Men’s Health Month: Four Ways to Prioritize Health
National Men’s Health Month is here – and it’s a good time to nurture and encourage the Black men in your life to take care of their mind, body and soul. According to a Cigna Health Disparities Report, Black men rank the lowest for life expectancy and have more health-related issues than any other racial group in America. The report also found that:
- Black people are 80 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes
- Black people are twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Black men have the third highest suicide rate, especially between ages of 15-24
- Black men ages 28-45 have a 50 percent higher predisposition to high blood pressure
These research findings show the emphasize the importance of self- and preventive care, especially as we celebrate our Black men this month. Here are four ways you can start making a difference:
Annual Wellness Exams
The majority of Black men delay preventative wellness exams, but annual checkups with a doctor can eliminate questions and anxiety when it comes to common health concerns that Black men share. COVID effects, testosterone levels, hypertension, vaccinations, diabetes and even conditions that aren’t openly talked about such as prostate and testicular cancer. That’s why finding a doctor who understands risk factors, ways to maintain wellness and inequities in the healthcare system that Black people face is important to treating and preventing illnesses.
Use Free Resources
We can’t focus on health without acknowledging socio-economic factors like poverty, discrimination and the lack of access to affordable healthcare, which is most common among minority communities. This becomes evident as we see the levels of chronic conditions rise through generations. That’s why programs like the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) and the We Can Do This COVID-19 education program have library of free, accessible resources available for people with or without health coverage.
The national public health emergency has ended, but it’s still important to stay informed and updated on your vaccines. Research from the CDC found that Black people have the least number of COVID vaccinations despite being more susceptible to it. Programs and campaigns like the We Can Do This COVID-19 education campaign are still offering free COVID vaccines to protect you and your loved ones. Go to vaccines.gov or text your ZIP code to 438829 to find nearby places to get a vaccine.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Proper sleep, exercise and nutrition can go a long way. These changes help build strength, discipline and endurance in mental, physical and cognitive health. They also help prevent diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. It can be as simple as eating more fruits and veggies and walking around the neighborhood, which creates positive effects over time. Other changes like cutting back on salt intake, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can also lower the risk of developing illnesses.
Only one in three Black adults receive the mental health treatment they need. Work, family and friends are great social and emotional supports, but getting professional help is just as effective. Despite the stigma on mental health being alleviated, especially for Black men, many socio-economic factors and the fear of getting help still linger. The following organizations below offer affirming, cost-effective mental health resources for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC):
- Black Girls Smile
- Black Men’s Health Project
- The African American Knowledge Optimized for Mindfully Healthy Adolescents (AAKOMA)
- The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)
- The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
- The Loveland Foundation
- The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (Brother, You’re on My Mind)
- The National Queer and Trans Therapist of Color Network (NQTTCN)
- The Steve Fund
- The Wells Healing Center
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Therapy for Black Men
Practicing mindfulness, a form of meditation where you intensely focus on the present moment, can quell a busy mind. Body-based practices such as tai chi, yoga, massages and reiki, can also help relieve stress, release endorphins and increase concentration and mental capacity. Treat these activities like hobbies, rather than chores, that help improve your health.
If you or anyone you know is contemplating harming themselves, dial 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Prevention Hotline – available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.