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National Men's Health Week, June 12-18, 2006

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Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

June 12-18, 2006 is National Men's Health Week, sponsored by the Men's Health Network.

The purpose of Men's Health Week is to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This week gives everyone an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.

Although the leading causes of death for men and women are similar, men die at higher rates than women from the top ten causes of death. In 1920, women lived, on average, one year longer than men. Now men die, on average, almost six years earlier than women.

At every age, men are at greater risk of death than women. Men die younger, and in greater numbers, from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Almost twice as many men as women die from heart disease. About 50% more men die from cancer than women. Why? According to the Men's Health Network it is because men:

  • Don't take care of themselves as well as women do.
  • Are more likely than women to engage in unhealthy behavior.
  • Don't seek medical attention when they need it.
  • Are less likely than women to adopt preventive health
  • Are less likely to have health insurance.
  • Are more likely to work in dangerous occupations.

Women are twice as likely as men to visit the doctor for annual exams and preventative services. This means that their health conditions are more likely to be caught in earlier, more treatable stages.

Men also lag behind women in seeking out mental health services. The effects of this neglect are significant. Undiagnosed depression in men contributes to the fact that men are four times overall as likely to commit suicide as women.

Men often ignore warning signs from their bodies that tell them that something is wrong. Here are a few warning signs men and their partners should look out for:

  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits. This can be an indication of prostate or bladder problems. And blood in the urine is a common indicator of kidney problems. Frequent night trips to the bathroom could be a symptom of an enlarged prostate, a common condition among men as they get older.
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction. Most of the time, erectile problems are caused by an underlying health problem, such as diabetes, clogged arteries, or high blood pressure.
  • Persistent backaches, changes in the color of urine or stool, obvious changes in warts or moles, unusual lumps, recurrent chest pains or headaches, persistent bleeding, nagging cough, unexplained weight loss, and extreme fatigue can all be symptoms of other serious health problems.
  • Depression. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to succeed. Because men are reluctant to ask for help and may try to hide their depression, a partner may recognize the symptoms sooner than he does. These may include acting overly anxious, having trouble sleeping, complaining of feeling sad or empty or helpless, engaging in unusually risky or reckless behavior, or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable activities (including sex).

    The Men's Health Network has a summary of important steps men can take to improve the quality and length of their lives:

  • Eat a varied diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat foods.
  • Be especially careful to limit cholesterol intake and avoid saturated fats.
  • Exercise for at least 20 minutes three days per week.
  • Protect yourself from the sun.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
  • Limit alcohol to two drinks per day.
  • Don't smoke, and minimize your exposure to second-hand smoke.
  • See your doctor regularly.
  • Know your family history and discuss it with your doctor.
  • If you are over 40, get a baseline PSA (prostate specific antigen) test and monitor this periodically with your doctor.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • Wear a seatbelt whenever you're in a car and a helmet when on a motorcycle or bicycle.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Get help if you need it.

    The Indian Health Service GPRA performance goals include many preventative and treatment measures that seek to improve men's health, including diabetes care, cancer screening, depression screening and cardiovascular disease screening and care. Ask your provider about steps you can take to improve your health and what preventative screenings are appropriate.

    For more information, or for assistance in creating Men's Health Week activities in your area, contact:
    Men's Health Week promotions
    P.O. Box 75972
    Washington, DC 20013
    202-543-MHN-1 (6461) x 101
    202-543-2727 - Fax
    General Information: info@menshealthweek.org


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