Did you know that the week in June leading up to and including Father’s Day is International Men’s Health Week? This international health initiative for men aims to raise awareness about the issues of men’s health, including men’s mental health.
While it is important for both men and women to remain healthy as they age, here we will be taking a look at the health issues men can expect to encounter as they get older and steps they can follow to ensure a healthier, happier retirement.
Men’s health: the issues
When it comes to men’s health in Canada, men are, overall, less healthy than women. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
- They are 79% more likely to die from heart disease
- 57% more likely to die from diabetes
- Experience 82% of deaths caused by alcohol and account for 80% of suicides
The reason for men’s poor physical and mental health in Canada is that they simply aren’t looking after themselves. They are 24% less likely to visit a doctor than women. Two thirds of men are overweight or obese and 85% of men eat too much salt. Not surprisingly, men experience an average of nine years of ill health, much of which could be prevented.
Men’s health issues to watch out for in retirement
Men’s health in retirement brings illnesses that are more prevalent among the older generation. Retirement can also be the time when our poor lifestyle habits come back to haunt us. These are some of the key issues affecting retired men’s health in Canada:
- Cancer and heart disease become major issues for retirees, accounting for over 60% of deaths among men aged 65-74. Lung cancer is the deadliest, while prostate cancer affects one in nine men. Colorectal cancer is predominantly found in Canadians aged 50+.
- Flu and pneumonia become more dangerous in retirement. They cause 6,200 deaths in Canada each year, mostly among the 65+ age group. This is due to weaker immune systems and more underlying conditions.
- Mental health problems, depression and anxiety: according to recent research, men are 40% more likely to suffer from depression after retirement. One key issue with depression is that it can prevent you from dealing with other health issues. If depression is untreated, physical issues usually worsen.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s become far more prevalent as we get older, with dementia affecting one in four people aged 85-89. High blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes are all risk factors for dementia.
- Osteoporosis affects older men as well as women. It can lead to compression fractures, particularly of the spine. These are very painful and can affect posture.
- Diabetes is particularly prevalent among the 60+ age group. If left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure, nerve damage and amputation. Overweight and physically inactive people are most at risk.
- Hearing and vision loss are a normal part of aging. Retired men should have regular exams, which can help detect glaucoma.
- Osteoarthritis is most common among the over-50 age group. It causes pain, stiffness and tenderness in joints and can lead to a loss of flexibility.
- High blood pressure affects more than 50% of Canadians aged 65 and over and can cause heart disease, stroke and dementia.
- Falls are a leading cause of injury-related hospitalization for Canadians aged 65+. Falls affect 30% of older Canadians every year and can lead to disability and loss of mobility or independence.
- Two-thirds of shingles cases occur among the 50+ age group. It can be extremely painful and lead to complications such as loss of vision and debilitating nerve pain.
- For stroke, aging is the highest risk factor, with 80% of strokes happening to people aged 60+. More than 400,000 Canadians have a long-term disability from stroke.
Learn more about dealing with health issues in retirement:
- The Most Common Cancers Affecting Retirees: Know the Signs
- Mental Health Matters: How to Cope with Depression after Retirement
- Reverse Mortgage for Healthcare
Preventing men’s health issues in retirement
When it comes to improving men’s health, men themselves, and their spouse, family or loved ones, come into play. Men aren’t always the best at taking care of themselves. Their spouse, a family member or friends can take a lead in improving their health by encouraging them to take the steps listed below:
- Having annual medicals with their family doctor
Seeing your doctor regularly is the first step to maintaining good health. Your doctor will screen for a wide range of illnesses: these include prostate and colorectal cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis. Preventative measures are also offered, such as the pneumococcal vaccine for pneumonia protection and the Zoster vaccine for shingles protection.
- Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake
Just over 12% of Canadians still smoke, either daily or occasionally. Smoking causes so many health issues (like cancer, emphysema and pneumonia) that all smokers should quit, regardless of their age. Doctors have several tools that can help people give up smoking. Reducing alcohol intake to just a couple of drinks, a few days a week, also drastically improves men’s health.
- Improving your diet
You should be eating more fruits and vegetables, antioxidants, whole grains, fibre, omega 3s, healthy fats (such as olive oil), fish and plant-based protein. Conversely, you need to cut back on food high in sugar and salt, processed food, red and processed meat, dairy products and saturated and trans fats.
- Increasing exercise
Most Canadians need to exercise more. According to one survey, only 17% of Canadian adults meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of 150 minutes of activity every week. This should include aerobic exercise as well as resistance training. Meditation, yoga and Tai Chi are also recommended for retired men.
Exercise can help prevent a wide range of physical ailments and is key in improving men’s mental health and preventing dementia.
- Improving men’s mental health
If you start to experience the signs of depression, you must see your doctor. Untreated mental health problems will only deteriorate and lead to physical ill-health. Mental health problems can worsen existing health conditions and bring on heart disease, infections and immune-related diseases. If you aren’t sure what the symptoms of depression are, you can learn more here.
- Make your days meaningful
Keeping busy in retirement is essential for staying fit and avoiding mental health problems. Keep working, even part-time, volunteer or go back to school. Stay social and set up a schedule of meaningful and rewarding activities.
- A Canadian health initiative for men
The Canadian Men’s Health Foundation is a health initiative that focuses on men’s health in Canada. It launched a great resource, dontchangemuch.ca, which has advice to help men make small changes that can become habits leading to a healthier lifestyle.
How to reduce financial stress in your life
Financial stress can seriously affect men’s emotional health. Having a fixed income and dealing with emergency expenses can lead to taking on large amounts of high interest debt. This financial stress can then lead to anxiety and depression in retired men.
But the good news is, homeowners aged 55 plus can relieve their financial stress by cashing in on some of the equity in their home with a reverse mortgage. You don’t have to make any regular mortgage payments, you can keep your independence and focus on yourself and your health.
Call us at 1-866-522-2447 to find out how much you could access and take the first step towards a happy, healthy retirement.