Top 10 Health Risks for Men
It’s no secret that men are notorious for waiting out health issues until they become a bigger problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly a quarter of all men surveyed haven’t seen a doctor in a year or more.
A lack of awareness, weak health education, and unhealthy work and personal lifestyle choices have taken a toll on the well-being of men in the United States, and just like everyone else, men are not immune to poor health. Here are the top 10 health risks that affect men and how you can treat or even prevent them from happening.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, accounting for one in every four male deaths. Men also have a greater risk of heart attack than women do, and they have attacks earlier in life.
High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put men at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
- Overweight and obesity
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Your doctor can calculate your risk for cardiovascular disease by screening for any of these factors and working with you on a treatment plan.
According to the American Lung Association, more men are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men, behind prostate cancer, and ranks number one in the number of cancer deaths.
Many respiratory diseases can start with an innocent cough, but over time can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as lung cancer, emphysema or COPD, all of which can make it extremely hard to breathe.
Although there are environmental and work factors, cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer, and according to the CDC, men are more likely than women to smoke. Have a talk with your doctor about your smoking habits and discuss treatment options to help you quit. If you have smoked for more than 30 years, your doctor might also suggest a low-dose CT scan to help screen for lung cancer.
According to the CDC, men are more likely than women to drink excessively, with nearly a quarter of adult men engaging in binge drinking five times a month. Men are also twice as likely to binge drink than women.
As alcohol intake increases, so do the risk for short- and long-term risks to health and safety. Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon in men.
Depression and Suicide
While women are statistically more likely to have a serious mental illness (5 percent) than men (3.1 percent), the percentage of men (3.6 percent) with a co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorder was higher than that of females (3 percent).
And while suicide affects all ages and races, men are affected at a much greater rate than women. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 78 percent of deaths attributed to suicide in 2013 were males. According to the Education Development Center, 35- to 64-year-old men account for 19 percent of the U.S. population, but 40 percent of U.S. suicide deaths.
“We all experience feelings in different ways, but I think there are traditional and societal differences that affect how men interact or communicate about depression,” says Ross Teemant, senior director of Behavioral Health Outpatient Services for Texas Health Resources. “The age-old rules requiring males to be tough and strong and not cry sometimes make it difficult for men to talk about feelings and express the symptoms they are experiencing. This is especially true if the symptoms challenge their personal rules about being a man.”
Some ways to combat depression include:
- Getting regular exercise, even if it’s just a walk around your neighborhood
- Writing down your thoughts
- Speaking openly with friends and family
- Seeking professional help
Unintentional Injuries and Accidents
Unintentional injuries are the third leading cause of death in males in the United States, according to the CDC. These include car accidents, drowning, drug overdose, falls and fires.
According to the CDC, the death rate from unintentional injuries is more than twice as high for men than women. Male workers also incur more than 90 percent of the total reported fatal occupational injuries.
In many cases, accidental injury can be prevented. Here are just a few steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Don’t drive when you feel sleepy. Don’t drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Also, don’t accept a ride with an impaired driver.
- Wear your seat belt.
- Drive the speed limit, and obey traffic laws.
- Look for safety issues around your home, and fix or remove problems. Remove tripping hazards that can cause falls, such as cords or loose rugs.
- Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working.
- Use the handrail when walking up or down stairs.
- Use safety gear, like a helmet, during sports activities.
- Follow workplace safety guidelines and OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) standards.
- Learn to swim or wear the proper safety devices.
- Use care with ladders, power equipment, and chemicals.
You know that old pigskin you throw around every once in a while? Well, your liver is roughly the same size as a football, and it helps you digest food, absorb nutrients and rid your body of toxic substances.
Liver disease includes conditions such as:
- Viral hepatitis
- Autoimmune or genetic liver diseases
- Bile duct cancer
- Liver cancer
- Alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse is the most common cause of liver disease in the United States, followed by smoking, so cutting or eliminating your alcohol and tobacco use can greatly lower your risk.
Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in men according to the CDC. If left untreated it can lead to nerve and kidney damage, heart disease and stroke, and even vision problems. And men with diabetes face a risk of lower testosterone levels and sexual impotence, which can lead to depression or anxiety.
Thankfully, simple lifestyle habits can greatly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
- Eat a healthy diet. Aim for three to five servings of vegetables and two to three servings of fruit per day. Other items on the menu should include lean meats, non-fat dairy products and whole grains. Remember to pay close attention to portion control and enjoy desserts in moderation.
- Exercise. You don’t have to hit the gym every night, but you should get moving every day. “Regular exercise is one of the most effective tools to fight the onset of type 2 diabetes,” says Christina Holtz, D.O., family practice physician at Main Street Family Physicians in Frisco, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “Walking is a great option. It’s relatively low-impact and accessible to everyone.”
- Drink in moderation. Some studies suggest that drinking a limited amount of alcohol—two drinks per day for men and one drink for women—may help lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Go smoke-free. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers have a higher risk for developing diabetes—30 to 40 percent, to be specific.
- Keep weight in check. Talk with your doctor about the healthiest weight for you. Together, you can determine your healthiest body mass index (BMI) and ways to achieve it. Sticking with a healthy diet and regular exercise plan should help you meet your desired goal.
If you have a family history of diabetes, it is even more important to see your doctor to be periodically screened for diabetes.
Influenza and Pneumonia
Influenza and pneumonia round out the top 10 leading causes of death for men of all races in the United States. Men who have compromised immune systems due to conditions like COPD, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, AIDS, cancer or congestive heart failure are more susceptible to contracting the flu and pneumonia.
Since men are 25 percent more likely to die from the flu and pneumonia than women, it’s one more reason to get that flu shot!
It’s no secret Texans love to head outdoors, but too much fun in the sun and not enough protection can lead to skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, men accounted for nearly two-thirds of melanoma-related deaths in the U.S. in 2013, and almost 60 percent of those deaths occur in Caucasian men over 50 years of age.
For a full spectrum of sun protection, remember to always follow basic sun protection tips to keep your skin as smooth and healthy as possible:
- Apply sunscreen liberally and evenly on any area of skin that will be exposed to the sun.
- Seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats when you are spending long periods of time in the sun.
It’s also a good idea to scan the body once a month for any new or changed spots on the skin. If you see something unusual, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
HIV and AIDS
In 2010, the most recent year for which new HIV infection data are available, men accounted for 80% (38,000) of the estimated 47,500 new HIV infections, according to the CDC. The CDC estimates that one in 51 men will receive a diagnosis of HIV infection at some point in their lifetime.
Since most HIV infections in men are transmitted through sexual contact, it’s important to wear protection, and since other sexually transmitted infections greatly increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV, it’s important to be tested regularly, especially if you are having symptoms.
Take Charge of Your Health
It’s never too late to take control of your health. Many of the risks listed above are preventable through changing habits and becoming proactive about your health.
If you are looking for a doctor, Texas Health Resources offers an easy-to-use tool. Simply choose the specialty, type in your ZIP code and select a range. Once a list of physicians appears, you can click on a physician and access contact information, education background and a list of insurance plans the doctor accepts.