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November is Men’s Health Awareness Month

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Hello gentlemen. How’s it going sir? Yes, we are talking to you. And guess what…this is your month to be more aware about your health. We want you to take care of yourself. We want you to know what we can offer. We want you to ask questions. We want you to be more aware. In this article, we will share the Top 5 Men’s Health Problems which include Cardiovascular Disease, Prostate and Colon Health, Depression and Suicide, COPD and Respiratory Problems, and Diabetes. We will also explain ways in which you can become more aware of the signs and symptoms, and where to go for additional help and information at Opelousas General Health System.

  1. Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death for men in the United States. The risk of heart disease increases significantly by age of 45 years old. The American Heart Association states that more than one in three adult men have some form of cardiovascular disease.

Risk factors for heart disease in men can include:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive use of alcohol

One of the most common symptoms of cardiovascular disease is a heart attack, where the blood stops flowing to the heart. During a heart attack, please take note of these signs and seek medical attention immediately:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Excessive sweating for no reason
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Heart attacks are not the only illness under the umbrella of cardiovascular disease. Strokes, arrythmias, valve disease and many other illnesses can affect the strength and output of the heart. If you have any of these symptoms or signs, please seek immediate medical attention. Heart disease affects many individuals differently. Don’t wait. Get help.

At OGHS, you can visit the Medical Home or one of our WellSmart Health clinics if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

2. Prostate and Colon Health

Men are particularly at risk for colon cancer and prostate cancer. Colon cancer screening with a colonoscopy is recommended to start at least at age 50, or earlier if the individual has a family history of cancer, and every 10 years thereafter if normal.

A discussion about the risks and benefits of undertaking prostate cancer screening is recommended for average-risk individuals starting at age 55. For those at increased risk, such as first-degree relatives with prostate cancer, screening may begin earlier.

While screenings are essential and certain risk factors are uncontrollable (including age and family history), research shows that preventative measures can be taken to lessen your risk of these conditions:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Limit high-fat meats and high-fat dairy foods.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Regular physical activity.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Stop (or never start) smoking.

Annual Employee Health Fairs for the year just wrapped up, but OGHS offers annual PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level checks, in addition to CBC, CMP, TSH and fasting lipid panel free of charge. Health fairs will start again in March 2022.

Outside of the annual health fair, these same labs are available at a discounted rate through medical home. Annual health fairs also include weight, vital signs and waist to hip ratio measurements. These screenings can help identify and address some of the leading men's health issues such as cardiovascular disease, and prostate cancer.

3. Depression and Suicide

Researchers at The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimate that at least 6 million men suffer from depressive disorder, including suicidal thoughts, annually. Men experience depression differently than women, often reporting symptoms of fatigue and irritability. Men are also less likely to acknowledge the condition and seek help. Though women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more successful with their suicide attempts.

Symptoms of depression may be subtle and arise slowly. They can include:

  • difficulty concentrating or completing projects
  • lack of energy
  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • change in appetite (some people stop eating while others overeat)
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • excessive sadness or feelings of emptiness
  • thoughts of suicide or self-harm

At OGHS, you can seek counseling through the Employee Assistance Program. Contact HR for list of counselors.

4. COPD and Respiratory Problems

Sometimes a nagging cough or a constant wheeze is enough to make us stop and complain, but then we may just figure its allergies or hay fever. But what if it’s not? What if we may just have something wrong?

Approximately, 70,000 men die each year from chronic lower respiratory disease, according to data from the CDC. This accounts for 5.2 percent of all deaths among men, making it the 4th leading cause.

Chronic lower respiratory disease is actually a blanket term, which encompasses lung ailments such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic bronchitis. People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions.

In the vast majority of people with COPD, the lung damage that leads to COPD is caused by long-term cigarette smoking. But there are likely other factors at play in the development of COPD, such as a genetic susceptibility to the disease, because not all smokers develop COPD. Other irritants can cause COPD, including cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution, and workplace exposure to dust, smoke or fumes.

COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking exposure continues.

Signs and symptoms of COPD may include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
  • Swelling in ankles, feet or legs

At OGHS, you can….

5. Diabetes

While we know that diabetes affects everyone, regardless of gender and age, men need to learn the signs of diabetes and see the doctor when symptoms such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, slow healing of wounds and others present themselves. Men who develop diabetes at an early adult age run the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and loss of vision. Seeking out healthcare sooner rather than later, can make a difference of how the disease is controlled and will affect other organs within the body.

Diabetes happens when there is an offset of insulin or an overproduction of insulin in the bloodstream. When it does not enter the cells appropriately, it collects in the bloodstream, thereby placing additional stress on vital organs.

Eating a healthy diet, regular cardiovascular exercise can prevent diabetes and/or delay its onset if there is a family history of diabetes.

More commonly now, Americans are developing prediabetes, which means that your insulin levels are higher than normal, but not yet at that numerical value that would diagnose an individual as Type 2 diabetes. Signs/symptoms of prediabetes are:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Race and ethnicity are also a factor: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.

At OGHS, you can exercise. Employees have 24/7 access to a Wellness room, with fitness equipment, on third floor. Contact HR for more information and to gain access to the room.