From berries, beans and broccoli to cholesterol, sugar and blood pressure, a Northern Virginia doctor has advice for men that he hopes will help them live longer.
June is Men’s Health Month and Dr. Jason Singh, of Kaiser Permanente in Manassas, wants to raise awareness about the need for men to take care of themselves and see their doctors.
“When we stratify the top 10 leading causes of death by sex, men lead in nearly every one of those categories — nine out of 10. Furthermore, these conditions are manageable and by and large preventable,” Singh said.
Despite men being more likely to get sick from serious health problems than women, Singh said only 40% of them go to the doctor when they fear they have a serious medical condition.
He said that turning routine doctor appointments into a family affair, where spouses and children come along, might help normalize the practice. Also, spouses might have helpful observations or questions to share with caregivers.
As for some quick tips?
“I always tell the guys, ‘Listen, if there are three numbers you need to commit to memory, it’s your cholesterol, sugar and blood pressure’ — because these are risk factors to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in men,” Singh said. “Then closely behind is cancer, and that’s why regular checkups are so important and to be aware of the screening timelines for colon cancer and prostate cancer, which affects one in six men.”
As an internal medicine doctor, Singh stresses the importance of prevention, one big part of which is diet.
“Just remember the three Bs,” he said. “Berries, beans and broccoli — because these foods are particularly rich in fiber and that promotes good gut health, which lowers the risk of colon cancer.”
Singh said he is concerned about how isolation associated with the pandemic and with retirement might be affecting men’s mental health.
“Even before this, men’s suicide rates were four times higher than women’s. So, there’s this exacerbated risk from isolation and loneliness, which has been linked to development of dementia and unhealthy behaviors and even premature death,” he said.
Men need to talk about their mental health and know that it’s OK to share emotions and ask for help.
“If you don’t talk about it, it’s becoming internalized and then your body talks to me about it — which then translates to high blood pressure and poor sleep and muscle soreness and fatigue. These can then turn to potential behaviors that may exacerbate the problem, such as physical inactivity, poor diet and substance abuse,” Singh said.
“We really need to reframe the model of masculinity here.”
So guys, when’s the last time you took a hike or had a family game night?
Board games, trivia and physical activity are good for the brain and can help manage stress. Other stress-busters include practicing relaxation techniques and connecting with people.
“There’s this tendency to have this thick armor where [men] should not show vulnerability to stress, and I think it’s really important to normalize that stress is sometimes OK to have,” Singh said, emphasizing that men should be given recommendations about how best to manage stress.