Mind & Body
June is Men's Health Month
5/31/2018 10:18:45 AM
Men's Health

It’s a fact that men tend to die at a younger age than women. (The current life expectancy for men is 76 compared to 81 for females.) Studies show a mix of factors contribute to men’s earlier demise – men tend to take more risks, are less socially connected, and have more dangerous jobs than women. But there’s another simple and avoidable reason: Men don’t visit doctors as often as women. Men are half as likely as women to go to a doctor over a two-year period, according to a 2014 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But guys, your health is important! In this special section, you’ll find relevant stories on heart health and back pain remedies, as well as tips on taking care of your skin and nails. After you’re done reading, schedule a checkup with your doctor.


Men and Heart Disease
by Andrea Mongler

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women alike, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the United States each year. In Calcasieu Parish and across Louisiana, rates of heart disease death are particularly high.

Though "heart disease” is an umbrella term encompassing several different diseases and conditions, it is often used to refer specifically to coronary artery disease, or CAD, the most common type. CAD occurs when the arteries that carry blood to the heart become narrow and hard because of a buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque. The result is that too little blood and oxygen get to the heart, which can lead to a variety of problems, including a heart attack.

Men are more likely than women to have heart attacks, and they also tend to have them at younger ages. So, what can men do to prevent heart disease or to avoid heart attacks and other problems if they already have it? Though some risk factors — such as genetics and older age — can’t be controlled, many others can, according to Jake LeBeau, MD, FACC, cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists of Southwest Louisiana, an affiliate of Imperial Health. 

He says one of the most important lifestyle changes a man can make is to eat a heart-healthy diet. This means limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, salt, and alcohol. Instead of fatty red meats, choose lean meats, poultry and fish. Opt for whole grains instead of white bread, rice and pasta, and choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Other heart-healthy choices include beans, lentils, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and vegetable oils — think canola, olive, sesame, sunflower and soybean oils — rather than animal fats like butter.

"Food is an important part of the culture in Southwest Louisiana and adopting a heart-healthy diet can be challenging,” says Dr. LeBeau. "It’s okay to enjoy unhealthy local favorites from time to time, but it’s best to stick with nutritious, healthy options as often as possible.”

Men who eat a heart-healthy diet should find it easier to maintain a healthy weight, another key to lowering risk for CAD or a heart attack. Along the same lines, regular physical activity can help reduce your risk by lowering "bad” LDL cholesterol, increasing "good” HDL cholesterol, and lowering high blood pressure. If possible, aim for at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week. 

"For people who lead a sedentary lifestyle, meeting the recommended exercise guidelines can seem daunting,” says Dr. LeBeau. "But there’s nothing wrong with starting small — maybe a 10-minute walk a few days per week — and slowly increasing your activity levels. Any exercise is better than none.”

Other primary risk factors include stress and smoking, so it’s a good idea to find ways to manage the stress in your life and to give up the habit if you’re a smoker, Dr. LeBeau adds.

Finally, keep in mind that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. So if you’re not experiencing symptoms, it’s no excuse not to take good care of your heart — you could very well be doing damage you’re unaware of.

On the other hand, certain symptoms could indicate a heart attack. The most common is discomfort or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. Other heart attack warning signs include discomfort in the arms, back, jaw or neck; shortness of breath; and lightheadedness or nausea.

"If you think you’re having a heart attack, don’t hesitate: call 911. The sooner you receive medical help, the better off you’ll be,” says Dr. LeBeau.

For more information or to schedule a comprehensive heart health evaluation, call Cardiovascular Specialists at (337) 436-3813 or visit www.csswla.com. 


The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
by Andrea Mongler

If you suffer from lower back pain, you’re not alone. Most men — and women — will experience back pain at one time or another. In fact, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about four out of five adults will have low back pain at some point during their lifetimes and more than one in four report having experienced low back pain in the past three months.

Causes vary — maybe you were in a car accident or you forgot to "lift with your legs” when moving that new couch into your house. Medical conditions such as arthritis and scoliosis can also result in back pain, as can degenerative changes in the spine that are a normal part of the aging process. If your job requires you to sit at a desk all day, that could be a cause of your back problems, as well.

"Bad posture and sitting in a chair incorrectly can put a lot of stress on the neck and back,” says Joseph Kulaga, D.C., a chiropractor at Lake Charles Chiropractic and Functional Medicine. "This is an issue for many of my patients.”

Though accidents happen and you certainly can’t keep yourself from aging, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends steps you can take to prevent lower back pain, or at least lessen its impact:
  • Exercise. Engage in low-impact aerobic activities, like walking or swimming, along with exercises specifically aimed at keeping your back and abdominal muscles strong and flexible.
  • Use proper lifting technique. Use your legs, not your back, when lifting heavy items. Rather than bending over, keep your back straight and bend your knees.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Exercise and proper nutrition should help with this.
  • Avoid smoking, as it can cause your spine to age prematurely.
  • Use proper posture. Keep your shoulders back and don’t slouch. Switch sitting positions often, and get up to walk around frequently. If possible, use a chair with good lumbar support (if needed, a pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide lumbar support). If you’ll be sitting for a long time, elevate your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
Regardless of whether you’re making an effort to prevent low back pain, what should you do if you’re experiencing it?

Dr. Kulaga says it’s important to have it checked out by a health care provider.

"Even if you think your back pain is benign or trivial, we want to be able to rule out that something more serious is not going on,” he says. "If we can’t treat it, we will send you to the proper health care provider, but regardless, back pain is a lot easier to treat earlier on, before it becomes chronic.”

In addition to chiropractic adjustment, which involves using the hands or a device to apply a controlled, rapid force to a joint, Dr. Kulaga’s office offers a variety of treatment options for back pain. These include medical massage, electrotherapy, spinal decompression, therapeutic exercises, hydrotherapy, and ultrasound.

Depending on the type and severity of your back pain, you might also find relief from acupuncture, steroid injections, or even surgery.

Talk with your doctor to determine which option or options make the most sense for you.


Putting the "Man” in Manicure
by Emily Alford

The manicure has a serious image problem, bringing to mind thoughts of long, bright red talons and hours spent in a nail salon, a place where no "real” man would dare show his face.

However, in reality, the word "manicure” simply means taking care of hands and nails, and for hard workers of all genders, painful cuticles, callouses, and cracked nails can be ugly crosses to bear. So guys, if you’re tired of aching hands or simply want your nails to look nice, don’t be weirded out by the idea of a manicure. Here’s exactly what to expect.

Cut to the cuticle 
Manicures generally begin by soaking hands in a dish of warm water to soften the cuticles, or that ridge of hard skin around the nails. Cuticles protect our nail beds, but they can also become ragged and ripped, which causes redness and pain around the nail. After the cuticles are nice and soft, the nail tech will either softly push them back or gently trim them. Warning: hands should never bleed during a manicure, and if your tech is drawing blood, politely ask them to stop what they’re doing. After clipping, cuticles are oiled to keep them soft and smooth.  

Short and sweet
Many of us are guilty of using teeth as clippers when nails get too long, but not only is nail biting a nasty habit, it also leaves nails a jagged mess, prone to infections and pain. If you’re looking to kick the habit, going for a manicure and having a professional clip your nails and then file them to an even, comfortable length might help you fight the urge to gnaw. Let your nail tech know how long or short you want your nails. 

Polish it off
Nail polish need not be neon, and if you get a clear coat, no one has to know you’re even wearing it. A clear topcoat of nail polish protects nails from damage, and the bitter taste can also help you fight the urge to bite. 

Bonus Massage
One surprising thing men may not know about getting their nails done is that a trip to the nail spa generally comes with a hand massage. Nail techs are trained to squeeze knots out of hardworking hands, so if you work outside, or if you have sore wrists and palms from typing, getting a manicure can also relieve some of the stress in tired hands. 

A few years back, rapper Snoop Dogg made headlines after declaring himself a manicure enthusiast, but these days, it’s not so rare to see men striving to take better care of their bodies -- including their hands. If you’d like a professional manicure, don’t be shy! Your local nail tech is happy to have you. And should you choose to tip, 15% is a great place to start. 


A Man’s Guide to Great Looking Skin
by Emily Alford

It seems like women start getting skincare lessons from birth, and by the time they reach their late teens, most seem to have their skincare routines pretty much mapped out.

Unfortunately, a lot of guys don’t get much more education than a bottle of shaving cream and a bar of soap, and if they’ve got skin concerns beyond that, they’re expected to just suck it up. But it’s perfectly normal to want skin to look healthy and clear, so if you’ve been wondering what’s in all those tubes and bottles that women use to get great-looking skin, here’s a guide for skincare newcomers.

Know your skin type
Not all skin is created equal, and identifying your skin type will help you choose products. Sensitive skin stings or burns after applying some skincare products and easily breaks into a rash. Dry skin is flaky, feels tight, or appears rough. Oily skin generally has larger pores and gets shiny as the day wears on, usually on the nose, chin, and forehead. Combination skin can mean having any (or even all of these problems), and normal skin is clear and matte with small pores. 

Pick products accordingly
Make sure you’re picking products for your skin type. For instance, many of those "manly” face products with names like "Cool Alpine Breeze,” are chock full of artificial fragrances that can do a number on sensitive skin. You’re better off choosing unscented, gentle face products, like those made by CeraVe that are formulated to fit your skin type. 

Wash your face on a set schedule 
It doesn’t really matter if you wash your face in the morning or at night, as long as you wash it once a day and again following heavy outdoor activity or exercise. After you wash, rub in a small amount of a lightweight moisturizer and add more if skin feels dry throughout the day. 

Make sure your shave suits your skin
There’s such a thing as too close when it comes to shaving. If you find that your skin is often red and irritated long after you put your razor away, it could be an indication that your multi-blade razor is irritating (and even damaging) your skin. Switch to a new, sharp single or double-blade razor and don’t pull skin taut when you’re shaving. 

Don’t forget to cover up
Sun damage causes dark spots and wrinkles, which can make skin look dull and unhealthy, and skin cancer affects millions of Americans every year. To look youthful and keep skin healthy, wear at least a SPF 30 every day, all year round. Many moisturizers readily available at the drug store include sunscreen, which might make it easier to remember. 

Skin is the largest organ in the body. Taking care of your skin is really no different than anything else you do to keep yourself healthy, from drinking plenty of water to hitting the gym a couple of times a week. Adding a few minutes to your daily routine for healthy skin will help you feel and look your best. 
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