Men’s Health Month: Plan for Prevention
June is Men’s Health Month, a national observance to raise awareness and focus on encouraging boys, men, and their families to practice and implement healthy living habits. What can you do this month to support your family’s health and wellbeing?
Embrace a Prevention Mindset with the 4 Pillars of Wellness
There are literally hundreds of benefits to living a healthy lifestyle and our favorite is disease prevention. Many health headlines focus on doom and gloom. Thinking about wellbeing from this perspective can become overwhelming! While it’s important to understand the risk factors, the truth is that everyone is capable of making small incremental changes that will positively impact our health today and, more importantly, in the future.
Dietitians are often asked: “What is the single, biggest thing that I can do to improve my overall health?” It’s a tricky question to answer because wellness doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and there isn’t one thing that works for everyone. Each human being is unique, so we don’t believe in one-tip-fits-all advice. Everything that happens in the body is connected, so we get a bigger bang for our wellness buck when we make a few small, sustainable shifts rather than concentrating on one big overhaul. Our recommended approach is to embrace prevention as a mindset by integrating the 4 Pillars of Wellness: Nutrition, Movement, Sleep, and Stress Management.
- Nutrition: We usually have at least three opportunities each day to choose what to eat. Nutrition is so much more than just meeting the need of hunger; it extends to our energy levels and plays a lead role in preventing chronic diseases. Taking the first step towards a more balanced plate can be an effective way to boost your overall health and wellness. While there’s no one way of eating which works for everyone’s preferences, budgets, and lifestyles, our team of Registered Dietitians can help you come up with a strategy that works for YOU. A bonus is that most of our patients have no out-of-pocket cost to work with us by using insurance benefits!
- Movement: Humans were designed for movement; we started out as hunter-gatherers, after all. In today’s modern society, our bodies are much less active than they were intended to be. Research has shown us that movement keeps our metabolism running efficiently, decreases the risk of falls as we age, improves joint mobility and function, and improves our cognition. Taking on a new exercise routine can seem daunting, but simply moving even 5 minutes every hour can yield great benefits.
- Sleep: On average, we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping. Bouts of restlessness are normal, but when this becomes chronic (less than 5 hours/night), the risk for disease and illness increases, and testosterone can decrease by 10-15%. According to the Sleep Foundation, inadequate sleep directly links to increased stress and impairs memory, reaction time, and mood regulation. If sleep doesn’t come easily we recommend learning about sleep hygiene tips to set yourself up for better patterns.
- Stress Management: Last, but most certainly not least, is stress management. Everyday stressors are a part of life, but chronic stress exacerbates almost every known health issue. Research is continually finding new connections to how stress negatively impacts the body and our vitality. The good news is that no matter what obstacles are in front of you, there are quick, simple, and free techniques to reduce and manage stress. If your current stress level isn’t well managed, we challenge you to consider Men’s Health Month as the invitation to explore solutions.
As you consider integrating the 4 Pillars of Wellness into your life, we recommend thinking through the smallest change you could make that would have the biggest impact. That opportunity may be obvious for some people and something you could start immediately. For others, you might not know where to start, or this mindset might be outside of your comfort zone. If the latter resonates with you, there are some other ways you can take action this month and seek the support you need to make strides towards better health.
Ways You Can Take Action and Seek Support
Visit with your Primary Care Provider (PCP)
If your goal is preventing disease, you don’t want to wait until you’re sick to see a doctor. Annual visits not only help uncover potential health concerns but also establish your baseline so your care team can identify when something changes.
Screenings are medical tests that doctors use to check for health conditions before any signs or symptoms. Screenings help find problems early on when they may be easier to treat. Review the recommended Men’s Health Screenings by age: 18-39, 40-64, and 65 and older.
The CDC has indicated that many Americans delayed medical care in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If it’s been a while since your last check-up, we encourage you to schedule your annual wellness exam with your primary care provider, who can guide you through screenings and any potential health concerns. Most insurance companies cover your annual physical and many screenings at 100%!
Consider allied health providers or other wellness professionals
Allied health providers are non-physician providers, many of which specialize in a therapeutic approach to health and healing. Some examples include Registered Dietitians, Physical Therapists, and Mental Health Counselors. Although these providers have a narrow scope of practice, many of them work from a whole-person perspective, much like our approach with the 4 Pillars of Wellness.
One perk is that the standard of care for allied health professions typically allows more time and attention than PCP visits. These professionals are often covered by many insurance plans as well. Other wellness professionals such as massage therapists, personal trainers, and mindfulness coaches can also be great partners in reaching your goals.
Become your own advocate
Prevention is just one element of healthy living; you can learn more by exploring areas that are most important to you. Talking about Men’s Health is a blog from the Men’s Health Network that explores various topics and interests.
Lifestyle and genetics work together in the development of many diseases. Genes may contribute to the development of a disease but do not directly cause it. When possible, it is beneficial to know your family history and to share this with your providers, who can advise on the best ways to reduce your risk. While you can’t alter your genetics, you can use the information to launch a pre-emptive strike against your most prominent risk factors.
Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up. There is no one out there who knows you better than you do. Screenings, labs, and diagnostics provide a lot of critical information, but each of these are merely chapters in the story of your health. Ask questions. Share your concerns, symptoms, and the impact they have on your life. These details may help providers connect all the dots to see the big picture. You deserve to be heard.
How will you plan for prevention this Men’s Health Month? Reach out to us to learn more about our customized approach and how we can support you in reaching your health and wellness goals.