Men’s Health Week is celebrated each year as the week leading up to and including Father’s Day to increase awareness of the preventable health issues that threaten the health of men and boys. While this observance is important, the fact is, we are long overdue in making men’s health a priority in Louisiana.
The rates of cancer, including prostate, lung and colorectal, are higher among Louisiana men than the national average. Men in our state are more likely to have diabetes, and less likely to be aware that they have prediabetes. Their risk is higher for serious cardiovascular conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease.
What is perhaps most troubling is the fact that these conditions are all treatable, especially when diagnosed early, yet studies have repeatedly shown that men are less likely to seek regular medical care. This lack of ongoing routine medical care is one of the factors contributing to serious diagnoses and shorter life spans for men in our state.
The Louisiana Department of Health’s Minority Health Access Office, noted that men are dying at earlier and at higher rates than women as a result of biological and behavioral factors. While women may live longer than men, they report more illnesses, more doctor visits and more hospital stays than men. Men also have a greater tendency to smoke, eat poorly and avoid exercise. These habits often lead to fatal chronic illnesses, including stroke and type 2 diabetes, and are also risk factors for dementia. Men who live to an older age have been able to avoid certain health risks, giving them a greater prospect of a longer life.
Encouraging men to receive regular health care and annual physical screenings is a key initiative for Louisiana Healthcare Connections. Approximately 40 percent of our 450,000-plus members statewide are male, and we are committed to making sure they know the benefits of receiving important primary care services through member-facing education, integrated care management coordination, health coaching, and member rewards programs.
Of particular importance to men’s health is an annual wellness visit, or physical. This wellness exam should include blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings in addition to a complete physical exam. Depending on medical history and lifestyle, the visit may also need to include certain infectious disease screenings, immunizations or cancer screenings. The wellness visit also presents an opportunity to discuss any concerns about health with the physician.
Annual wellness visits ensure that serious health problems are identified early, when they are most responsive to treatment. Regular medical care also helps to reduce hospitalizations and health care costs related to unmanaged health conditions.
In recognition of National Men’s Health Week, we encourage men across the state to take control of their health by scheduling and completing a comprehensive wellness visit with their primary care physicians.
Dr. Marcus Wallace