International Men’s Day 2020: Better Health for Men and Boys

By Dr Ore Makinde.

Let Us Appreciate Our Men

Just yesterday I saw a cartoon caption in which a child was asking her dad, “Why are mums celebrated far more on Mother’s Day than dads on Fathers Day? His response was, “One day is not enough to celebrate all the achievements of fathers”. This is certainly true. A day is not enough to celebrate our men, our dads or our fathers. The same goes for our mothers. However, we will not allow this to deter us from celebrating them on International Men’s Day. Our men are strong, hardworking, resilient and visionary. They have made innumerable contributions to our families, communities and the society at large.

Do Men Die earlier than Women? 

However, research has shown that men are more likely to die earlier than women. This is not surprising as men are more likely to develop diseases like hypertension than women. Just being a male is a risk factor for hypertension. As a result, the incidence of hypertension is higher in males until females catch up during and after menopause. Men also are more likely to smoke and take hard drugs which impacts their physical and mental health. In addition to this, men have poorer health-seeking behaviour than women. 

Can we change Health Outcomes?

This year, the theme for the International Men’s Day 2020 marked every 19th of November is “Better Health for men and boys”. Health has several dimensions which include physical, emotional, mental, social and even financial well-being. The health status of any individual is largely related to his behaviour. To ensure better health for men, is it possible to advocate for behaviour change to foster an improvement in health outcomes?

How then do we achieve this?

Tips to Improve Men’s health

Here are a few tips to help men improve their health:

  1. Stress management. High-stress levels may emanate from work overload and are associated with the development of lifestyle-related diseases. A lot of men are often carried away with the demands of providing a livelihood for their families that they often forget to take care of themselves. Self-care is a critical aspect of stress management. Learning simple stress-coping mechanisms is also a way to reduce the negative effects of stress.
  2. Prostate health: Prostate health is a vital aspect of men’s health just as the breast is for a woman. However, prostate cancer is the leading cancer causing death among males. Healthy nutrition is known to protect against prostate cancer. Our men would want to include vegetables and fruits in their diet daily. Tomatoes are known to contain an antioxidant called lycopene which boosts prostate health. Saturated (bad) fat found in red meat and processed meat as well as alcohol increase the risk of prostate cancer. 
  3. Avoid risky behaviour. Men are known to engage in several risky behaviours which could pose a risk to them. For instance, the recent altercations fuelled by ‘okada’ riders, drinking and driving, smoking cigarettes and marijuana among others can predispose to stress, poor mental heath, road traffic accidents and premature death.
  4. Regular exercise. Following exercise recommendations by the World Health Organisation which is a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least 5 days of the week reduces the risk of premature death. Exercise also improves emotional and mental well-being and reduces the risk of depression.
  5. Schedule regular check-up appointments with your physician. Males with chronic medical conditions should block out at least a  day in a quarter to see their doctor. Otherwise, healthy males should get a baseline comprehensive check once they are 40 and do an annual check afterwards. Medical conditions are best managed when regular screening is done thus enhances early detection and treatment.
  6. Value social connections. It has never been good for man to be alone. Social isolation can predispose to premature death. Men are encouraged to connect with family members and loved ones regularly to boost emotional and mental wellbeing. This can be achieved by spending quality time with family members.
  7. Go on your vacation. Yes. This is so important. Working all year without a vacation is nothing short of an unhealthy habit. During such periods, our body gains the opportunity to rejuvenate and to refresh itself. In 2021, decide not to negotiate your annual leave. You will come back with new, creative ideas to move your career or business forward.

In conclusion, men are important at home, at work and in society. To see them live longer and healthier, engaging healthy habits consistently is key.

Dr Ore Taiwo Makinde is a Consultant Family Physician and certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician.