International Men’s Day falls each year on 19 November. The theme for 2022 is “Helping Men and Boys”. The International Men’s Day website tells us why it wants us to value the role men play in our lives:
“International Men’s Day is an opportunity for people everywhere of goodwill to appreciate and celebrate the men in their lives and the contribution they make to society for the greater good of all.”
International Men’s Day was first celebrated in 1999 by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, Professor of History, University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, to commemorate his father’s birth anniversary. He encouraged everyone to use this day to bring up issues that concern men and boys.
It’s essential to note that one of the main pillars of International Men’s Day is a promise to take care of men’s health. Men worldwide are encouraged to speak up about their well-being, health struggles, and the societal conditioning they are subjected to. Many men feel reticent and less “manly”, even in today’s times, to share their health issues openly and seek medical help.
We want to dedicate this article to all men and boys in this world to thank them for making our lives complete − and to ask them to take care of their health, especially their hearts.
Men are more likely to avoid health alerts and doctors than women. As stated by author Brian Krans, in the article “Dear Men: Here Are 9 Things You Need to Get Checked” in Healthline, “Women are, in fact, 100 percent more likely to see a doctor for examinations, screenings, and preventive health consults.”
But as men increasingly fall prey to serious illnesses as early as their forties and fifties, it’s wise for them and their loved ones to be aware of their most serious health risks and be proactive in seeking precautionary healthcare.
According to Mayo Clinic, the top three ailments that affect men are (in this order) heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injury. Other ailments in the “top diseases of men” category are COPD and other respiratory disorders, alcohol addiction, depression, liver disease, diabetes, pneumonia, skin cancer, and HIV and AIDS.
Many men who suffer from a combination of two or more diseases, like obesity, cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension, may not realize that disease combinations can have a multiplicative effect on the heart. Family history further compounds the issue.
Going by the facts from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “1 in every four male deaths is caused by heart disease. Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. And, even if men have no symptoms, they may still be at risk for heart disease.” This is especially the case if they have inherited genetic predispositions to heart ailments.
Further, according to WorldStroke.org, there are over 13.7 million new stroke victims each year, of which men account for 56%.
If heart attacks, strokes, and other forms of heart ailments are so prevalent and of concern for men, what can they do to be careful with their health? And how can their families help them?
The Big Three in healthcare for men are diet, exercise, and stress management. Let’s look at these factors in a bit of detail.
In the words of Dr. Jasmine Shaikh, MD, in her article “What Is the Best Diet Plan for Men?” in Medicine.net, “Men need more calories than women due to their muscle mass and larger body size, and their daily calorie requirements will depend on their height, weight, and activity levels.”
The article recommends that moderately active men should eat about 2,200 to 2,800 calories per day, with most of these calories coming from a variety of fruits and vegetables that contain the necessary nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.
Including more fiber in the diet will help manage hunger and prevent certain diseases like prostate cancer and colon cancer that primarily affect men. Reasonable quantities of fiber can be had from whole grains (bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice, or oats) instead of refined grains.
Also, it’s essential to keep arteries unclogged by avoiding the cholesterol-increasing (LDL) saturated fats in food, and eating more cholesterol-eliminating (HDL) unsaturated fats. Try to get fats from nuts, seeds, and healthy oils like olive oil.
Exercise is an essential part of health and heart maintenance, as most doctors will advise. But with men, as explained by Arthur Allen in his article “Exercise Addiction in Men” in WebMD, there has to be care not to go to extremes.
Some overly fitness-conscious men may go overboard at the gym − or build the upper body more than they focus on whole-body fitness. With some other men, exercising may become an on-off activity. Too much eating or drinking on any day may drive guilt, and there may be some vigorous exercising the next day, but on other days there may be too much relaxing.
Doing too much at the gym is not good, nor is sporadic working out. Regular steady exercising that builds muscle strength and skeletal flexibility, reduces fat and flab, and encourages deep breathing is the way to go. Brisk walking or slow rhythmic jogging, followed by some yoga, is good enough for most working men who have less time to spend on elaborate workouts.
Depending on age, fitness levels, and the prevalence of diseases, any exercise regimen must be carefully planned with the help of a doctor. Never start exercising without medical approval, and also get all health parameters checked every three months (or as your doctor orders) after the age of 35.
Emotions like sadness, anger, unhappy work circumstances, or a troubled home life – all these can add to pent-up stress without an outlet. Some psychologists attribute the smoking habit to a counterproductive form of stress management.
In the opinion of Wendy Rose Gould in her article “The Dangers of Bottling Up Our Emotions: in VerWellMind.com, suppressed stress can make men’s health very volatile and lead to sudden heart attacks or other mental health breakdowns.
Some of the best ways to manage stress are yoga and meditation, engaging in mindful activities like spending quality time with Nature or the family, and reducing work hours to avoid becoming too job-centric. Work-life balance is as essential to men as it is to women, and many men are now opting for Work From Home (WFH) lifestyles in tandem with their life partners, to give themselves more responsibilities at home that balance out life.
Smoking can be one other factor that affects men’s health seriously. Smoking seriously harms the lungs and heart, and we all know that already. There are great support systems, groups, and online forums where help can be found to quit smoking.
Also, excessive drinking of alcohol can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious mental and physical problems. Reducing alcohol intake can mitigate short- and long-term health risks.
On International Men’s Day this year, here’s a wish from our hearts to all the men across all ages and across the world: “Treat your heart responsibly.”