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Mustaches raise awareness for men's health issues

On average men die six years younger than women

ROANOKE, Va. – November is Men's Health Awareness Month, a time to talk about many of the issues that men face and often are hesitant to address. 

As part of the awareness campaign, men are encouraged to grow out a mustache or other facial hair during the month of November. Instead of seeing the colored ribbons we often see for awareness campaigns, the facial hair is a reminder of the importance of men's health.

But it's about more than the mustache, the campaign aims to remind everyone that on average men die six years younger than women, often for reasons that are largely preventable.

While there are specific recommendations for women to perform breast self-exams, men don't always have the same types of recommendations. Dr. James Thompson, the residency director at Carilion Family Medicine, says men can do self-screening testicular exams, but the recommendations or directions that come along with photos are often pretty vague.

He said some of the biggest health issues men face, like cardiovascular disease or cancer, have very few symptoms that are easy to detect at home. 

When it comes to men's health, Thompson says women are often the ones who can make the biggest difference. 

"A man may come in for an annual physical and he has no complaints whatsoever," he says. "But if I ask the question, 'What is your wife concerned about? What is your girlfriend concerned about? What is your mother or your sister concerned about?' Then I find out the real reason why they're in the office and most of the time those concerns are valid."

A change to the national blood pressure recommendations means 28 million people who did not have high blood pressure last week have now been diagnosed with high blood pressure. This is the first change in blood pressure standard since 2003, and doctors are hoping the lower number will lead to earlier detection and intervention for blood pressure and heart-related illnesses, giving both men and women time to correct their behaviors.

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure accounts for the second largest number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths, second only to smoking. 

The new recommendations drop the high blood pressure mark to 130/80. That's down from the previous high blood pressure reading of 140/90. The lower scores expected to triple the number of men under 45 consider hypertensive. 

The number of people who require medication to treat their high blood pressure is not expected to change due to the new recommendations. Instead, doctors are encouraging those found with early stages of the condition to address it through a lifestyle changes, like losing weight, improving diet, lowering stress and getting more exercise. 

From prostate exams, to regular check-ups, and being healthier at home, there are many ways men can work to improve their health not just during the month of November but year-round.