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Men’s Health Month: Never ‘too busy’ to focus on wellness

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chris Lopez, chief of strategic outreach and engagement for the Military Health System, competes in an event during the Camp Lemonnier Amazing Race in Djibouti. (Courtesy photo) Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chris Lopez, chief of strategic outreach and engagement for the Military Health System, competes in an event during the Camp Lemonnier Amazing Race in Djibouti. (Courtesy photo)

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Men's Health

By Chris Lopez,
Chief of Strategic Outreach and Engagement, Military Health System

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy – or so the song goes. But for many men, summer is a difficult time of year to focus on fitness. Vacations and outdoor gatherings after work and on weekends can disrupt established routines – not to mention one’s best intentions to eat healthfully, exercise regularly, and get a good night’s sleep.

For me, fitting in fitness is a year-round challenge. I travel a lot, not only for my job with the Defense Health Agency but also for my obligations as a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve. I’m also working on a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies through a distance-learning program with the Naval War College; and my wife and I have three children ages 5, 3, and 1. I’m constantly on the go, and I never know what I may find on the other side, in terms of a decent workout facility, available time, and healthful food options.

My physical fitness routine is to work out five or six days a week: three or four days of mainly cardio work, such as running 6 miles, and two days of strength training. I honor this schedule even when I’m traveling. When I was in Poland in March for three weeks of reserve duty, the base gym wasn’t available, so I found a gym within walking distance of the base and used it religiously.

When I’m in town and parenting duties overrule a gym workout, I’ll take the kids to a nearby park with a playground. I use the monkey bars to do pull-ups, and I run around the little path there about a hundred times to get 6 miles in. I just make sure I get my workout while spending time with the kids, and the bonus is that I’m modeling the culture of being physically active.

I’m a naturally big guy, and strength training is something I’ve enjoyed since my high school and college football days. When it comes to healthful eating, though, I’ll admit to having some trouble. One thing that makes it easier is to think about my dad. Although he was physically active, he had a heart attack when he was only 40, an age I’m closing in on. That was 25 years ago, and Dad’s well today because he changed his diet. His health scare serves as my reminder for moderation and making good choices.

Also, my wife has been a huge influence. She introduced me to fish, not to mention portion control. I’m not a big fan of fruit, but I love vegetables. A typical weekday breakfast is a veggie egg-white omelet with a side of bacon. For lunch, I usually go to the DHA cafeteria and buy soup and one or two servings of whatever hot vegetable is being offered. 

When I traveled to Kentucky in May, I arrived at the hotel late and hungry. As tempted as I was to order Chinese food or a pizza, I wound up getting Uber Eats to deliver a McDonald’s grilled chicken salad to my room.

I’d still like to lose a few more pounds, but I’m down about 10 pounds from what I weighed last year. I feel confident I’ll continue my streak of scoring “outstanding” on the Navy’s physical readiness test. Most importantly, I feel good. When I’m eating well and exercising regularly, I’m more effective, more efficient, and just better all around. We reap what we sow.

With June marking Men’s Health Month, I’d like to encourage all men to take their health and wellness seriously. Make it a priority, no matter how “too busy” you think you might be. Keep in mind that God blessed you with one body, and no one else is going to take care of it for you.

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Did you know  … ? In 2016, essential hypertension accounted for 52,586 encounters for health care among 29,612 active component service members in the U.S. Armed Forces. Of all cardiovascular diseases, essential hypertension is by far the most common specific condition diagnosed among active duty service members. Untreated hypertension increases the risks of subsequent ischemic heart disease (heart attack), cerebrovascular disease (stroke), and kidney failure. CHART: Healthcare burdens attributable to cardiovascular diseases, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016 Major condition: •	For all other cardiovascular the number of medical encounters was 70,781, Rank 29, number of individuals affected was 35,794 with a rank of 30. The number of bed days was 4,285 with a rank of 21. •	For essential hypertension the number of medical encounters was 52,586, rank 35, number of individuals affected was 29,612 with a rank of 35. The number of bed days was 151 with a rank of 86. •	For cerebrovascular disease the number of medical encounters was 7,772, rank 79, number of individuals affected was 1,708, with a rank of 96. The number of bed days was 2,107 with a rank of 32. •	For ischemic heart disease the number of medical encounters was 6,629, rank 83, number of individuals affected 2,399 with a rank of 87. The number of bed days was 1,140 with a rank of 42. •	For inflammatory the number of medical encounters was 2,221, rank 106, number of individuals affected 1,302 with a rank of 97. The number of bed days was 297 with a rank of 72. •	For rheumatic heart disease the number of medical encounters was 319, rank 125, number of individuals affected 261, with a rank of 121. The number of bed days was 2 with a rank of 133. Learn more about healthcare burdens attributable to various diseases and injuries by visiting Health.mil/MSMRArchives. #LoveYourHeart Infogaphic graphic features transparent graphic of a man’s heart illuminated within his chest.

This infographic documents healthcare burdens attributable to cardiovascular diseases among active component, U.S. Armed Forces in 2016.

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