A message from Dr. Kelsey Louie, FNHA Medical Officer
"MAKE SMALL CHANGES," the theme of Canadian Men's Health Week this year, is something I really believe in – because I've seen small changes add up to big benefits in both myself and my patients. So, in this message, I'd like to highlight the opportunity that exists for each of us as Indigenous men to take greater ownership of our choices and our individual health and wellness.
The Canadian Men's Health Foundation's 2017 study on men's health behaviours notes that men could dramatically improve (by 70%) our health and reduce our risk of chronic disease, including cancer, by making the following changes to our lifestyles: quitting smoking, shedding excess weight, reducing alcohol consumption, and getting active. These changes align with the First Nations Health Authority's four key "wellness streams": 1) Being Active, 2) Eating Healthy, 3) Nurturing Spirit, and 4) Respecting Tobacco.
Indigenous Men & Being Active
The great thing about being active is that it's never too late to start, and starting small is the best place to work from. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes / week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. Growing up, I was inspired by the Coast Salish men in my community, the Tla'amin First Nation. Seeing them train for tournaments or for their work in the bush or on the water—by jogging and doing agility drills on the beach—inspired me to do the same to improve my soccer game. You don't have to play sports to be active. Find something you enjoy, and you'll receive the benefits without it feeling like "work." To read more about being active, click here.
Indigenous Men & Eating Healthy
Eating healthy is very important; the foods we choose have a major impact on our health. Traditional foods like fish, berries, vegetables, pulses and game help keep our bodies strong, while processed "foods" high in sugar, trans/saturated fats and additives contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. My own meal plan is high in a variety of colourful vegetables and fruits, with lots of fish and lean protein. I also drink lots of water and avoid sugary drinks and excess alcohol. To read more about eating healthy, click here.
Indigenous Men & Nurturing Spirit
The First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness takes a holistic view and honours the importance of nurturing your spirit. This is individual, and recognizes our diverse traditional teachings and practices. I grew up being told to take a regular walk to the beach or the bush, and later learned that this was one of our teachings to connect each of us with our spirit. I now find that if I ever start feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I just need to get out on the land or by the water to enjoy nature. To read more about nurturing spirit, click here.
Indigenous Men & Respecting Tobacco
While smoking commercial tobacco isn't the only reason for cancer, it is responsible for an estimated 30% of all cancer deaths in Canada and is related to more than 85% of lung cancer cases. And while quitting isn't easy, it's well worth it. Within 10 years of quitting, an ex-smoker's overall risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. To read more about respecting tobacco, click here and here.
I encourage you to make whatever changes you need to make, starting small at first until you can do more. Keep yourself informed—for example, check out the Canadian Men's Health Foundation's Men's Maintenance Guide. And please get screened regularly, as colorectal and prostate cancer are the leading types of cancer among Indigenous men. You'll be doing your part to ensure that you are healthy, strong and able to care not only for yourself, but for others … the kind of warrior we all aspire to be, and can be by making the right choices.
Canadian Men's Health Foundation "Where Do You Stand?" Infographic
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