The month of June is all about men’s health! Not only is the sixth month of the year considered Men’s Health Month, but June 10-16 is also International Men’s Health Week. That means that all month long—and especially during the week leading up to Father’s Day—health organizations are hard at work educating men about health issues that impact them and encouraging them to make healthy choices.

It’s a noble cause. Research shows that there’s a “gender gap” when it comes to health. Men in the United States die about six years earlier than women, and also face a higher risk for diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and HIV, as well sex-specific diseases such as prostate cancer. In addition, men are less likely than women to seek help for their mental health, and are more likely to die by suicide, especially as they get older. A 2022 survey by the Cleveland Clinic found more than half of men say they don’t seek out regular health screenings.

This June, in honor of Men’s Health Month (and Week), here are nine small but significant actions men can take to try and improve their health, their community and their outlook.

  1. Schedule a visit with your doctor. When’s the last time you saw your doctor and had a physical? Well, judging by the statistics, it’s been too long! Make an appointment to see your primary care physician (and if you don’t have one, now is a great time to find one). At that time, your doctor can take your blood pressure, monitor your heart rate and breathing rate and perform an exam for any lumps or bumps or other things that might be abnormal. He or she may also want to check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels by doing some lab tests. This is also a great time to ask if you’re due for any preventive screenings or vaccines. Your doctor can talk to you about your health history and suggest any tests or actions that might be helpful.
  2. Consider if you need mental health help and ask for it. If you feel like you’re in a funk, or worse, you might benefit from talking to someone about it. Here, again, your primary care doctor is a good place to start. They might be able to do a quick assessment and make some recommendations regarding professionals you could talk to or steps you could take. Our recent article, Steps that May Boost Mental Health, also shares some starting points.  
  3. Quit smoking (or don’t start). Men are more likely to use tobacco products than women, and smoking raises the risk for a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. If you need help quitting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a number of resources, check them out here. Or, talk to your primary care provider.
  4. Give your diet a refresh. Eating better makes you feel better — more energized, more alert. That’s a payoff, right? Try to make choices throughout the day while keeping that perk in mind. For example, rather than having a candy bar for a snack, opt for an apple or hummus with carrots. Rather than tossing in a frozen pizza for dinner, consider a whole-grain pasta with a salad. For an easy primer, follow the MyPlate guidelines and aim to fill your plate with half fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with grains and one-quarter with proteins. As much as you can, minimize processed foods and items with added sugar, and try to stick with fresh or frozen items that don’t have long ingredient lists.
  5. Move more. If you’re not feeling especially sporty and fit, you’re not alone. A 2020 survey by the CDC found that only about 25% of adults 18 and older were meeting the activity guidelines for aerobic and strength-building exercises (the guidelines encourage adults to do at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity along with muscle strengthening activities two or more days a week). That means nearly 75% aren’t meeting the guidelines. This month, make a workout plan and commit to moving more. Whether you’re hiking, swimming, running, cycling, playing golf, playing ball or doing something else, be sure and choose activities you enjoy, so you’ll stick with the routine. Invite friends along to make it more fun.
  6. Phone a friend. Speaking of friends, make time to see them. Right now, the U.S. is in the midst of what’s being called a “loneliness epidemic.” Feeling lonely and socially isolated can actually have a negative impact on your health. According to the CDC, social isolation can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, dementia and stroke, and loneliness may increase the risk for depression, anxiety and suicide. Keep in mind that seeing your friends is a health necessity and not a luxury, and get some fun outings on the calendar.
  7. Rest up. When you sleep at night, your body gets a chance to rest and repair so that you’re alert, energized and mentally sharp the next day. Make sleep a priority (aim for at least seven hours), so that you can strive to be your best every time you wake up.
  8. Learn something new. No matter how your age, you could always be learning! Ongoing education involves discovering new ideas that help you stay engaged and socially connected, while challenging your brain. Consider taking a class at your local community college or library, or trying out something that’s always interested you, like cooking or yoga. Along the way, you may make new friends, and even discover a new, hidden talent!
  9. Spread the word. Are there ways that you can get other people involved in healthy activities? Maybe you could discuss a wellness challenge at work, or ask your family and friends to form a team and raise money at a charity 5K or fitness event. Or perhaps you have a couple of friends who could use a little nudge to see a doctor or therapist. Think of ways that you can make a difference within your own circles and strive to help those you love the most.