We are fortunate to have been born in a time when medicine is relatively widely available, we are comparatively well educated about health, and we have stable access to food and drinking water. This gives us a quality of life that was unheard of even just a couple of hundred years ago. It’s easy to overlook the men’s health achievements that we have made in the last few generations, however, if you stop to think about the challenges that we face in men’s health, it becomes apparent that we are very fortunate today. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest steps forward in men’s health.1
You may be wondering how workplace safety could be considered one of the best men’s health achievements. Men tend to work in more dangerous occupations than women, and workplace-related injuries and deaths are a serious concern. In the 1990s, the culture of health and safety started to grow. One prominent example is that of fishing in the Bering Sea. In the 90s, there were 770 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers in the fishing industry. Some changes to the rules surrounding boat safety brought that figure down to 260 per 100,000.2
Vaccination is one of the most important preventative health-care interventions available to us, and it saves the lives of men and women alike. Vaccination works using the idea of herd immunity. In recent years there has been a backlash against vaccination, because of the flawed study that was published, and later retracted, by Andrew Wakefield.3 This study had claimed that vaccines cause autism, but Wakefield has since admitted that the data did not show such a causal link.
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Vaccines are important not just because they help to prevent children from getting a preventable disease, but because they offer what is known as herd immunity. If most people are vaccinated, then this means that preventable disease will not spread, and therefore others who have not been vaccinated (those who are allergic to an ingredient in vaccines or those who have a weakened immune system) are less likely to catch the disease, because fewer people contract it to spread it.4 Vaccines are important for both men and women.
As recently as the early 1960s, we were in denial about how dangerous tobacco could be. The tobacco industry was big business, and it took a long time for lawmakers to clamp down on smoking and for public health campaigns to educate people on the risks of smoking. As recently as 2004, smoking was the primary factor for around 30% of cancer deaths in the United States, with 269,655 men dying per year on average from smoking-related diseases.5 Smoking has become less popular in recent years, and this means that the next generation is likely to benefit from a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancers. It remains to be seen whether vaping is likely to cause similar health issues. A great alternative is personal aromatherapy diffusers, like MONQ’s Ocean R. They provide the action of smoking without the dangerous chemicals.
Motor Vehicle Safety
Car accidents are ranked in the top 10 causes of death in the United States for those aged between 5 and 34 and are in the top three for potential years of life lost under the age of 65. Changes to the law relating to seat belts have helped to save a number of lives, as have changes to licensing for teen drivers, and improvements in the safety of vehicles. Advances in technology such as testing machines that will check the BAC of a driver who has had a DUI before allowing them to operate their car have also improved the safety of the roads.
The number of motor vehicle crash-related deaths has fallen steadily since 2005, although the decline has not been linear.6 Modern challenges such as mobile phones which can serve as a distraction to drivers will now need to be addressed.
Cancer Screening and Prevention
Cancer is a serious issue. Common cancers affecting men include lung cancer, prostate cancer and testicular cancer, as well as esophageal cancer. These diseases can be treated if they are caught early. Prostate cancer survival rates in the UK have tripled in the last 40 years and it is thought that this is partly down to the use of PSA testing.7 Many clinics offer wellman’s services’ for men over the age of 40, which can offer tests for the most common cancers, as well as other basic screenings such as blood pressure checks. Take advantage of these potentially life-saving screenings if they are in your area.
A lot of traditional foods, especially fermented foods or foods that used a lot of spices and salts, were created in order to make food safe to eat. While we have had an understanding of bacteria and disease for quite some time now, issues with e. coli and salmonella have still caused deaths even in the last couple of decades. Food safety regulations have been created in order to keep our foods fresh and safe and to prevent the spread of food-borne bacteria that can make us very sick.8 While food poisoning can affect both men and women equally, it is something that those who work outdoors and take packed lunches need to be particularly aware of.
Heart Disease Awareness
Men are more likely than women to suffer from heart disease.9 The good news is that coronary heart disease, while still a serious issue, is not as immediately fatal as it once was. There has been a sharp decline in the number of deaths from heart disease worldwide between the 1960s and 2000.10 These care improvements have also come with increased awareness of the symptoms of a heart attack, the importance of rapid response and treatment, and the value of living a healthy lifestyle. All of these things have helped to create an environment where people can take better care of themselves and improve their heart health. The population is getting older, and there are still numerous challenges, including stress and obesity, but overall things are much better now than they were even a few decades ago.
Diabetes Care and Awareness
Type 2 Diabetes is becoming increasingly common, and it is starting to affect people at an increasingly young age. Obesity is a major risk factor in Type 2 diabetes, and around 95% of men who suffer from diabetes suffer from the Type 2 variety.11 Diabetes is a serious condition but it is something that can be managed. Type 2 diabetes is often preventable or reversible. Today, we have tests available that can detect if someone is ‘pre-diabetic’ and has difficulty regulating their blood sugar. Changes to their diet, weight loss, and taking care to avoid sugars and simple carbohydrates can often help to prevent the condition from getting worse.
It is vital that Type 2 diabetes is managed carefully, because the condition can lead to serious complications, including loss of eyesight, and wounds to the extremities that will not heal properly, necessitating the amputation of the limb in question. Diabetes that is not controlled can lead to what is known as a diabetic coma, which can be fatal.
Mental Health Awareness
Mental health is a serious issue for men and women alike. Men are often unwilling to get help for mental health issues, and more than 75% of suicides are men. Indeed, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 35.12 Over the last few years there has been a significant improvement in terms of mental health awareness. There is still an ongoing issue in terms of under-diagnosis of mental health issues for men, and there are other challenges too. However, overall, men are in a much better position now than they were a few decades ago, and help is out there for them.
Take Care of Yourself
Today is a good time to be a man in terms of health care and education. Things which may have been fatal to our grandparents are less of a concern now. Preventative health care is much better than it has ever been, and the government has instituted measures to protect us at home, at work, and when it comes to the products that we buy. We can enjoy long and healthy lives.
The responsibility is on us to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to us. We should moderate our alcohol consumption, exercise, sleep and take good care of ourselves so that we can enjoy the benefits that our parents and grandparents worked so hard to bring us. There are challenges to working today. We have more access to things that are not so good for us, such as recreational drugs and alcohol, and we have more opportunities to enjoy sedentary pursuits. Try to be aware of those potential pitfalls, and lead a balanced life, setting a good example for your children too.
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