On May 31, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a bill that established National Men’s Health Week. Since then, it has grown into National Men’s Health Month and International Men’s Health Month, but what exactly is the purpose of Men’s Health Month? Well according to www.mensheathmonth.org, the purpose is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
So what are some of the detectable diseases that we should be concerned about? Well the top four, according to a 2011 article by the Mayo Clinic, are Heart Disease, Cancer, Accidents, and Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases. So now that we know what the top four our, how can we go about trying to prevent them. Well, after reading through countless articles and knowing what worked for me and my battle with heart disease I can offer some suggestions that are quite simple and effective.
A common thread with all forms of preventable diseases is to maintain a healthy diet. So what do I, as a Firefighter who had hypertension, consider a healthy diet? Well, it is no secret that we have become a country that eats WAY too many overly processed foods. With trans fat this and hydrogenated that it is no wonder we are in a health crisis, so I offer this one bit of advice that we in the fire service like to fall back on when we train. “Back to Basics”. I say replace your morning bowl of sugary processed cereal with a more healthy alternative like the “Rip’s Big Bowl”. Ditch the can of overly salted soup and make your own like this African Kale Soup. Eating more whole, natural, unprocessed food will definitely improve your overall health and will contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.
Having an active lifestyle and exercising regularly will also help to prevent heart and lung disease as well as cancer. I think the best way to keep active is to have a goal, and I don’t mean goals like “Bigger Chest” and “To Look Good”. Really challenge yourself and take yourself out of your comfort zone. Sign up and train for a 5k, there are lots of them out there. Run the Tough Mudder or come join me at one of the American Lung Association Stair Climbs. There is even a Zombie Race out there! What I am saying is don’t just limit yourself to twenty minutes on the treadmill three days a week. Get out there and sweat!
Lastly, as part of any disease prevention plan, you should be seeing your doctor regularly. Despite what wonders the internet can bring, they are the experts on medicine. Make sure you get your annual physicals and bring a list of questions for them so you don’t forget to ask anything. Just like fighting a fire, prevention is much easier.