Healthy Living in the North

Health is a journey, not a destination

Photo of man holding basketball

After a health screening, Duane Jackson took steps to improve his health and is sharing his story and tips to inspire other men.

This week is the 2nd Annual Canadian Men’s Health Week. It’s an excellent opportunity to look at some of the highlights of men’s health work in the north and to acknowledge some of the men who are making positive changes in their lives. I thought it would be a great time to share my interview with Duane Jackson.

Duane is Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton but has lived in Prince Rupert most of his life. Duane shared with me his story of how he has taken steps towards improving his health.

What motivated you to look at your health?

Every year, I do the health screening that is offered at the All Native Basketball Tournament. Two years ago, I was honoured to be the Male Role Model for both this initiative and the tobacco reduction program. I thought that this title should be more than just show! When I first did the testing, my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels were all pretty high so I started taking steps towards lowering those by looking at what I was eating and by being more active. This past year, I went in and took the screening again and my blood sugar and blood pressure were lower but my cholesterol was twice as high as it was supposed to be. At 48 years old, this wasn’t something I was willing to simply look past and not take seriously.

What did you do?

It was recommended to me that I see my doctor and have further tests done. I booked an appointment right away and the tests came back with the same results. Between my doctor and I, we came up with the plan to lose 30 pounds over the next 6 months. I started walking to and from work every day. In fact, any time I had to go out, I walked. I cut caffeine completely out of my diet and my energy levels went up within the week. I started eating foods with healthier fats, like walnuts, to help with my cholesterol. I started checking labels for saturated fats and was surprised to find that some foods that we are being told are very healthy really aren’t. Check the label!

What changes have you noticed?

I haven’t really checked my weight but I can tell you that I have had to purchase new clothing as my other shirts were starting to hang off me and all of my pants are too big. I even pulled on a pair of pants that I had stopped wearing a while ago when they got too small! I am also looking to use the belt punch for the first time, well, ever.

I have started to see things differently, too. I thought that I had played my last game of basketball, but now I’ve purchased a new pair of shoes and am planning to make my 48-year-old comeback next season!

Any message you’d like to share with men?

As a very good friend pointed out to me, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know you don’t know it.” I would recommend to all men to get the health screening done because I was feeling pretty healthy and the truth is that I wasn’t. As a father of three, I can say that knowing was my first step.

The steps afterward weren’t life-ending decisions, they were only a life change and, truthfully, not hard ones. I still have a treat every now and then and even treat myself to fast food occasionally – I just walk home afterward. Also, I don’t think that I’m aiming for the 30 pounds anymore, I’m simply aiming to be healthy. I won’t know when I’ve reached the pounds I wanted to lose, I’m fairly certain that this is my life from now on.

Haa’mii’yaa,

Duane

Feeling motivated yet? What things have you done this week to improve your health?

Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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Tales from the Man Cave: We men can help each other cope with life

Numbers are funny creatures – or at least the way we react to them is funny.

Take prostate cancer mortality rates, for example. Roughly 4,000 men die each year from prostate cancer in Canada. Most are well over 50 years of age and each and every case is undoubtedly a tragedy. There are walks and talks about it and the message is getting out, which is great. There is a Movember fundraising event as well as Ride for Dad and Big Blue Ball. I have many friends who are currently being treated for prostate cancer and, as far as I am concerned, we cannot do enough to raise awareness and raise funds for research to improve their chances.

But there are other statistics about men and mortality, too, and they get less attention. Some 2,700 males commit suicide every year in this country. Some estimate that this figure actually hides the true number, in part because some motor vehicle accident fatalities, for example, are probably suicides. This number has remained more or less stable throughout the past several years.

In British Columbia, suicide is one of the top three causes of mortality among men aged 15 and 44. In Canada, suicide ranked as the seventh leading cause of male death in 2007.

It’s a tragedy that is hidden and taboo. Families who have lost loved ones in this way understandably don’t want to shout it from the rooftops but as a society, we should.

Culturally, men are at a great disadvantage for depression and suicide. We are not encouraged to talk about our “feelings” and, in fact, doing so is actively discouraged. It makes the guys feel a little awkward when someone starts going on about feelings. Most feel inadequate at dealing with it. What do we hear all the time? Boys need to “man up” and “suck it up” and “stay strong.” Vulnerability will not be tolerated!

This was probably an OK strategy when it came to the need to keep the tribe strong and fearless. In survival and war, there is not much room for talking about feelings. But in our modern world, it is a hindrance to health at best and a tragedy of enormous proportions at worst. Compared to women, fewer men report feelings of depression or suicidality but more men are likely to kill themselves, though women actually make more suicide attempts. The methods that men use are more lethal, resulting in 4 times more deaths. It is, therefore, really important that we change the way we think about men and talking about our feelings.

We men pay a heavy toll for silence and society as a whole suffers much from male mental health issues. It starts very early with alienation and isolation. The use of drugs and alcohol to “cope” compounds the issue and may result in addiction, violence, absenteeism, and increased road traffic accidents, to mention just a few.

Getting help is actually a sign of strength. The Crisis Centre is a wonderful resource.

We sometimes think that we need permission to seek help and support when things are tough. If that’s you, consider this your permission. May we men enable each other to seek the help we need. May we be the shoulder that supports a friend or workmate when needed.

Stay well!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Breaking the taboo – let’s talk ED!

Francois Lake

We know that ED can be an uncomfortable topic, so Jim’s provided a picture of beautiful and soothing Francois Lake while he has a frank conversation about prevention and treatment.

It’s Men’s Health Week so I thought I’d write about a health topic that carries a big taboo amongst us men. Because what better time to get the conversation going?

I always seem to be writing about worrying things and this time is no different. For our sexual health, we should all be aware of it and despite how the media sometimes portrays this, if you have it, then it’s no joke.

It is erectile dysfunction (ED) and it carries a heavy taboo. ED is a fairly common condition in males as they age, but is also a complex matter that can be affected by numerous lifestyle factors. It is these that we can try to change so let’s take a look at them.

Alcohol, drug use and smoking can all lead to erectile dysfunction.

Obesity also has an impact and a good rule to keep in mind is basically, if your belly is too big and you can’t see your tackle, then that’s a problem.

It is important to know that hypertension and diabetes are also causes, along with atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries. ED can be an early indication that all is not well with your veins and arteries and can be a sign that heart disease may be down the road. A good reason to see a physician and have a checkup!

Given the taboo – and how special our, ahem, tackle, is for many men – I think ED is every guy’s worst nightmare! The psychological causes of erectile dysfunction can be every bit as distressing as physical ones and ED can be a symptom of depression and anxiety.

The incorporation of a healthy diet with an active lifestyle as well as stopping smoking can help mitigate some of this and there is some evidence that aerobic exercise may benefit those with ED, too.

In fact, living an active life and getting enough exercise in combination with a healthy diet can go a long way to helping with both ED and all of these causative issues. It can also improve your health in general as well as your performance. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s really a healthy option.

There are other causes such as nerve damage or low levels of testosterone. Your physician can run a battery of tests to see what the cause is and let you know if medication might be on the agenda. The main thing about all these things is to talk them over with your doctor and partner. This article is too short to be able to cover all the angles, so I’d suggest HealthLink BC if you want some more information.

ED is a serious condition that can make you miserable. But take it from me: you are not a loser, you are not alone, and it’s not the end of the world. The good news is that there is treatment available and, more importantly in some ways, know that you can take steps to prevent it by modifying your lifestyle!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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