June is Men’s Health Month, and there’s no time like the present to focus on wellness, fitness, and disease prevention. Here are a few areas of your health to prioritize during this important month of awareness.
Protect your heart. Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for men in America, so it’s important to take steps to keep your ticker in good health:
- Have your cholesterol levels and blood pressure checked annually. Screening for potential issues will let you know if you need to make a change, whether that means adjusting your diet and exercise habits or starting a medication.
- Get your heart rate up. The American Heart Association recommends getting “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.”
- …but not too much. Before you graduate from vigorous activity to actual high-endurance training (think ultra-marathons or Iron Man races), be sure to check with your doctor for a full physical and possibly even an EKG to screen for any hidden heart issues that might be exacerbated by high intensity exercise.
- Mind your plate. Diet fads may come and go, but there’s no real secret to eating for heart health: reduce your sodium intake, try to avoid saturated fats and processed foods, dial up your veggie and fruit intake.
- Know the signs. You know to seek medical attention right away for symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or a rapid change in heartbeat, but don’t ignore more subtle changes like a sudden dip in energy level or endurance. Any unexpected and unexplained change could be a sign of an underlying issue, so see your doctor to be on the safe side.
Keep up with preventative maintenance. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is an old saying for a reason – it’s absolutely true:
- Check in with a check up. Regular (ideally annual) medical checkups can catch small problems before they become big problems.
- Screens and tests. Screening for issues like diabetes, thyroid problems, anemia, and a host of other conditions can help you and your doctor stay ahead of potential illness. Talk with your doctor about any symptoms or family history to determine which tests might be recommended for you.
- Quit it! Assess your regular habits to see if there’s anything potentially harmful you could cut out. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis, or alcohol dependence. Limiting – or better yet, quitting – bad habits can give a boost to your health in both the short and long term.
- Preventative jabs. Whether it’s an annual flu shot or a COVID-19 booster, keeping up with recommended adult vaccinations is an important step in staying protected against illness.
Focus on your mental health. There’s a direct correlation between mental and physical health, so make it a priority to care for yourself on all levels.
- Stay connected. Whether you spend time with your friends IRL or connect through social networks (lurk-scrolling doesn’t count, you have to actually engage), maintaining connections with friends and loved ones is one of the most important steps you can take to boost your mental wellbeing.
- Go outside. Getting out in nature – even if just for a stroll through the park – not only gives you the physical benefits of exercise, it also gives you the proven mental benefits of connecting with the natural world.
- Zen out. Even if you think it’s not for you, open your mind to mindfulness and meditation as stress reduction techniques – you might surprise yourself. There are many highly rated apps available that can help guide your practice.
- Get a hobby. Take up a musical instrument, try watercolors, give fishing a go – choose something that genuinely interests you and have fun getting good at it.
- Ask for help. There’s absolutely no shame in reaching out for professional support if you need help managing your mental health. Speak with your doctor and they can recommend next steps.
Men’s Health Month is a great time to take stock of your current habits, but good health should remain a priority long after. So take time to take care of yourself, during June and all year long.