June is National Men’s Health Month, and according to the Men’s Health Network (MHN), the purpose of this month is: “to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury."
As a pro-life woman, I care about making abortion unthinkable, about saving prenatal humans, and about helping mothers facing unplanned pregnancies or lacking support and resources to provide for themselves and their family during pregnancy. However, I cannot overlook the importance of men in the pro-life movement or their role in helping create strong families and strong communities by being good spouses and fathers, providers, leaders, and role models. Men also need to take care of their health and be encouraged by others in their life to take care of their health so they can continue to fulfill the many important roles they play.
The average life expectancy of a man of any racial background is shorter than the women from the same racial background. In fact, men of any racial background have a lower life expectancy of women from any other racial background, too (the one notable exception is Hispanic men). Additionally, men are 3-6 times more likely to die by suicide (perhaps due to undiagnosed depression) and 2-6 times more likely to die by homicide than women. Out of the top ten causes of death, men die at higher rates than women in nine of those causes (women die at higher rates than men due to Alzheimer’s), and make up over 90% of workplace deaths..
Why are men at such high risk for death sooner than women? The Men’s Health Network gives a few reasons. One reason is men are more likely to have no health insurance and (possibly as a result of having no insurance) less likely to visit a doctor for preventative checkups. Additionally, the most hazardous occupations are worked primarily by men, leading to men dying on the job at much higher rates than women. Men may also have less healthy lifestyles overall than women, especially when risk-taking in adolescence and young adult years are considered. But when we step back and look at societal influences, the MHN notes research on male-specific diseases (such as prostate cancer) has less funding than female-specific diseases and that society at large generally discourages healthy behaviors in men and boys.
Men can take simple steps to keep an eye on their health, such as getting an annual physical exam to check blood pressure, cholesterol, and discuss any health issues they have noticed, whether physical or mental. EKGs to test heart health are very important, as the leading cause of death for men is cardiovascular disease. Blood, urine, and physical tests for cancer, especially prostate cancer, are also important, since cancer is the second leading cause of death in men. Depending on age, STD testing and testosterone screening are also good ideas. For day-to-day life, a proper diet and moderate exercise is important. Obesity rates are higher for men than women, and obesity contributes to cardiovascular issues — the leading cause of death for men.
“Just like taking the car in for an oil change or for the 25,000-mile checkup, men also need to take themselves to the doctor’s office to make sure everything is running smoothly.” — David Gremillion, MD, MHN.
There are free resources available to learn more about what affects men’s health and resources which can help men remain healthy and get healthier. The free, open-access, peer-reviewed American Journal of Men’s Health is a great place to get information about research on men’s health. Men who are without insurance can still receive free or low-cost basic health care like an annual physical, prostate cancer exam, clinical counseling for mental or behavioral health, nutrition coaching, screening for chronic health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, and more at Federally Qualified Health Centers. You can find a center here.
Men, the better you take care of yourselves, the better you can care for and support the ones you love, and the longer you can be around to enjoy those special people. We all can engage in bettering men’s health, from encouraging your obstinate father figure to go get his annual checkup to modeling emotionally healthy behaviors for young boys. As pro-lifers, we can be pro-abundant life, too, and recognize the value of the health of the men in our lives.