June is Men’s Health Month—Let’s Tune In to Your Health Now
Men’s Health Month provides an opportunity to proactively manage your health
June is men’s health month, and there’s no better time to tune into your health than now. June is dedicated to raising awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men, boys, people assigned male at birth and trans men. It is the perfect time to encourage men to take charge of their health—especially if care was delayed due to the pandemic.
As the country continues to return to normal, routine screenings and proactive health care need to become a priority again. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Americans get only half the preventive care—including screenings—that they should, even in a good year. Chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease are among the leading cause of deaths for men in the U.S. Early detection and treatment of these diseases could help increase survival rate and reduce overall health care costs.
Common Health Issues, Causes and Symptoms
Three of the most common diseases for men are heart disease and stroke, prostate cancer, and diabetes. Fortunately, these can often be detected and treated early, but require regular screenings.
Heart disease occurs when blood vessels are not able to supply enough blood to the heart, typically due to a blockage of the coronary arteries. Heart disease and other disorders increase your risk for stroke and can cause a heart attack. Common symptoms of heart disease in men can include chest pain, tightness, pressure, and discomfort; shortness of breath; pain or numbness in legs or arms; and pain in the neck, jaw, throat or upper abdomen.
Factors that can increase your risk for prostate cancer include age, family history and obesity. Race may also be a factor as, African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men. The CDC reports that African-American men get prostate cancer at a younger age, tend to have more advanced disease when it is found, and tend to have a more severe type of prostate cancer than other men. Potential warning signs for prostate cancer include a painful or burning sensation during urination, frequent urination, difficulty stopping or starting urination, blood in urine or semen, and sudden erectile dysfunction. Swelling or pain in the lower body may also indicate a larger issue.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body is not able to produce enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age and requires daily insulin injections to maintain blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is preventable and more common in adults. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the majority of all diabetes cases. There are a number of warning signs and symptoms of diabetes to be aware of, such as excessive thirst or hunger, weight loss or gain, blurred vision, irritability, slow healing wounds, and darkening of skin in areas of body creases.
Important Screening Tests
Luckily, many health issues experienced by men and those assigned male at birth have screening tests that help monitor their health. While wellness checks with a primary care provider are important to maintaining your health, an increasing number of screening tests are now offered through Sonora Quest Laboratories’ My Lab ReQuestTM without a health care provider’s order, making it easier for people to order routine and personalized screenings for a more complete and comprehensive look at one’s health. If you are not sure where to start, Sonora Quest’s Men’s Complete Health Profile screening can help identify a wide range of possible health conditions—including heart disease and prostate cancer. Men’s health month is a perfect time do do this screening.
For men who want to monitor their heart health, Sonora Quest’s cholesterol profile is a good place to start! The blood test measures total cholesterol in the patient’s blood—having high total cholesterol can lead to hardening of the arteries, which increases risk for a heart attack. Cardio Health Screen (Lipid Panel) is another recommended test that evaluates the health of the heart and arteries—now without fasting. The panel measures LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides (the fat in blood).
The CRP (High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein) screen tests for inflammation in the body, which can indicate infection or a chronic inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, as well as risk of heart disease.
It is recommended that men with normal risk are screened every four to six years. Men who have an elevated risk for heart disease and stroke should be screened more often.
The most common test to screen for prostate cancer is a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which is offered through Sonora Quest’s My Lab ReQuest without a health care provider’s order. PSA is a substance made by the prostate, and a high level of PSA in the blood may indicate prostate cancer. It is recommended that men who are at higher risk of prostate cancer, including African-American men and men who have a family history of prostate cancer, begin screening at age 40 to 45.
To determine whether or not a person has prediabetes or Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, blood sugar must be tested. Screening tests offered through Sonora Quest’s My Lab ReQuest without a health care provider’s order include the Fasting Blood Sugar Test, Glucose Tolerance Test, and A1C Test. The Fasting Blood Sugar Test measures blood sugar after an overnight fast. The Glucose Tolerance Test measures blood sugar before and after drinking a liquid that contains glucose after fasting overnight. While the A1C Test takes a look at average blood sugar levels over the past two or three months.
After receiving a diabetes diagnosis, a Diabetes Management Panel can help track progress and evaluate how well their diabetes treatment plan is working. The panel can be self-ordered by the patient through My Lab ReQuest and includes both Glucose and Hemoglobin A1c, which helps monitor blood sugar levels, so the consumer can manage their diabetes.
Patients who have previously ordered the Diabetes Management Panel, or other testing, through Sonora Quest have access to a Lab Report Dashboard that records their results and allows them to review their health patterns over time for improvements or out of range results. The dashboard is automatically created for new patients on My Lab ReQuest once their test results are available.
In addition to health screenings, there are a number of healthy habits men can start now to prevent serious health issues and help manage current health issues. The building blocks of men’s health are listed here. You may have heard these recommendations before:
Eat a Healthy Diet
The food we eat delivers our bodies the fuel it needs to maintain its daily functions. Eating a healthy diet can help maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of physical health problems and chronic illness, as well as improve sleeping patterns, energy levels, and mood.
To get the nutrition you need, most of your daily calories should come from fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes and nuts. Try to avoid “empty calories” or junk foods that provide high calories and little nutritional value.
Exercise does not just help you control your weight, physical activity improves brain health, reduces disease, strengthens your bones and muscles, and improves your ability to do everyday activities. Getting started can be hard, but just reducing your sedentary time can make a big difference. Start with activities and locations you enjoy, like taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood or mowing the lawn in the evening, then work your way up.
Get Your Annual Physical
Whether it’s a fear of vulnerability, a dislike of medical offices or a belief that a condition will improve on its own, men are reported to wait more than two years between health care visits—prostate cancer and strokes, unfortunately, are not willing to wait. Only three of five men get an annual physical, but regular checkups are essential to detect different diseases that could threaten men’s health. Choosing to use Sonora Quest’s My Lab ReQuest screening options between appointments can help you and your primary health care provider have a better understanding of your health throughout the year.
After putting our health maintenance on hold during the pandemic, it’s time to pick up where we left off and Sonora Quest’s My Lab ReQuest makes it easier than ever to monitor men’s health. Age is a risk factor for almost all health conditions and increases the risk for chronic disease, as men get older it is even more important to take these steps toward bettering overall health and preventing serious illness. Fathers, brothers, uncles, friends–your health is in your hands—Men’s Health Month is the perfect time to take charge!
About the Author
Sonny Varadan, Sonora Quest Laboratories Chief Information Officer