Men’s Health Month takes place every June, and this year’s Men’s Health Week is June 12-18. This month we are dedicating time to raising awareness of the health issues that many men face, especially black Americans and people of many races. Understanding the risk of health conditions based on race and other risk factors, such as age and family history, is vital. We look at the most common health issues facing the black population, what you can do to live a healthier lifestyle, and how you can make an impact this month.
Health Issues Affecting Black Americans
While people who self-identify as any race are susceptible to many health conditions, the black population is particularly vulnerable to several. The black community struggles for racial equity in health care, from lack of education to living in poorer neighborhoods to high rates of unemployment and being uninsured. Men’s Health Month highlights the importance of the struggles many men face in seeking these and more health care services.
Heart disease is a term used to describe a number of heart-related conditions, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and more. Although black women suffer disproportionately from heart disease than black men, African Americans are much more susceptible to it than whites. The Office of Minority Health reports that both African Americans and non-Hispanic whites are diagnosed with coronary artery disease, but blacks are less likely to have their hypertension controlled and more likely to die from heart disease.
Mental health concerns
Many blacks live in low-income neighborhoods and are below the poverty line themselves, putting them at high risk for psychological distress. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), rates of serious mental illness among African Americans increased between 2008 and 2018. As an example, while depression and major depressive episodes have generally declined across the country and across all races, they have increased dramatically among black Americans of all ages. Black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide, but as a race, African Americans are less likely to die by suicide than other ethnicities.
Black Americans are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men and other people of color. Part of the problem is that their cancer is found later, when it’s more advanced and there are fewer treatment options. Awareness and early detection improve survival rates for all races, including African American patients. Today, when detected early, prostate cancer has a 99% 5-year survival rate. More needs to be done to raise awareness of prostate cancer and its disproportionate impact on the black population. However, great strides have already been made through joint efforts on behalf of government agencies, local community organizations and health care providers.
Diabetes affects the way your body uses insulin, either by changing the amount it makes or by making it less responsive to it. It often leads to other serious health conditions, such as heart disease and kidney disease. Diabetes also affects the black population more than non-Hispanic whites and any other race. The Office of Minority Health reports that African-American adults are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and black men are more likely to die from it. In recent years, it has been found that blacks are more than 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for complications from the disease and are twice as likely to succumb to it than whites.
The National Institutes of Health has insight into why blacks are more likely to suffer from kidney disease than any other race. American Indians and Alaska Natives were 1.2 times more likely and Hispanics 1.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with kidney failure. By comparison, black Americans are four times more likely to suffer from it. The two most common causes of kidney failure are hypertension and diabetes, which are also common in African-American communities for a variety of reasons, including lack of preventive care, lifestyle choices, and limited access to healthy foods.
Live a healthier life
The School of Public Health and Indiana University offered a list of ways that all men, regardless of race, can improve their overall health, reduce their risk of chronic disease, and feel better every day. Remember that men’s health is important all year round and not just in June when we recognize Men’s Health Month. If you have any existing health conditions or questions about implementing the recommendations below, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.
- Maintain a healthy weightYour ideal weight is usually measured by body mass index (BMI). You can use a BMI calculator to help you determine your ideal weight for your height. It won’t take into account body type or other factors, so your doctor may give you a different target weight.
- Eat a healthy dietIt is important to consider the types of foods you eat and the portion sizes. Although there are many fad diets out there, your best bet is to learn more about the foods you eat, such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat content.
- Take a multivitamin supplementMultivitamins are a great way to ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients that may be missing from your diet.
- Stay hydratedYou should aim to drink 0.5 ounces of water per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink approximately 100 ounces of water each day.
- Exercise regularlyThe Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week. You can break this up into shorter workouts during the week that fit better into your schedule. Start small and work your way up if necessary.
- Reduce screen timeToo much sitting increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you have to work at the computer most of the day, make sure to take frequent breaks. Walking or stretching can help you feel better throughout the day as well.
- Get enough sleepAs you get older, the amount of sleep you need changes. The important thing is that you feel relaxed when you wake up. Good sleep is linked to improved mood, brain function and overall health.
- Limit alcohol intakeAlcohol should be consumed in moderation and safely. Long-term alcohol use is associated with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. It can also lead to risky sex, car accidents and violence.
- Manage mental healthThere are many ways you can support your mental health, from self-care to practicing gratitude to regular meditation. By putting yourself first, you can better support those around you.
- Keep yourself accountableWhether you reach out to a support group, your family and friends, or use an app, it’s important to stay on track with your health goals.
How to Raise Awareness for Men’s Health Month
It’s easy to help raise awareness for Men’s Health Month this June, and there are plenty of ways to do it. Be sure to involve wives and families when appropriate, as they are some of your biggest advocates and want you to stay healthy as well. While black men may be disproportionately affected by certain health conditions and struggle with the health care system for a variety of reasons, Men’s Health Month is an ideal time to create balance. Here’s how you can help.
- Wear a blue dayIn 2023, June 16 will be “Wear Blue” Day. The goal is to promote awareness of men’s health, which will ultimately lead to longer, healthier lives.
- Share your supportKnow someone struggling with mental health, heart disease, or other issues? Many black people suffer in silence. Take this opportunity and encourage them.
- Create an awareness campaignThere are many ways you can raise awareness with a campaign. Ask the HR department at work to organize an event, send out flyers in your local community, or write a letter to the editor of your newspaper.
- Join the fundraiserIs there a fundraiser nearby? Join that 5K walk, ask for sponsorship at the next food drive, or simply announce that you’ve donated to an organization and ask others to do the same.
- Create a healthy lifestyle groupDo you know many men who would benefit from regular walks, accountability for a healthy diet, or weight loss? Why not come together to make it happen?
- Organize a Health FairYou can work with a local health clinic to promote preventive screenings for prostate cancer, hypertension, diabetes and other conditions. Reach out to a few and see if they are interested in raising awareness for Men’s Health Month.
- Plan a sports dayGet your friends, family and local communities together for a sports day. Pay a small amount to play and send the proceeds to an organization that can use the funds to support men’s health.
Men’s health and the black population. raising awareness
Black Health Matters stands with you in our efforts to raise awareness about men’s health. We encourage you to support those you love with health issues like heart disease or mental health diagnoses, share your own stories of hope and survival, and collaborate with peers this June to raise awareness for Men’s Health Month.