Common Health Risks for Men

Old man and doctor

Doctor is listening to the heartbeat of a handsome old man using a stethoscope

The average life expectancy of a man born in the United States in 2016 is 79 years and 8 months. The life expectancy for a man has increased dramatically in the past 50 years. Living long is important; however, living a quality life is equally important. The ability to enjoy life to its fullest requires investing time and effort into health maintenance and disease prevention. A man who was 65 years old in 2018 could expect to live to age 84, and a 75-year-old could expect 11 more years of life according to Medicinenet.com.

Generally, more males die at the hands of life’s most common diseases, more men experience accidents, more men take their own life and more men suffer from lifestyle-related health conditions than women. Yet men are less frequent visitors to general practitioners and are far less likely to take action when “not feeling themselves”. The reality is that many of the diseases that commonly affect men are preventable and treatable – you just have to be proactive in caring for yourself.

From infancy to old age, women are simply healthier than men. Out of the 15 leading causes of death, men lead women in all of them except Alzheimer’s disease, which many men don’t live long enough to develop. Although the gender gap is closing, men still die five years earlier than their wives, on average.

Below are the most common health threats men experience to look out for.

Prostate problems
The prostate is a unique male organ. It is located beneath the bladder and connects it to the penis. Its function is to produce part of the seminal fluid that is alkaline, which helps lengthen the life span of semen when it enters the vagina. The prostate also has involuntary muscles that contract to help expel semen during ejaculation.

A common condition in men that is part of the normal aging process is benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH or enlarged prostate). Man with an enlarged prostate (BPH) often has difficulty emptying the bladder because the urethra is being compressed by prostatic tissue.

Symptoms of BPH include:

  • Urinary frequency (urinating more often)
  • Urinary urgency(the feeling that he has to empty the bladder urgently or risk wetting himself)
  • Urinary hesitancy (difficulty starting the urine stream)
  • Urinary straining (requiring more pressure or bearing down to empty the bladder)
  • Poor urine stream and dribbling


Erectile dysfunction

sexual health and function are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. The ability to participate in sexual intercourse depends upon the brain, hormones, nerves, and blood vessels that supply the penis. A variety of mechanisms and feedback loops need to work for an erection to occur.

There are numerous causes of erectile dysfunctionimpotence including:

Impotence
Is also a complication of prostate cancer treatment, which can include surgery and radiation.

Smoking is an independent risk factor for developing impotence.

Treatment of erectile dysfunction depends upon the cause but may include medications (for example, tadalafil[cialis], sildenafil [viagra], and vardenafil [levitra, staxyn], testosterone replacement therapy and, for some men, prosthetic devices surgically inserted into the  penis.
Heart disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of men in the United States. Man’s worst enemy is heart disease, otherwise known as cardiovascular disease (CVD). Heart disease and stroke are the first and second leading causes of death worldwide, in both men and women. It’s a huge public health problem, however it can be prevented.
Certain risk factors make a man’s likelihood of developing heart disease significantly higher.

These factors can also increase the chance that an existing disease will get worse including:

  • High blood pressure;
  • High blood cholesterol;
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes;
  • Smoking;
  • Being overweight or obese;
  • Being physically inactive;
  • Having a family history of heart disease;
  • Unhealthy diet;
  • Stress; &
  • Age

Some risk factors, such as age and family history can’t be changed, but others can be altered with a few simple lifestyle changes. No matter what your age, making smart choices now will pay off later in life.

Smart choices include:

  • Choosing a healthy eating plan that includes lots of fruits and vegetables;
  • Staying physically active;
  • Quitting or not smoking;
  • Establishing a healthy relationship with your GP to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar and body mass index;
  • Knowing your family history;
  • Learning stress-management techniques;
  • Watching your weight;
  • Limiting alcohol.

It is also important to learn the warning signs of poor cardiovascular health, such as:

  • Difficulty catching breath/shortness of breath;
  • A sense of discomfort in the chest that lasts for more than 30 minutes;
  • Unexplained pain in your upper torso, neck or jaw;
  • A heartbeat that’s faster or slower than normal or irregular;
  • Dizziness or fainting;
  • Swelling, tingling, numbness, coldness and weakness;
  • Extreme fatigue;
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or trouble comprehending what is said;
  • Imbalance or loss of coordination;
  • Changes in vision; and
  • Intense headaches.

Angina or chest pain

The coronary arteries are at risk for narrowing as cholesterol deposits, called plaques, build up inside the artery. If the arteries narrow enough, blood supply to the heart muscle may be compromised (slowed down), and this slowing of blood flow to the heart causes pain, or angina.
Angina symptoms include:

Lung Cancers

Lung cancer is the number one killer among cancers in men, and most are preventable. Smoking causes 90% of all lung cancers and while the number of smokers in the united states has decreased in the past generation, 13% of young adults age 18-24 smoke and will be the future victims of lung cancer. It is harder to stop smoking than it is to stop many other addictions; Nicotine in tobacco is a very addictive drug. Tobacco in its various forms including smokeless or Chewing Tobacco is related to a variety of other cancers including Cancer of the mouth, throat, and larynx.
Colon and rectal cancer

Colon and rectal cancers tie with prostate cancer as the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men. There are few symptoms in the early stages of colon and rectal cancers, thus the diagnosis is often made by routinely screening the stool for occult blood (blood that is not visible to the naked eye but can be found by testing the stool sample) and undergoing a routine screening colonoscopyColon cancer can be nearly completely preventable with timely colonoscopy screenings.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer accounts for 5.6 per 100,000 men in the U.S., but usually occurs in younger men (ages 15 to 39). Men can help detect this disease by doing a testicular exam routinely and reporting any testicle abnormalities or symptoms (lumps, swelling, pain) to their health care practitioner.

Living a healthy lifestyle decreases the potential risk of developing cancer. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and avoiding toxins in the environment (including smoking and secondhand smoke) are positive lifestyle changes that the average person can control during their lifetime.

 Injuries

Accidents happen and the key to minimizing the risk of death is to use common sense and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis are the two types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd) and both are most commonly caused by smoking. Due to the toxins in smoke, the lung tissue is damaged and loses its ability to transfer oxygen from the inhaled air into the blood stream. Symptoms of copd include shortness of breath and wheezingCOPD increases the risk of lung infection including pneumonia.
Diabetes

The pancreas makes insulin to help cells use glucose for energy. Diabetes describes the situation where insulin function in the body is abnormal. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in people younger than 40 where the body’s immune system destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas.

90 to 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Poorly controlled diabetes increases blood sugar levels in the bloodstream and in the long-term, affects the small blood vessels in the body, which can lead to multi-organ failure, it can also cause vascular disease leading to heart attacks, strokes, limb amputations, kidney failureblindness, and nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy).

Symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Prevention

Your risk for type-2 diabetes and heart disease depend on factors that can be managed (modifiable risk factors) and others that are genetic (non-modifiable risk factors). Understanding and managing your risk factors can help you avoid diabetes and heart disease and live a longer, better life.

Modifiable risk factors:

  • Overweight and obesity
  • High blood glucose
  • High blood pressure
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking

Non-modifiable risk factors:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Family history

Influenza and pneumonia

A healthy lifestyle and healthy body makes for a strong immune system that can fight common infections like influenza (flu). It is important to follow public health recommendations for routine immunizations to reduce the risk of contracting the flu, and its complications such as pneumonia. However, pneumonia is not limited to just viral causes. Bacterial pneumonia is ranked with influenza as one of the major causes of death in men by many researchers. Fortunately, a pneumococcal vaccine has proven effective in preventing one of the most common bacterial causes of pneumonia, streptococcus pneumoniae.

The CDC states the flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:

  • Fever (usually high)
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea also can occur, but are more common in children than adults

 The following suggestions can help prevent pneumonia:

  • Get vaccinated. Because pneumonia can be a complication of the flu, getting a yearly flu shot is a good way to prevent viral influenza pneumonia, which can lead to bacterial pneumonia. In addition, get a vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia at least once after age 55 and, if you have any risk factors, every five years thereafter.
  • Wash your hands
  • Don’t smoke
  • Take care of yourself. Proper rest and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, along with moderate exercise, can help keep your immune system strong.
  • Protect others from infection. If you have pneumonia, try to stay away from anyone with a compromised immune system. When that isn’t possible, you can help protect others by wearing a face mask or always coughing into a tissue.


Depression & Suicide

Thoughts of self harm are not normal. They should not be ignored by a man, family, or friends, and should be considered an emergency situation. Depression can become overwhelming and potentially life-threatening. Men with depression may be able to function reasonably well on a day to day basis and may be reluctant to seek help. It may take a crisis situation to finally get a man to agree to get medical, psychological, and counseling assistance.

Symptoms of depression may be subtle and arise slowly.

This can include:

  • difficulty concentratingor completing projects
  • lack of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Change in appetite (some people stop eating while others overeat)
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Excessive sadness or feelings of emptiness
  • Thoughts of suicideor self harm

Prevention

Don’t expect to overcome depression by yourself.  It is a disease, not something that you will just “get over.”  If you are depressed, talk to your doctor.  In an urgent situation, go to an emergency room or crisis center for help.  Also, take advice from friends and family members if they are encouraging you to seek help.

  • Take Care of Yourself – Exercise, eat well and get plenty of sleep.
  • Meditate – It has been shown to lower blood pressure and relieve tension.
  • Socialize – It creates a support network.
  • Prioritize – Save the least important things for later.
  • Know Your Limits – Sometimes it isn’t bad to just walk away.
  • Don’t Self-Mediate – Don’t turn to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.


Kidney disease

The kidneys filter impurities from the blood and dispose of them in the urine. They are also important in maintaining electrolyte balance in the blood. Even in healthy people, aging gradually decreases the efficiency of kidney function. Kidney failure is often a result of years of poorly controlled high blood pressure and diabetes.

According to lifeoptions, symptoms to look for include:

  • Changes in urination
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face and/or hands
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rash or sever itching
  • Metallic taste in mouth or bad breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling cold all of the time, even in a warm room
  • Dizziness and trouble concentrating
  • Pain in the leg, back or side

The cdc notes that many people do not know they have kidney disease because there may be no symptoms until the kidneys have nearly failed.  The only way to find out if you have kidney disease is to have a urine or blood test.

Prevention 

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain your proper weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get checked regularly for diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Limit your use of over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Take all medications only as directed


Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease describes a gradual loss of cognition and intellectual ability including language, attention, memory, and problem solving is an otherwise healthy person.

Symptoms/warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease may include the following:

  • Memory loss or unexplained confusion that interferes with daily activities
  • Difficulty in performing familiar tasks and chores
  • Problems speaking, understanding, reading or writing
  • Forgetting words or substituting inappropriate words
  • Disorientation to time and place (e.g., getting lost in familiar surroundings)
  • Poor or decreased judgment (e.g., wearing a winter coat on a hot summer day)
  • Problems with abstract thinking (e.g., difficulty balancing a checkbook)
  • Misplacing things in inappropriate places (e.g., putting the iron in the freezer)
  • Changes in mood or behavior (e.g., rapid mood swings for no apparent reason or cursing)
  • Drastic changes in personality (e.g., suspiciousness)
  • Lack of interest and involvement in usual activities

Prevention

There is no proven way to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  However, they suggest improving your cardiovascular function may help.  Suggested steps are:

  • Losing weight if you are overweight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Controlling your blood pressure
  • Keeping your cholesterol levels in normal range

Physical and mental fitness may help prevent dementia; keeping socially active may also help. Recurrent head injuries are associated with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not direct causes of death, but they make it more difficult to identify and treat complications that can lead to death.


HIV and AIDS

Men who are infected with HIV may not realize it, as initial symptoms may mimic a cold or flu. As of 2010, men account for 76 percent of people infected with HIV, according to the cdctrusted source. The cdctrusted source goes on to state that men who have sex with men account for most new and existing HIV infections. African-american men have the highest rate of new HIV infection among all men.
Having all of these common health problems identified, it is safe to conclude that men in general are more at risk to get ill than women. Therefore, even if you are feeling healthy, a trip to the doctor’s office and a little health planning is always warranted.

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