June is Men’s Health Month
There is a silent health crisis in America. On average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women, according to Men’s Health Network. Why? Men make half as many physician visits for prevention and are 3 to 4 times less likely to see a doctor for gastrointestinal-related problems than women (Centers for Disease Control).
More than 1 in 4 Americans have stomach or gastrointestinal (GI) problems severe enough to interfere with daily activities and limit quality of life. Significantly more men than women die of most cancers including colorectal cancer.
The Digestive Health Institute of Montana encourages men to take charge of their digestive health:
Men’s Health Facts
- Get screened for colorectal cancer if you are between the ages of 50 and 75 (earlier if you have a family history of colorectal cancer).
- Talk to your doctor if you have frequent digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain and discomfort, gas and bloating, changes in bowel habits, chronic constipation, diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting, feeling full after eating very little, urgency, sensation of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement, heartburn or acid indigestion, pain or difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, or dental erosion and bad breath.
- Adopt healthy habits for preventing GI disorders.
- Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- In 1920, women lived, on average, one year longer than men. Now, men, on average, die almost five years earlier than women (Center for Disease Control).
- Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of death for American men: 16.9 deaths per 100,000 people each year (National Center for Health Statistics, Health, United States, 2015). Screening can provide early detection and prevention of this disease.
- Men have a much higher rate of esophageal cancer and Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer.
Common GI disorders in men include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal cancer, stomach (gastric) cancer, functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID), chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, and colorectal cancer.
Healthy habits for preventing GI disorders
More than 1 in 4 Americans have stomach or gastrointestinal (GI) problems severe enough to interfere with daily activities and limit quality of life. Frequent symptoms should be discussed with your doctor or health care provider as they can be a sign of a more serious problem.
Diseases of the digestive tract are often manageable and may be preventable through healthy diet and lifestyle choices:
- Maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight more frequently experience heartburn, bloating and constipation and have a higher risk for GI disease.
- Exercise regularly as physical activity promotes healthy digestion.
- Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables and high-fiber foods. Avoid processed and packaged foods.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Consuming more than one to two alcoholic drinks per day or using tobacco (smoking or chewing tobacco) can lead to serious digestive problems and disease. Risks for mouth and esophageal cancer greatly increase for people who use both alcohol and tobacco.
- Reduce dietary fat as this slows digestion and can lead to heartburn, bloating and constipation.
- Drink six to eight glasses of water daily to support good digestion.
- Take anti-inflammatory medications as directed with food. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can be hard on your digestive system and should be taken with food.
Talking to your doctor about GI symptoms
If you are experiencing frequent or concerning digestive symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or health care provider. Your primary care provider is an excellent resource for evaluating, diagnosing and treating your symptoms. If your primary care provider suspects you have a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, he or she will often refer you to a gastroenterologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the digestive system.
Prior to your visit, it’s a good idea to write down a list of your symptoms and questions for your doctor. Don’t be shy or embarrassed. Talking with your doctor is an important step in improving and protecting your health.
Your doctor will want to know:
Questions to ask about your GI condition:
- What are your symptoms? How long have you had these symptoms?
- Does anything trigger these symptoms? Make them worse? Provide relief?
- What medications (including nutritional supplements) are you currently taking?
- Have you ever had surgery or been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition?
- Do you have a family history of digestive disorders or cancer?
- Have you ever had a GI procedure such as colonoscopy or upper endoscopy?
- What is the name of my condition?
- How severe is my condition? Is it long-lasting (chronic)?
- Is it related to my lifestyle or family history?
- What are my treatment options?
- What complications might I experience?
- Does my condition increase my risk for developing other medical problems?
- What changes can I make in diet or lifestyle that will help?
- What are good sources for additional information about my condition?
Contact the Digestive Health Institute at (406) 752-7441.