You may not often think about the effect safety has on your health, but accidental injury, motor vehicle collisions, fires, violent crime, and firearms constitute major causes of death and disability in the United States. Working in your home and community to prevent accidental and violent injury is an important but often neglected responsibility. Safety issues arise in countless places, from the dead battery in the smoke detector to the seat belt left unbuckled in the car. Drinking alcohol greatly increases your risk of injury. For example, men have a much higher risk of accidental drowning than do women, and alcohol is implicated in about 40 percent of such incidents. Drinking alcohol also heightens the risk of accidents from motor vehicle collisions, including those involving motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and bicycles.
You can do a lot to make your home safer. Many home safety hazards are easy to overlook but also easy to fix (see page 36). Check all areas of your home to make sure that electrical and telephone cords are unfrayed, rugs and mats have nonslip backings, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order, and space heaters and wood-burning stoves are properly installed and functioning. Have an emergency exit plan and practice it with all members of your family. Keep hallways and stairways free of clutter. Place a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Make sure that your power tools and any flammable liquids or poisonous chemicals are properly labeled and stored in your basement, garage, and workshop.
Safety and Your Health
34 Home security measures can go a long way toward making your home even
The safer. Install secure, deadbolt locks on all doors and windows and make sure
Healthy your entry doors are constructed of solid materials. Outdoor lighting kept on at Man night discourages intruders from approaching your home. When you are away from home, ask a neighbor to pick up your newspapers and mail, and put a timer on some indoor lights to simulate a lived-in appearance. Join or organize a neighborhood watch group so you and your neighbors can look out for each other's property.
When you are out early in the morning or late at night, stay alert for potential threats. Always keep your wallet inside your coat pocket or front pants pocket, not in your back pocket. Keep your car in good running order, and never pick up hitchhikers. If someone does try to rob you, give up your wallet; it's less important than your life. Be sure to report the crime to the police.
You can easily incorporate such protective measures into your daily routine to make your life more safety-conscious. This section of the book looks at the causes of accidental injury and suggests practical safety measures you can take to prevent injury to yourself and others in your home and community.
The motor-vehicle death rate has been declining in recent years, but motor vehicle collisions still cause more than 40,000 deaths in the United States each year and account for $200 billion in annual economic losses. Take responsibility for your own safety and that of your family when driving a car, sport utility vehicle, van, or motorcycle by following these safe-driving tips each and every time you drive:
• Always wear a seat belt, and position it correctly. Wear the lap belt snugly and place it low across your hips, never across your stomach or abdomen. Position the shoulder belt across your chest and collarbone. Don't wear the shoulder belt under your arm; it could break your ribs or cause internal injuries in a collision.
• Always place a child weighing fewer than 40 pounds in a properly installed child safety seat. Place the seat in the middle of the backseat. Infants under 20 pounds must ride in a safety seat that faces the rear of the car; they should also ride in the backseat.
• Keep your gas tank full and your car in good running condition. Keep the windows, lights, and mirrors clean and free of ice.
• Stay within the speed limit. Drive slower in bad weather or under unsafe road conditions.
• Drive defensively. Stay far enough behind the car in front of you to be able to stop safely, and stay even farther behind a reckless or erratic driver.
• In bad weather, find out the current road conditions and weather forecast before you leave. Leave early to allow extra time to reach your destination.
Keep an emergency driving kit in your car. Some things to include in the kit are jumper cables, reflectors or road flares, jack, lug wrench, adjustable wrench, insulated pliers, insulated screwdrivers, all-purpose wire, duct tape, spare light fuses, spare fan belt, pocketknife, quart of oil, gallon of water, blanket, shovel, bag of sand, and first-aid kit. And make sure your spare tire is in good condition.
Watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists, especially children and the elderly. Remember that pedestrians have the right of way at a crosswalk with no traffic control signal.
Never drink alcohol and drive. Alcohol affects your judgment and timing. Always appoint a nondrinking designated driver if you know you will be drinking.
In rural areas, be alert for lowered speed limits when approaching towns or curves.
Comply with no-passing zones. Look out for slowly moving farm machinery, as well as livestock and wildlife.
Be extra cautious at railroad crossings. Never drive around lowered gates or flashing lights. Don't drive onto a railroad crossing unless you are sure you can clear the tracks. If your vehicle stalls on a track, get everyone out of the car immediately.
Don't stay in the blind spots of large commercial trucks and buses. Large vehicles have long blind spots on each side of and directly behind them. If you cannot see one of the vehicle's sideview mirrors, the driver cannot see you. Take special precautions when driving a motorcycle. Always wear a helmet and bright clothing or reflective material so you can be seen clearly.
Safety and Your Health
To protect yourself from violent crime, you need to develop a basic street sense that can guide you away from questionable or dangerous places. But dark alleys and wooded areas are not the only places where you are at risk. Violence can occur in broad daylight on the street, at the office, or while waiting for the train or subway. Intruders also can enter your home if it is not securely protected. No matter where you are, stay alert and aware of your surroundings to forestall the possibility of encountering a violent act. Here are some tips for protecting yourself from personal violence:
• Become familiar with the neighborhoods in which you live and work. Find out where the police and fire stations and hospitals are and which stores and restaurants stay open late in case you need to run in for protection.
• Stay on well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through parking lots, alleys, or other deserted areas.
• Don't carry or openly flaunt large amounts of cash. Refrain from wearing expensive clothing or jewelry.
Use automated teller machines only in the daytime. If you must use one at night, do so under well-lit conditions on a busy street. Make your neighborhood safer. Help to clean up vacant lots and report such problems as broken streetlights and abandoned cars.
Keep your own property clean. Trim your bushes so intruders have nowhere to hide. Add outdoor lighting. Secure windows and doors and keep a list of your valuables, or photograph or videotape them.
Ask for identification before admitting meter readers or other public utility workers into your home.
Make your home look occupied when you are away. Install timers on lights and have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers. Don't carry a weapon or keep a gun in your home (see page 39). Guns cause accidental deaths in the home more often than they are used to defend family or property. If you own a gun, store it properly, unloaded, locked with a safety lock, with the ammunition kept in a separate place.
In only a fraction of a second, you could unexpectedly lose your balance and fall on a sidewalk or down a flight of stairs. Each year many Americans become injured after a fall in and around their own homes. Falls can happen to anyone, but they are the primary cause of injury in people over age 65, and the risk of falling increases as you get older. The most common injuries resulting from a fall are head injuries, wrist fractures, spinal fractures, and hip fractures. In fact, about 90 percent of all hip fractures occur as the result of a fall. Many of these injuries could have been prevented by taking simple precautions in the home, where most falls occur. It is prudent to make a room-by-room check of your own home to eliminate any potential safety hazards:
Bathroom Keep a night-light on during the night, or replace the light switch with a "glow switch." Use rugs and bath mats with nonskid backings, and place textured strips or a nonskid mat in the tub or the shower. Leave the bathroom door unlocked when you are inside so someone else can open it if you fall. Consider installing handrails in the tub and near the toilet.
Kitchen Don't stand on chairs, boxes, or other makeshift items to reach objects on high shelves; buy a step stool with handrails. Store as much as you can at counter level. Improve lighting by opening curtains and installing under-cabinet lighting. Clean up spills promptly. Don't wax your floors because they may become too slippery, and avoid walking on wet floors.
Bedroom Keep clutter to a minimum. Don't throw soiled laundry on the floor; put it in a laundry basket. Remove loose throw rugs and make sure electrical and telephone cords are kept close to the wall. Don't buy an excessively high bed. Keep a night-light on during the night, or locate your bed close to a lamp or a light switch.
Living and Family Rooms Arrange your furniture so it provides an open pathway between rooms. Keep low tables and other small pieces of furniture out of the pathway. Ensure that electrical and telephone cords stay against the wall. Purchase rugs with nonskid backing, apply double-faced adhesive carpet tape to all rugs, or put rubber padding under them.
Stairways Use a high-wattage bulb in the stairway light fixture to see the steps clearly. Remove objects from the stairs. Install carpeting or nonskid treads on all stairways. Make sure handrails and supporting posts are sturdy and not loose.
Basement/Garage/Workshop Make sure lighting is adequate. Store power tools when not in use so you won't trip on the electrical cords. Keep clutter to a minimum, and store all boxes against the wall.
All Areas of the House or Apartment Avoid wearing only socks in the house, especially if you have polished wood floors you can slip on; put on shoes with nonskid soles, and tie up the laces. Keep a flashlight and extra batteries handy so you can see any tripping hazards if the electricity fails. Check all electrical and telephone cords to make sure they lie against the wall, not across the floor. Maintain good lighting. Use nonskid rugs and mats. Pick up toys, boxes, and other clutter regularly. Repair any crumbling concrete on outside stairs or sidewalks. In the winter, hire someone to shovel snow away from walkways and remove icy patches. Mark any outside steps that have unusually high or low risers with bright tape, or paint them a different color.
Regular, weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking and stair climbing, puts stress on the large muscles of your lower body and can help you avoid falls by increasing your strength, improving flexibility, and boosting your coordination and balance. Exercise also maintains bone strength so that, if you do fall, your chances of breaking a bone are reduced. In the event of a fall, try not to panic. Slide or crawl across the floor to the nearest chair and try to get up. If you cannot, call someone else to help you, or crawl to the telephone and dial 911 or your local emergency telephone number.
When your doctor prescribes a medication, he or she will give you instructions about how, when, and how often to take it. In addition to your doctor's orders, there are a number of other rules you should follow when taking and storing your medications to make sure you use them safely. If you are taking more than one
38 medication, write down all of the medications your doctor has prescribed, the
The number of times a day you need to take them, and the times of day, such as with
Healthy meals, or in the morning. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor or pharmacist about Man your medication, including any side effects it may cause or interactions it may have with other drugs you are taking. Be sure to tell your doctor if any prescribed drug makes you feel unusual or sick, and try to describe how it makes you feel as accurately as you can.
The following guidelines will help you manage your medications safely:
• Follow your doctor's orders. Take the exact dose at the exact time ordered. Follow the label instructions about how to take it—for example, with a meal. Don't drink alcohol if your doctor or pharmacist has told you it can interact with your medication or make it ineffective.
• Take only the prescription medicines that are prescribed for you. Never take someone else's prescription drug or give anyone else your own.
• Store medications in their original containers. Don't mix more than one drug in a container.
• Always read the label before you take any prescription drug, to minimize mistakes. If you need glasses to read, wear them when you take your medication so you can easily read the label.
• Tell your doctor about any over-the-counter drugs, vitamin and mineral supplements, or herbal medications you are taking. These medications can make your prescription drugs ineffective or cause dangerous side effects when taken with certain prescription drugs. Also tell your doctor about any allergies you might have, to help prevent an unexpected reaction to a medicine.
• Tell your doctor if you are taking medication prescribed by another healthcare provider, such as another doctor or a dentist.
• Discard expired medications or ones you no longer need to take. Flush them down the toilet so pets and children cannot get ahold of them.
• Consider that sunlight, temperature, and humidity may alter the effectiveness of your medications. The medicine cabinet or a kitchen cupboard may not be the best storage place. Store your medications in a cool, dry place.
• Keep all medications out of the reach of children. This warning also applies to over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. Iron pills are a serious poisoning hazard to children.
• If you miss your regular dose, check the patient information sheet that came with the medication to find out when to take the next dose. Don't assume you know; it is always better to ask. If the sheet does not have this information, call your doctor's office.
• Keep the phone number of your local poison-control center next to the telephone. Call the number in case you take an overdose or have questions about the effects of your medications.
• Ask the doctor if you need to modify your lifestyle. For example, is it safe to 39
drive or operate machinery? Safety and Your Health
A few simple precautions can prevent a fire from occurring in your home. Place new batteries in your smoke detectors once a year on a memorable date, such as your child's birthday or the date that the time changes from daylight savings time to standard time. Call your gas company if you smell gas or if the pilot light on your furnace goes out. Never smoke in bed. To gauge whether your home is fire-safe, use the following checklist:
Do you inspect electrical cords for signs of fraying and avoid □ □ placing cords under carpets?
Do you check to make sure your electrical outlets are not □ □ overloaded?
Do you keep any portable heater or space heater a safe dis- □ □ tance from draperies, bedding, furniture, and other flammable items?
Do you have a smoke alarm on each floor of your house? □ □
Do you check the batteries in your smoke alarms regularly? □ □
Do you keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen? □ □
If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, you are well on your way to a fire-safe home. If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you need to take additional steps to prevent fires in your home. Contact your local fire department for more information on fire safety.
Fifty percent of all homes in the United States contain a gun, but having a gun in your home is dangerous. A firearm is 40 times more likely to be used to harm or kill a family member than to stop a criminal act. Having a gun in your home raises the likelihood of suicide fivefold and the likelihood of homicide threefold in your family. If you keep a gun in your home for personal protection or are thinking of getting one, explore some other ways of protecting your home and family first. You can invest in an alarm system, reinforced bars on your windows, a guard dog, and motion-detecting outdoor lighting. All of these measures are far better for your personal safety than having a firearm in your home.
40 If you choose to own a firearm—whether for personal safety or a sport such as
The hunting—you can lessen the chances of injury or death by taking certain pre-
Healthy cautions. Store the gun unloaded, trigger-locked, and in a locked gun case, then Man place it in a locked cabinet or drawer. Lock up your ammunition in a separate box and keep it in a different location. Check your gun and ammunition periodically to make sure they remain securely stored. Make the key available only to other trusted adults.
Learn how to use your weapon properly, and have every adult in your family take a training course in firearms safety from a certified instructor. Teach your children never to touch a gun, and tell them what to do if they find a gun anywhere: don't touch it, and tell a trusted adult right away. Also tell your children that if they are visitors in someone's home and are not sure if a gun is real or a toy, they should treat it as a real gun. Responsible gun ownership can reduce the risks inherent in having a firearm in the home and make your home a safer place to live.
Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits can help you maintain or reduce your weight, be more productive at work, and perform better in sports—as we have seen in part one, "The Healthy Man." But the most important benefit of a nutritious diet is that it can dramatically reduce your risk of getting the most common chronic diseases affecting American men, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.
Diet has a profound role in preventive medicine and a direct effect on the development of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. To lower your risk of heart disease, doctors recommend consuming a diet with less than 30 percent of its total calories from fat and less than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fat. You also need to watch your consumption of cholesterol, consuming no more than an average of 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. On the other hand, foods containing high amounts of soluble fiber, such as oat bran and whole barley, can actually lower your blood levels of LDL cholesterol (see page 89), the "bad" cholesterol, without reducing the levels of HDL cholesterol (see page 89), the "good" cholesterol. Sodium, as found in table salt, may raise blood pressure in certain people, but the individual response to a low-salt diet varies. You should check with your doctor to see if you have this type of salt sensitivity.
Reducing your intake of fatty foods is important in preventing heart disease, but eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables also is heart-healthy. Vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidant vitamins (see page 9) and other nutrients that help protect your body from disease. One antioxidant in particular, vitamin E, has been singled out for its benefits to the heart. Vitamin E seems to prevent free-radical damage (see page 9) to LDL cholesterol, a process that has been implicated in the fatty buildup known as atherosclerosis on the walls of the arteries
44 that supply blood to the heart. Be cautious when considering taking high doses
Staying of vitamin E, however, because it is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it can
Healthy be stored in your body's cells, leading to a potentially dangerous accumulation over time. Doctors agree that the best way to get your vitamin E—and any other vitamin or mineral—is by consuming a variety of foods as part of a balanced, nutritious diet.
Being overweight is a major health problem for many American men. Maintaining your weight within a healthful range (see page 68) is an important way to lower your risk of developing diabetes, because obesity is a major contributor to this disease. If you already have diabetes, the proper diet can help you regulate your blood sugar level. For example, soluble fiber (see page 11) has been shown to slow down the digestion of starches, thus helping people with diabetes to avoid the elevation in blood sugar level that often occurs after meals. But you need to work with your doctor to plan an individualized diet that works best for you because some people with diabetes have better results on a diet that is a bit higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates than the diet recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (see page 6).
Medical research shows that eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, as recommended in the Food Guide Pyramid (see page 5), can actually help to prevent the development of cancers of the stomach, prostate, and lung. Cancer of the colon in particular has a strong link to dietary factors. A high consumption of fiber-rich foods, such as whole-grain breads and dried beans, combined with a limited consumption of meat (especially high-fat meats), has a strong protective effect against this form of cancer. A high-fat diet also has been implicated in the development of rectal and prostate cancer.
Moderate alcohol consumption (two drinks per day or less) has been linked to a reduction in death from heart disease, but this does not mean that doctors advise that you drink alcohol to reduce your risk of the disease. Alcohol has too many negative effects on health—the potential for addiction, liver damage and disease, an increase in the likelihood of injury or death from accidents—to be recommended as a preventive measure. The best advice is, if you don't drink alcohol, don't start drinking now. If you do choose to consume alcoholic beverages, do so only in moderation, defined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as two drinks a day or less for men.
Don't underestimate the health benefits of a nutritious breakfast (see page 7). The first meal of the day not only provides the nutrients and energy that your body needs to move and think but also makes you less hungry later in the day. Men who don't eat breakfast tend to eat more at lunch and dinner, resulting in an overall increase in calorie intake when compared with breakfast eaters. If you are pressed for time, breakfast need not be elaborate; a bagel and piece of fruit, a bowl of cereal, or last night's leftovers can be enough to fuel your body adequately as you begin your day.
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Make a plan If you want to lose weight, you need to make a plan for it. Planning involves setting your goals both short term and long term ones. With proper planning, you would be able to have an effective guide on the steps that you want to take, towards losing pounds of weight. Aside from that, it would also keep you motivated.