As Americans have just celebrated Father’s Day, June is also the month that raises awareness of preventable health issues, and encourages early detection and treatment of diseases among Native American men.
Men are genuinely indifferent when it comes to their personal health and mental wellness, yet they always want to be there to support their families. The most specific disease common to men, and Native American men, are prostate issues, but they also experience diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Another disease common to men’s health, according to Dr. Curtis Randolph PhD, LPC with Native Americans for Community Action’s (NACA) Behavioral Health division states, is historical trauma, which stems from traumatic events that occurred in a certain group or culture’s history, causing mental health issues from generation to generation.
Jeff Axtell, CEO of NACA, says,
“Native American men face greater health disparities, so regular healthcare visits and screening tests are important in reducing the risks of common health issues that affect men. Early detection and prevention can save lives, and during Men’s Health Month it is important to encourage men to make their health a priority.”
Diseases of the prostate generally affect men over 50. The prostate is a small gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It tends to grow with age as it aids in making semen. However, if it gets too large, it can cause problems.
Some common symptoms of prostate problems include:
- Urgency to urinate,
- Increased frequency of urination,
- Pain or burning while urination,
- Slow stream or dripping on urination,
- Blood in the urine or semen,
- Pain during ejaculation,
- Pain in the lower back, hips, pelvis, and/or upper thighs.
If you have any of the above-mentioned issues, you should be seen by a NACA professional right away. You may be experiencing benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), acute bacterial prostatitis, chronic bacterial prostatitis, or your symptoms could be that of prostate cancer, which is not all that uncommon. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test can aid in the diagnosis of prostate problems including cancer, BPH, or an infection.
Diabetes is prevalent in Native Americans as one in six American Indian and Alaska Native adults were diagnosed with diabetes by 2019. That is more than double the general U.S. population, according to the Native Indian Council on Aging, Inc.
Why? Migration from our rural lifestyle to a more urban environment is largely responsible. Indigenous people have experienced a decrease in physical activity and a higher level of stress than of their ancestors. That accompanied by a less healthy diet, obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and the barriers of health care have all contributed to the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in Native Americans. Between the two genders, men are almost twice as likely to get the disease as women.
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequency of urination
- Often hungry
- Unintentional weight loss
- Numbness or tingling of the hands and/or feet
- Blurry vision
- Extreme tiredness
- Unusually dry skin
A blood test to check the glucose level of your blood will aid in diagnosis. Sometimes a two-hour blood test is recommended. Your blood will be drawn after a fasting period. You are then given a very sweet drink or meal, and two hours later, your blood is drawn again. The results can be revealing.
Following a good health regimen of eating properly, maintaining proper weight, and, if needed, taking regular medication, and routine monitoring will go a long way in controlling the disease.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, also tends to run in families. Individuals whose parents, grandparents, and/or siblings have the disease, are more likely to also have it. Eating high-fat foods and those containing a lot of salt exacerbate the problem. While not everyone who has high blood pressure will experience symptoms, some do, and they may include:
- Shortness of breath,
- Chest pain,
- Vision changes.
Managing hypertension can be a matter of controlling diet and weight. Prescription medicine may be necessary for some, and monitoring is easy with routine blood pressure checks. As with diabetes, men are more likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease than women. American Indians are at a higher risk to die from these diseases, as well as liver disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases, than other Americans, according to Indian Health Services. In fact, heart disease and diabetes, along with malignant tumors and unintentional injuries, lead the way in causes of death in American Indians.
Obesity is usually the result of overeating due to unhealthy eating habits and stagnate lifestyles with little to no exercise or outdoor activity. According to the American Psychological Association, the Department of Health and Human Services noted almost 33 percent of all American Indians and Alaska Natives adults are obese and that they are 1.6 times more likely to be obese than Caucasians. This disease can lead to all other men’s health issues such as:
· Heart Disease
· High levels of blood fats
· LDL cholesterol
NACA’s Wellness Center has licensed and qualified fitness professionals and trainers, who will help you get down to your healthy weight range and goal to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Mr. Axtell stated some ways to combat obesity by, “Adopting positive lifestyle choices and healthy habits include, keeping up with routine health care provider visits, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep each night, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting commercial tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying active.”
According to SAMHSA.gov, historical trauma is the cumulative, multigenerational, collective experience of emotional and psychological injury in communities and in descendants. Native Americans have experienced numerous traumatic events throughout history such as the Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee Massacre, and Dawes General Allotment Act. Through these events, indigenous people’s traditions have changed in regards to child rearing, family structure, and relationships. Over time, certain tribes, more so men of the tribes, develop the following hardships and health side effects to these historical traumas:
· A breakdown of traditional family values
· Abuse of alcohol and commercial tobacco
· Depression, anxiety, and suicidality
· Child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence
· Posttraumatic stress disorder
· General loss of meaning and sense of hope
· Internalized oppression and hatred toward oneself
Mr. Axtell noted that, “Learning to effectively manage stress and talking to mental health providers is important. Many men are hesitant to seek medical attention, as they see it as a sign of weakness. Families and communities should remind men that it is a sign of strength to talk to a healthcare provider and take control of their health.”
Dr. Randolph adds that, “NACA’s counselors (at the Behavioral Health Center) are here to help mitigate the effects of historical trauma and resulting negative behavioral health issues that can arise from this intergenerational issue.”
Risk Reduction, Monitoring, and Treatment at NACA’s Family Health Center
Don’t wait for minor symptoms to become an overwhelming problem. Take advantage of Men’s Health Awareness Month, or set up an appointment anytime, for a routine exam. Mr. Axtell mentions, “An annual physical with your healthcare provider allows you to screen for many chronic diseases through simple tests. A FIT kit tests for colorectal screening, prostate exams for prostate cancer screening, A1c screening for diabetes, and other simple screening tests that can add years to your live through early detection.”
American Indian men have an expected lifespan of 75.8 years, according to the Office of Minority Health. Non-Hispanic white men have a life expectancy of 78.4 years. Let’s live longer!
Schedule your appointment for men’s services through the NACA Wellness Center for:
- Consultation with a urologist and PSA testing for prostate problems,
- Glucose testing and consultation for control of diabetes,
- High blood pressure monitoring with the possibility of prescription medication,
- Controlled exercise and diet monitoring for obesity and overall health.
Mr. Axtell ends with this statement, “Avoiding the doctor will not make health issues go away, so health care providers and men should work together to detect, prevent, and treat men’s health issues. Understanding the risks and taking action to reduce those risks benefits the health of men and their families, ensuring your continued contributions to the community. Prioritize your health, show your strength, and set a good example for young men and boys.”
NACA’s Family Health Center asks that men take time this month to recognize your own health and work with us to take the necessary steps to treat any health concerns that may hinder you. We aim to do our part in combating men’s health problems through awareness, health screenings, prevention, and the best treatment options to ensure you will be there for your family for many years to come.
To schedule an appointment at our Family Health Center or Behavioral Health Center, call (928) 773-1245 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To kick-start a healthier you with a trainer at our Wellness Center, call (928) 773-1245 ext. 221 or email email@example.com.