Work hard, play hard. Does this sound like you? For a lot of men, it’s a lifestyle they know all too well.
The hustle and bustle of work, family, and social life is just the beginning. Each day brings more responsibility. Finding a few moments of quiet can seem nearly impossible–let alone enough time to unwind after a long, stressful day.
Stress can play a big role in men's ability to prioritize certain areas of their life. It’s no wonder why so many of them struggle to make healthy lifestyle choices.
“People tend to live more of a sedentary life these days,” says Dr. Tariq Shivji, family physician at HealthOne. “They might not eat great due to stress levels and working long hours. Most people aren’t able to get the time to take care of themselves as a whole.”
This can be especially common in male patients. When men neglect themselves, it can lead to certain health risks in the future. The key is to actively make healthier lifestyle choices and seek preventative screening from a family doctor.
We sat down with Dr. Tariq to understand more about men’s top health risks and how they can live more inspired lives.
Men’s Top Health Risks
During sun-filled beach trips or a friendly game of softball, slathering on some SPF might feel sufficient. But skincare and sun protection should never be overlooked. Neglecting them can increase the risk of skin cancer.
It’s important to identify because it's the most common form of cancer. Rates of skin cancer in Canada are continuing to rise, accounting for a startling one third of all new cancer cases. Men also have a higher chance of developing it than women.
“With men you typically see two types: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It’s important for men to consider because skin cancer is getting more and more common,” Dr. Tariq shares.
Skin cancer can require having part of the skin removed. This is why it’s important for men to wear sunscreen and to moisturize. It will prevent any damage to the skin that could cause abnormal growths.
“I think it’s becoming a new field that men are showing more initiative in taking care of their skin, but it’s still something that needs to be worked on,” he adds.
This form of preventative care is easy to implement. Stock up on a high SPF sunscreen and moisturizer and use them daily.
For a lot of men, time spent outdoors means time spent smoking. Cigarettes are highly addictive, hence why many people struggle to quit.
When it comes to men, they have a higher risk of becoming smokers. “It’s also a common cause of death for males, and something we need to make sure we’re educating patients about,” Dr. Tariq adds.
Smoking is the cause of 90% of lung diseases and lung cancers alone. These illnesses can have devastating effects on the body, so prevention again plays a key role.
“You can definitely talk to your doctor about alternative ways to stop smoking,” says Dr. Tariq. “There are gums, pills, support groups, patches… there are a variety of options. You just have to talk to your provider because the earlier you stop smoking, the better.”
That addictive cigarette often goes hand in hand with a bottle of beer (or two). Indulging after work is the norm for lots of men. But how often they indulge is what really matters.
“For males, the old recommendation was you could have 14 drinks a week. Now, it looks like there’s more evidence that alcohol should be decreased to 7 drinks per week. If you talk to a lot of male patients, they definitely go overboard.”
Increased amounts of alcohol negatively impact the liver. This crucial organ is responsible for detoxifying all the foods and toxins in the body. Part of its role is to help cleanse us, so it’s important that the liver works properly.
When alcohol in the liver is combined with fat from a fatty diet, it goes into overdrive trying to rid the body of toxins.
Limiting high fat foods, like red meat, and eating healthier diet is a good place to start. Pairing this with a reduction of alcohol will also aid in liver disease prevention.
The next common health risk also develops from the cumulative effects of unhealthy choices. Along with increasing the risk of liver disease, poor eating habits and drinking alcohol encourage a sedentary lifestyle.
A main risk of this unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle for men is developing obesity.
Obesity is classified when a person’s BMI is greater than 30. Carrying a few extra pounds isn’t life-threatening, but being chronically overweight can lead to a host of health problems.
Specifically, it puts men at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, among others. Luckily, the ways to prevent obesity can be adapted by anyone. It starts with how much you move.
“I find that most men think they can get exercise because they think getting it through their job is enough – especially if it’s something physical, like construction,” Dr. Tariq explains. “But people need to be able to isolate work and exercise. Men should exercise after work, even if it’s only 20-30 minutes.”
It can be challenging to make time for exercise on top of the other responsibilities of life. Stress builds up. To-do lists keep growing. For many who work from home, it’s that much harder to isolate work from play.
Check out our easy at-home exercises for beginners for some inspiration.
Sedentary living and high levels of stress are tough enough on a man’s body. When combined with smoking or drinking alcohol, these factors all contribute to the #1 killer in men: cardiovascular disease.
It’s not one specific condition, but rather a group of conditions that all affect the heart and circulatory system. The most common form of cardiovascular disease is coronary heart disease. This happens when your arteries become clogged with plaque, causing them to become harder and narrower.
As a result, a lower amount of blood is supplied to the heart. In turn, it receives less of the essential oxygen and nutrients it requires to function. This can result in to heart failure.
Despite being such a high cause of deaths in men, cardiovascular disease is highly preventable. Making healthy decisions can add up, and they should begin at a young age.
“It’s definitely something men need to keep an eye on as they get older”, Dr. Tariq says. “The risk starts around age 25, and goes into your late 80’s and 90’s. Cardiovascular disease can be a lifelong battle, so the earlier you get to prevention the better.”
The key to preventing cardiovascular disease once again ties back into living a healthy lifestyle. Here are our top recommendations for decreasing common health risks that will lead to an overall healthier life with lower chance of disease.
Healthy Living for Men: Our Top Tips
- Eat a healthy diet with reduced amounts of high-fat foods, like red meat.
- Limit your alcohol intake to a maximum 7 drinks per week.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes, or seek ways to quit if you currently do.
- Exercise for 150 minutes per week.
- Find ways to decrease stress levels.
- Wear sunscreen and moisturizer daily.
While making lifestyle choices to prevent disease, men should never overlook the importance of their mental health. High stress is something Dr. Tariq sees often in men. But the main issue is that men are less likely to ask for help.
“Obviously with mental illness, it’s tough to get people back to where they want to be. A lot of men get frustrated by slow progress, and are looking for a quick fix. They need to understand that this is more of a life-long battle.”
In many cases, it becomes too late for proper care or for doctors to intervene. Because of this, men are at a higher risk of suicide. Luckily, there are ways to get support that can help men decrease their stress and live happier, healthier lives.
HealthOne has a team of caring mental health professionals who provide therapy. They aim to understand the circumstances you’re dealing with – whether that’s work stress, family issues, or challenges during a big life change.
Through this understanding, they’re able to provide a unique counselling approach to improve your mental health and get you back where you want to be.
We encourage our male patients to seek therapy when they feel they can’t face their mental health challenges alone.
For all the other stages of life, we also recommend male patients of all ages to work with a family doctor. Having a primary care physician is essential because they provide ongoing support and preventative care.
“The biggest thing a family doctor can do is help with screening purposes, to make sure that we can recognize the problem early if there is one. It leads to better outcomes because we’re able to prevent that heart disease or alcoholism, for example, from getting worse.”
Dr. Tariq works at HealthOne with both male and female patients. He, along with our other family physicians, can assist with the necessary screening and support so men can avoid common health risks.
Preventing skin cancer, lung disease, liver disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease and mental health all start with living a healthy lifestyle.
We look forward to supporting an inspired life for our male patients and all members of the HealthOne community. Learn more about family medicine by visiting our service page.
One Life. Live Inspired.