We may as well start with a basic truth, men. We’re all going to die. But more fundamental is not our demise but the quality of our everyday reality and our health. If it’s good, so many other things just seem to work out better. And there’s no better time to address men’s health than in June, National Men’s Health Month.
For Latino males, the five leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease, unintentional injuries, stroke and diabetes. Most of us have family members or know of other Latinos who have either died of these illnesses or have been diagnosed with them. Some good news on this front is that cancer rates among Latinos are decreasing.
While tobacco has been long known to be the leading cause of cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that smoking rates among Latino men have fallen and rank just behind that of Asian-American males.
“Quit smoking, get some exercise, try and eat well,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, Medical Officer for Pueblo’s Department of Health and Environment. All these things benefit overall health. Basic lifestyle changes in these areas can also lower cholesterol or lessen impacts of diabetes. “You can’t choose the family you’re born into,” he said. Family history comes with certain health risks. But doing nothing should not be a choice. We can all be proactive.
Alcohol, said the CDC, also continues to be a plague on the Hispanic male population. The CDC reported that Hispanic men are 50 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white males to be diagnosed and die of liver disease as well as complications from diabetes.
“If you have to drink daily,” said Urbina, “it probably means you’re addicted to alcohol.” If alcohol is causing you to miss work, report late, causing you to forget events, it might be wise to own up to its effects on you, said Urbina. It’s also the same with other drugs.
A working knowledge of personal and family health history is good to know, said Urbina. If certain things run in a family, it’s a good idea to speak with your own doctor about them. Here, he adds the most important caveat. Be honest with your doctor. “If you’re not honest about paying attention to health habits and family history and you avoid answering questions with your health provider, you are doing yourself a disservice,” he said. “Our job is not to judge you but to help you make good health decisions. The more honest you are, the better off you’ll be.”
While it might be a good idea to have a yearly physical, Urbina said an annual physical isn’t for everyone. “It’s not the exam, it’s your history and risk assessment.” If you’re a healthy person and have no history (or health problems), “every three to five years” is probably OK.
But good health is not just the physical side and Latinos have historically been less than enthusiastic about addressing their mental health needs, he said. But there is no excuse for this even if you don’t speak English. There is a crisis hotline that the state offers for Spanish speakers. “If you don’t want to talk to someone face-to-face,” said Urbina, the hotline will offer information for local mental health providers.
If, for whatever reason, you haven’t made an appointment to see your health providers, taking a good look at “your numbers,” may prompt you to pick up the phone.
The numbers include your daily calorie intake. Men should not take in more than 2,500 calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, cut calories by 500 a day. Know your waist size. Your waist size is one of the best ways to measure whether your weight is affecting your heart health.
Know your good and bad cholesterol numbers, the LDL and HDL. They weigh heavily on heart disease. And if you don’t know it now, learn what your blood pressure is.
June is Men’s Health Month. But there are eleven other months that are just as important. The habits you acquire today will work in your favor the rest of the year, too.