Men’s Health Matters in the Workplace
By David Wehby, MD
It’s obvious that healthier people make better, more productive employees. On average, 3.5 million workers miss work each month due to illness or injury. So, how can employers encourage men in their workforce to become healthier and active participants in their own health?
Men need a PCP
Men should be encouraged to select a primary care provider (PCP) who will guide their health care and provide preventive health care services to keep them healthy. A primary care provider can effectively handle most routine medical needs.
Seeing a primary care provider gives men a chance to check out any health problems they may be having (or at risk for). Seeing the same provider over time builds familiarity and mutual trust. The earlier men start seeing a health care provider regularly, the sooner they can establish a relationship with someone they feel comfortable talking to.
A PCP provides access to specialists and ancillary health care services, if needed. Having a PCP means men don’t have to rely on more expensive health care options, such as urgent care or the emergency room for routine health concerns.
Do men really need an annual exam?
The short answer: yes. Men should have an annual physical exam to check weight, blood pressure, blood glucose levels and immunization status. Based on age and health history, certain cancer screenings (prostate, colorectal, lung and skin cancer) may be recommended.
Regular preventive screenings help discover diseases at an early stage — even before symptoms appear — so they can be treated most successfully. This can often reduce the extent of treatment needed and potentially add years to a man’s life.
High blood pressure
Men should know their blood pressure numbers, even if they’re feeling fine. The risk for high blood pressure increases with age. It's also related to weight and lifestyle. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms, but can lead to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other serious conditions.
Starting at age 20, men should be screened if they are at increased risk for heart disease. Starting at 35, all men need regular cholesterol testing. Lifestyle changes and medications can reduce “bad” cholesterol and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Type 2 diabetes
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and impotence. When found early and treated properly, diabetes can be controlled and many complications avoided.
A fasting blood sugar test, glucose tolerance test, or an A1C all can be used alone or together to screen for diabetes. Men (and women) at average risk should have this test done every three years, starting at age 45.
Encouraging physical fitness and activity
For men to be as healthy as possible, they need regular exercise that includes not only endurance, but also exercises that improve flexibility, balance and muscle conditioning. A minimum target goal is 150 minutes per week.
Being active doesn’t mean someone has to run a marathon. Even small increases of physical activity can have great impact on overall health. Potential benefits include lowering:
• blood pressure
• overall inflammation
• the risk of developing diabetes and even some cancers
How else can employers help?
Some employers may offer an onsite gym facility for employees. If that’s not feasible, employers could consider offering employees a discount at a local gym. They can also encourage a healthy workforce through:
• posters and health fairs
• supporting group exercise or other activities (examples: fund-raising walks and runs in the community)
• onsite flu vaccination clinics
Tangible and intangible benefits of a healthier workforce
Taking the above-mentioned steps demonstrates to all employees (male and female alike) that the company cares about them and is taking steps to make sure that their health is a top priority. In return, employers benefit by maintaining a healthier, more productive workforce (with lower health care, absenteeism and turnover costs).
If men begin seeing a doctor regularly, get appropriate screening tests and maintain meaningful lifestyle changes (e.g., diet and exercise) to help ensure their own health, they can reduce their risk for developing disease and possibly avoid premature death and disability.
And that’s why men’s health matter in the workplace.
David Wehby, MD, specializes in occupational medicine at Aurora Health Care. Visit https://www.auroraemployersolutions.org