Graphic: Men's Health Week 2023
Men’s Health Week is celebrated globally each year from 12-18 June to raise awareness of men’s health issues and to promote and support the health and wellbeing of men and boys. The focus is not only on physical health, but also on the much integrated and aligned mental and emotional health of males in our community.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian men have a lower life expectancy, are more likely to be overweight and experience higher rates of a range of chronic diseases in comparison to women.
As a physical and mental health care provider to rural communities throughout Tasmania, and with a higher density of men in remote areas the Royal Flying Doctor Service will this week focus on the theme of 2023’s Men’s Health Week – Healthy Habits.
Creating healthy habits can have a significant impact on reducing the risk of chronic disease and preventing mental health issues
In 2020, the leading causes of death for Australian men were coronary heart disease, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) and lung cancer.
Data from to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals approximately 50% of men are not physically active enough, 97% do not consume the recommended serves of vegetables, and 71% do not consume enough fruit. About 13% of men aged 18 years and over smoke daily, and 26% consume alcohol at levels that exceed the lifetime risk guidelines.
So what habits can men create to help prevent cardiovascular disease.
1. Make a habit of including vegetables and fruit in your daily diet. Add vegetables to your lunch (in a sandwich, soup or salad), dinner (stir fry, steam or salad) and enjoy fruit as a snack or dessert. https://tasprimaryhealth.flyingdoctor.org.au/
2. Increase physical activity by incorporating it seamlessly into your daily routine to make the choice an effortless one. Decide when is the best time for you to commit to exercise (morning or evening) and make it a habit that is not a question of ‘will I, or won’t I’ but rather something that you do as part of your daily routine, much like brushing your teeth. And choose something that you enjoy 😊
3. Give up smoking. Get help to eliminate this habit – accepting that it will be a tough challenge, there may be setbacks, but focus on the benefits.
4. Reduce your alcohol consumption. Despite what you may have heard about the benefits of alcohol, they are outweighed by the negative affect alcohol has on our bodies. If you like to have a glass of something, create a habit of only drinking on a chosen night or two a week and limit your intake to one or two standard drinks.
A few simple habit changes can make a world of difference to your cardiac health.
Death by suicide is more than three times as common in Australian men in comparison to women.
Traditional masculine norms (e.g., stoicism, self-reliance, toughness) may mean that men are less likely to talk about and seek help and support with mental health issues.
Particularly in remote and rural communities where men can often feel alone and isolated.
Creating habits that help men look after their mental health include:
1. Find ways to relax and reduce stress and then incorporate these activities into your daily routine. Walking, exercise, reading, playing with your children or a pet, creating something, or enjoying a hobby are all things that can be made into a daily habit.
2. Connect with others. Dedicate time each day to spend with your partner, family or a friend for a chat. It can be an unpacking of your day, an airing of frustrations, a laugh about a mishap… Engaging in social interaction is vital for mental health.
3. Try to get enough sleep. Getting a good, uninterrupted 7-8 hours of sleep is essential for good mental health. Habits to ensure you get a good night’s sleep include: establishing a regular bedtime, keeping your bedroom well ventilated, turning off devices an hour before you go to bed, making sure your room is dark and not having kids 😉
4. Look after your physical health. Your physical and mental health are interrelated – if you don’t feel good physically, its hard to feel good mentally. See our previous post on how to look after yourself physically.
5. Get help when you need it. Make a habit of seeking out help when you need it – there is no shame in asking for help. And make sure to check in and ask others if they are doing okay.
Looking after your Oral Health
Did you know that good oral health can not only help prevent cavities and gum disease, but has an impact on your physical and mental wellbeing?
Your appearance, communication, interpersonal relations, diet and nutrition are all influenced by your oral health.
And the health of your mouth reflects the condition of your body, offering a picture of your overall health and revealing chronic diseases.
Here are some easily adopted habits that will help look after your oral health.
1. Brush your teeth after breakfast and dinner. The good thing about making a habit of brushing after dinner is that it removes the temptation to snack before bed.
2. Floss daily to remove plaque and germs from places your toothbrush can’t reach.
3. Make a habit of eating a predominantly healthy diet. Not only are fruits and vegetables kinder to your teeth than processed foods, but the vitamins and nutrients they contain help to prevent gum disease.
4. Schedule in a yearly dental visit for a checkup and clean. Oral health issues that are detected early may be easier to treat than if left too long.
5. Habitually choose water over sweetened drinks. Water can help flush out debris from your teeth and gums after eating. Sweetened drinks weaken the enamel coating on your teeth, creating a haven for plaque and bacteria to do damage.
6. Make sure to wear a mouthguard when playing contact sports or high-risk activities such as mountain biking.
Avoiding regular check-ups doesn’t make any problem go away, it just makes it more difficult to treat as it progresses.
Make a habit of starting each new year with scheduling in your important check-ups – including dental, general medical and eyes.
If you are over the age of 50, ensure you are up to date with your screening tests, particularly if there is a family history of cancer.
Pause and reflect on your mental health. How do you feel, most days? Seek help if feel like you are struggling more days than not.
Healthy habits should be realistically achievable for your life circumstances, not present a large obstacle or challenge and should be able to be incorporated seamlessly into your routines,
For example, engaging in an exercise program that requires you to drive 30 minutes to get to, or is at a time when you know you will struggle to make it most days, is probably not the right fit for you. Find something closer at a time you know you are free most days.
Creating habits around taking care of your mental and physical health, may mean a small adjustment to your daily life, but will have huge beneficial consequences for your long-term wellbeing.