Home > Strong, Mighty and Healthy Men for Life Expert advice from Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director

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Strong, Mighty and Healthy Men for Life
Expert advice from Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director
 
 
Men – you are strong and mighty – but not indestructible. Poor health habits and a lack of preventive care can break down any man. And African-American men are prematurely dying from heart disease and stroke with one of the risk factors being uncontrolled high blood pressure.
 
The most recent national statistics indicate that the life expectancy of an African-American man is 69.7 years, compared to Caucasian males who can expect to live 75.7 years and African-American women who have a life expectancy of 77 years.
As a result our families have less time to enjoy with our fathers, grandfathers, husbands, brothers, friends, companions – the men we love, cherish and look up to as role models and leaders.
And there are other alarming trends - 24 percent of African-American men over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes; 38 percent over the age of 20 are considered obese and at increased risk for diabetes; and 38 percent have hypertension.
 
These statistics can be changed through some basic modifications in what we eat, drink and how we live on a day-to-day basis. I encourage you to use Men’s Health Month this June to take steps to better health. Whether it’s scheduling an annual check-up, seeing a dentist, quitting smoking, beginning to exercise or eating more fruits and vegetables – there are many things you can do to improve your health.
 
Here are a few tips to get started.
 
Get a Health Check-up
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2011, men were much less likely than women to have had a doctor visit in the past 12 months. If you have not recently visited a doctor or a local health clinic, plan to do so this summer.
Be sure to share your family history since this can influence your risks of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer.
   
Be Active
Exercise will improve your physical, mental and sexual health. By getting into a routine that includes 30 minutes of physical exercise a day, you can be well on your way to ensuring your health for the future. Invite your co-workers, neighbors and/or family to join in these group activities and get your recommended dose of exercise while spending quality time with those you care about:
  • Walking
  • Golfing
  • Bowling
  • Pick-up basketball
  • Softball/baseball
  • Flag football
  • Rollerblading
  • Bicycling
  • Hiking
  • Line dancing
 
Eat Healthy – Every Day, Every Meal
  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day.
  • Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, fat and alcohol.
  • Limit your salt intake – avoid adding table salt and watch out for salt in processed foods.
 
Have Your Blood Pressure Checked at Least Once a Year
 
A normal blood pressure is below 120/80. Your blood pressure is high if it is 140/90 or above. High blood pressure means your heart has to work harder. This puts you at a greater risk for strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease. High blood pressure does not have physical symptoms, so get your blood pressure checked regularly.
Manage Stress
Eating healthy and being active are great ways to manage stress on a regular basis. If stress is a bigger issue in your life, consider the following tips to prevent and cope with stress.  
 
 Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may seem to be a temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run they can create more problems and add to your stress.
  • Find support, connect socially and spend time with the people you love to be around. Seek help from a partner, family member, friend, counselor, doctor or member of the clergy.
 
Get Screened for Prostate and Colorectal Cancer
Prostate and colorectal cancers are two of the most common forms of cancer in African-American men. Talk to your doctor about getting screened for these cancers, especially if you are between the ages of 40 to 50 or older.
 
Get Screened for Diabetes
 
There are simple and easy tests that any health care provider can do to diagnose diabetes. Know your risk for developing diabetes. Higher risks for diabetes are linked to:
Family history of diabetes
High blood pressure
Being over 45 years old
Being overweight
Being physically inactive
 
Additional Tests and Screenings
Other common tests include depression screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to your doctor about your family history and your lifestyle to determine what tests may be appropriate for you.
 
If you’re a Highmark member, find more tips on staying healthy by logging in to the member at www.highmarkbcbs.com.
 
Dr. Rhonda Johnson is the medical director of health equity and quality services at Highmark Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. She leads Highmark’s efforts to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities among Highmark members through clinical interventions and improvements in health literacy, language access and health-plan cultural competency.
 

 

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