old resident of Victorville, attributed his good health to not only eating right, but exercising regularly. “I believe I’m in very good health. I walk for an hour [during my lunch break] five days a week. This is how I lost over 100 pounds and have been able to keep it off.” 

Walking on your lunch break is a great solution if you’re tight on time, or you can try breaking your activity into 10-minute increments. Just remember, always consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program. 

Lastly, although dreaded by some, Dr.Carlson explained how important it is to visit your physician regularly, as he or she can help you manage any current health issues and help prevent new ones from occurring. 

After interviewing several men of different ages, a common theme was their lack of visits to their primary care physicians. All six of the men interviewed, reported that they would not visit their physician if they were in pain. “I just take pain medications” stated a 22- year-old resident of Loma Linda. The Riverside resident asserted, “I wait until I am at a pain level of 10 out of 10 before I see the doctor.” 

These responses are concerning, as going to the doctor can help prevent diseases or result in early detection. Kevin Curtis also had a skewed view of his physician. “She wants me to go see her every six weeks because according to her, I’m a diabetic. I only go about once a year because it is time consuming. They don’t work around your schedule. I have to take time off of work just to visit her.” 

Based on the interviews, there are issues that men and their Providers can and should work to improve. At your next appointment commit to: 

• Open and honest communication to foster a meaningful discussion

• Listen closely and check for understanding when speaking to ensure concerns and medical advice are being heard 

• Flexibility in scheduling and attending appointments

Taking these simple steps will build trust, which in turn will support adherence to recommended treatments.

Men, you are worth the investment, celebrate this month by implementing or maintaining healthier habits, as it is never too late to be a healthier version of you. Get enough sleep, make improved food choices, try to exercise a few times a week, and make an appointment to see your physician. 

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to email The Center for Healthy Communities at chc@medsch.ucr.edu.