Men are often seen as protectors, providers, and leaders. This demanding and unrealistic role is portrayed everywhere—in movies, in books, and even in commercials on TV.
As a man, this stereotype might make you feel like you always need to be strong or put on a brave face, even when you're just as scared. You might be hesitant to talk about your health and wellness—or even acknowledge it yourself.
Whether to avoid worrying loved ones or being seen as weak or unreliable, things like primary care and overall wellness can fall off the priority list for men.
Roughly 2/3 of men will wait as long as possible to see their healthcare provider for health symptoms or injury—and 1/5 of men aren't honest with their doctor if they do seek care.
Here are 5 things to consider when evaluating your health.
1. Do you have a pulse on your heart health?
Your heart health is crucial to your overall well-being. One way to keep an eye on your heart health at home is to monitor your pulse.
To check your pulse:
- Place your index and middle finger of one hand on the inside of the opposite wrist, just below the thumb. You should be able to feel blood pumping through the veins on your wrist.
- Count the beats for one minute. (Or, you can count for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4.)
Additionally, many wearable devices can keep track of your pulse.
Most healthy adults have a resting pulse of 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM). However, a very active person could have readings closer to 40 BPM. In general, a lower resting heart rate means your heart muscle is in better shape.
According to Kevin Dabundo, DO, family medicine physician, "Another way to monitor your heart health is with your blood pressure. The most reliable ways to check your blood pressure are to visit your healthcare provider or use an at-home test. If you do decide to use an at-home test, be sure to bring it with you to your next healthcare appointment to make sure you're using it properly."
Blood pressure uses two numbers:
- Systolic (the top number), which is the pressure when blood is being pumped out of the heart
- Diastolic (the bottom number), which is the pressure when the heart is at rest
In general, less than 120/80 mm/Hg is a normal blood pressure reading. If the top number climbs toward 140 and/or the bottom number to 90, talk to your healthcare provider, as that may indicate a problem.
2. Have you noticed any red flags?
Perhaps one of the most overlooked but effective means of a self-health evaluation is to observe your body for things that weren't there before. However, these changes can be hard to track if you aren't carefully inspecting yourself from time to time.
To do a self-health evaluation, regularly look out for signs of:
- Skin cancer, such as moles that have changed shape, size, or color
- Testicular cancer, such as lumps or swelling in your genitals
- Oral cancer, such as lumps on your neck, cheeks, or tongue
- Breast cancer, such as lumps or bumps in your chest
- Colorectal cancer, such as bloody stool or unexplained weight loss
Keep in mind—these changes don't necessarily signify cancer. But keeping your healthcare provider in the loop about any changes will help them provide the best possible care.
3. Is a "dad bod" creeping up on you?
Life is all about change. No matter how much you want to keep your body looking like it did in college, you may not look that way again. Still, it's important to keep an eye on your weight, especially as you get older.
A quick way to consider if you're putting on too much weight is by taking your waist measurement. To do this:
- Stand and wrap a tape measure around your belly (aim for right above your hip bones).
- Keep the tape horizontal and snug on your waist.
- Check the measurement just after you breathe out.
If your waist measurement is over 40 inches, you may be at increased risk for health conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.
"While gaining weight is a normal experience for most adults as their ability to process food naturally changes, it can become a serious health risk if left unmonitored," explains Dr. Dabundo.
Fortunately, staying active and eating healthy can help reverse those "dad bod" gains. But first, consult your healthcare provider about the proper weight loss routine for you.
4. How's your sexual performance?
There are many conditions that can cause a man to have problems performing in the bedroom. It's important to remember that erection problems are common, and sometimes it's more of a mental issue than a physical one.
Erectile dysfunction is when a man has difficulty getting an erection. Not only can it jeopardize your ability to enjoy sex, but it might also be an indicator of declining health.
Given that sex sometimes seems like a taboo topic, many men with erection problems feel shame talking about it. However, erection problems can be an early warning sign of a number of serious health problems, which include:
5. What's your headspace like?
How do you feel today? Have you considered the state of your mental health lately?
Like many people, you may feel that you don't have the time or energy to think about mental health. However, making space in your life to reflect on your mental well-being can help you stay on top of potential issues.
Staying on top of your mental health starts with looking out for warning signs, which include:
- Anger or aggressive behavior
- Mood swings
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Sleeping problems
- Thoughts of suicide
- Thoughts or behaviors that negatively affect work, family, or social life
If you've prepped your mental health first-aid kit with the right resources, then you likely have the tools necessary to prevent many mental health issues. But, these don't replace the need to consult your healthcare provider to discuss the best route to recovery if you do have concerns.
What to do if something seems off
If you went through these steps and have concerns, don't panic. Being aware that there might be an issue is the first step in correcting it.
Next, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to assess the situation and discuss next steps. Staying on top of your health is a life-long commitment, but you're not in it alone. Main Line Health is here to walk with you on your wellness journey all year long.