For men, good health often depends on awareness, early

June was Men’s Health Month – a perfect reminder for men to make wellness a priority.

Many men take care of their health, but additional work is needed.

Some of the statistics on men’s health are alarming. For example, life expectancy for men in the U.S. is 76.2 years, and for women, it’s 81.2 years. In addition, more than 40 percent of men ages 20 and older are obese, and 12 percent of men ages 18 or older are in fair or poor health.

Men are less likely to seek help for mental health difficulties, with women seeking mental health support 1.6 times more compared to men in a 12-month period across the United States. Men are also 1.8 times more likely to take their own lives compared to women.

These statistics may be worrisome for men and their loved ones, but men can help prevent many of the health risks they face can by adopting a healthy lifestyle and getting recommended and timely preventive health screenings.

Men’s Health Month is a reminder for men to take charge of their health. I know first-hand what it takes to help men of all ages get and stay healthy. It’s what I do every day in my practice as a primary care physician for Optum in Zionsville.

Regardless of gender, the following general health advice is important. Regular physical activity can help control weight, reduce risks of developing heart disease and some cancers and can improve overall mental health and mood. Another important priority is nutrition. It’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, and limit foods and drinks high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and alcohol.

Men also benefit from regular physicals with their health care provider. Depending on overall health and age, this could also include screenings for low testosterone, prostate cancer, osteoporosis and abdominal aortic aneurysm, in addition to colonoscopies and any other standard screenings.

There are other important reminders for men. Manage any chronic health conditions and follow treatment plans. Additionally, work with your provider to get a full understanding of the purpose and side effects of the prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and supplements that you may take. Don’t overlook the importance of using sunscreen. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States.

It’s also important for men and those close to them to be aware of the warning signs of any mental health difficulties. If you have mild symptoms that have lasted for less than two weeks, such as trouble sleeping or feeling down, engaging in self-care activities can be a good start. If symptoms are severe, persistent or are worsening, talk to your health care provider. Symptoms may include:

Trouble sleeping;

Difficulty concentrating;

Poor appetite changes that may result in unwarranted weight changes;

Loss of interest in things that you usually find enjoyable; and

Inability to perform normal responsibilities and daily functions or struggling to get out of bed in the morning due to mood.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of death, suicide or self-harm, seek help right away. To talk with a trained counselor, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.

Men’s National Health Month is a reminder for men to take a proactive approach to their health. If you or the men in your life are not making positive health choices, now is the perfect time to take charge of your health.

Dr. Marina Behrad is a primary care physician with Optum in Zionsville.