Men’s Health Month is an ideal time to encourage men to take charge of their overall health and raise awareness about preventable health problems.
Dr. Jedan Phillips, a family medicine doctor for over 25 years, earned his MD degree from the University of Maryland and his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University located in Baltimore. He currently serves as an Associate Dean of Minority Affairs at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University located in Long Island, New York. Phillips also works as the director of Stony Brook HOME—a student-run outreach clinic.
He provided information about men’s health, beginning with the importance of eating right. Phillips suggested minimizing fried foods and starches, while also remaining mindful that busy work schedules and busy lives can lead to making convenient yet unhealthy food selections.
“Diet is critical,” Phillips said. “If you’re not eating right, risk factors such as obesity, can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other ailments that are associated with diet and the negative things that can come from bad diet choices.”
He further pointed out the difficulty of not having access to high-quality food choices. Some African Americans live in food deserts.
But Phillips also said that newer nutrition mentalities include “the plate effect.”
“You probably want at least two thirds of vegetables on that plate and you want to try to minimize fried foods and starches,” Phillips said.
A person’s metabolism slows down as he or she ages. It can lead to weight gain in the midsection. Obesity can be associated with heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.
In African American men, prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer. It accounts for 37% of all new cancers, per information provided by the American Cancer Society (ACS).
“The prostate cancer death rate in Black men has dropped by more than 50% since its peak of 82 deaths per 100,000 in 1993. However, the decline in death rates for prostate cancer in Black men is slowing,” ACS researchers also found.
Phillips further stated that lack of utilization of preventive services for prostate cancer and colon cancer provide a big contributing factor of uptick in the prevalence of preventable cancers in African American men.
“A lot of men don’t go to get their colonoscopies done,” Phillips said. “Being African American puts you at a high profile for prostate cancer. And, when we screen for prostate cancer for high-risk individuals, it’s a blood test that’s prostate specific, but it’s also a digital rectal exam and unfortunately, you have a lot of men that are like, ‘I’m not letting anybody do that to me.’ When you don’t get the full test done, you don’t get the full result and you can be operating with a false sense of confidence. And unfortunately, what we have seen is individuals that get diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s way advanced. They weren’t getting their prostate screening test or with cases of colon cancer, and they didn’t get their colon colonoscopy.”
Phillips explained that diagnosis at more advanced stages and not being advised about appropriate treatments does not set up a situation for a great outcome.
Vaping has increased in popularity. It provides just one example of a new fad that is being associated with lung ailments and conditions, according to Phillips.
“Vaping has a lot of chemicals in it. Some of the ingredients are not even what we’re familiar with,” Phillips said. “We’re still finding out the dangers down the road that can occur when someone’s been vaping for years. It is a problem and it is something that we’re trying to combat.”
Phillips pointed out that various toxic habits, including an increase of alcohol and illicit drug use, increased during the pandemic.
Drinking an abundance of alcohol can lead to liver disease, a significant role in the development of heart disease and other consequences when heavy drinking is long-term.
Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism agreed that heavy drinking—which he described in men as consuming five or more drinks within a few hours for men— is especially dangerous.
“The upper limit of normal people that are going to drink, we usually would recommend at the most, one hard drink,” Phillips said.
Drinking more than two beers a day can also increase the risks of long-term alcohol use.
Overall, Phillips wants more men to stay on top of their health and head to the doctor.
“Fellas, we’ve got to find out what we need to stay on top of, so that we can continue to be the providers and the protectors for our families,” he said. “Let’s take a more preventive approach when it comes to our health care.”