(BPT) - In today's fast-paced society, it's easy to feel stressed. Whether you're worried about money, time, work or relationships, stress can creep up out of nowhere. You may think that stress only affects your mental health, but it can also impact your physical health, especially if you don't take steps to mitigate it. Men, in particular, should take note.
According to a national survey by Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center integrating clinical and hospital care with research and education, 83% of men said they experienced stress in the last six months. While there are many sources of stress, work can play a significant role, especially for Hispanic men. The nonprofit's 2023 MENtion It® survey found that a quarter of Hispanic men indicate work as the main source of stress, compared to a fifth of non-Hispanics.
Although stress is common, 74% of Hispanic men hesitate to seek professional help for mental health issues. It's important that Hispanic men understand how stress affects them and seek help when they experience it. Below are three ways stress can affect overall health.
Aging is a natural part of life. However, stress can accelerate aging and increase your risk of poor health. A 2022 study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that people who experienced chronic stress showed signs of accelerating immune aging. Premature aging of the immune system can lead to an increased risk of chronic disease.
To prevent premature aging and avoid long-term health problems, Hispanic men should take time each day to manage stress. Activities like walking, running and other forms of exercise are a fantastic way to manage stress and invest in your health in the long run.
Stress has been associated with weight gain. There are many reasons why stress can cause weight gain. For example, you may turn to comfort food or overeat to cope when stressed. Stress also activates the body's fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, which slows down processes to survive immediate threats, including your metabolism. In short, stress may contribute to weight gain, which can have long-term health consequences, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, increased risk of cancer and can also interfere with mental health.
Weight is of special concern to Hispanic men's health. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, over 80% of Hispanic men are overweight or obese compared to 75.3% of Non-Hispanic White men. Because of the predisposition to weight gain, it's critical that Hispanic men manage their stress to manage their weight and reduce their risk of serious health conditions down the line.
3. Sexual health
Stress can kill your libido. According to the Cleveland Clinic, exhaustion and common stressors from work, family or life in general can reduce your sex drive because the stress takes your mind off sexual desire. Chronic stress can also interfere with hormone levels, leading to a lower libido. It's not an unheard-of phenomenon. The MENtion It data shows that three in five Hispanic men are aware that stress can impact their sexual health.
You may not think of it as a facet of overall health, but having a healthy sex life has several benefits. According to the National Council on Aging, sexual activity can help burn calories, strengthen muscles, lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, improve sleep, strengthen your immune system and even relieve headaches.
While sexual dysfunction is incredibly common, many men feel uncomfortable and embarrassed to talk about their issues. This is especially true for Hispanic men because sexual health is closely tied to social and cultural expectations of "machismo" or masculinity.
Perhaps that's why, when experiencing issues having sex, only a third of Hispanic men saw a medical professional, according to the MENtion It survey. The survey also found that half of Hispanic men said that experiencing issues having sex left them feeling depressed, compared to a third of non-Hispanic men.
Seek help to destress
These are just three of many ways in which stress can impact Hispanic men's health. See your primary care provider or a mental health professional if you experience physical, mental or sexual health issues.
Seeking help is easier said than done, especially for men. A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Men's Health found that men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues. Also, the MENtion It survey found that 44% of U.S. men don't get annual exams and don't take care of their mental health. Passing the buck on your mental and physical health won't just impact your health today but can have consequences down the road as well.
If you're experiencing high levels of stress in your life, it's time to book an appointment and talk with your doctor about ways to manage your stress. To learn more about the MENtion It survey and other aspects of Hispanic men's health, visit clevelandclinic.org/MENtionIt.