Many people will tell you that they don’t enjoy going to the doctor, and men are even more likely to avoid it. Research has shown that men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited their doctor in the last year. Why? Some have suggested that men are focused on self-reliance and resilience, and they don’t like the idea of asking for help. But when you’re not under the routine care of a physician, chronic health conditions can worsen and have a negative impact on your overall health – even leading to higher risk of hospitalization and death.
In honor of Men’s Health Month, here’s information about some of the top health conditions men face and things you can do to decrease your risk.
The statistics are alarming – every year 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, a condition that’s causes by too much sugar in the blood. We know that obesity is directly related to diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases, and recent research has shown that more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. When left untreated or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to serious health problems including blindness, kidney failure and amputations because of poor circulation. It’s also the seventh leading cause of death in the US.
To combat diabetes, getting and staying at a healthy weight is the critical first step to fighting or even reversing the disease. That means increasing the amount of time you exercise each week and cutting back on sugary treats and high-fat or processed foods. The American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week or a total of 150 minutes per week. This includes biking, brisk walking, playing tennis, climbing stairs, running or jogging, dancing and more! Click here for more details on how you can meet that 150-minute benchmark!
Heart Disease & Stroke
Many of the risk factors for diabetes are also tied to heart disease and stroke. Men who are overweight often have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels – leading risk factors for heart attack or stroke. According to the American Heart Association, 22 pounds of excess weight translates to an average 24% increase in stroke risk because of the boost in the top and bottom blood pressure numbers.
What’s the best place to start on your path to a healthy heart? Eat a balanced diet that includes high-fiber foods (like fruits, beans, vegetables, nuts and whole grains), reduce sugared drinks and pre-packaged food choices, and add fish to your menu twice a week. Just like for diabetes, it’s important to get regular aerobic exercise. Working long hours, busy schedules and not eating at home are the reasons many people cite as the source of weight gain. To get back on the right track, start with setting specific short- and long-term goals for healthy eating and exercise. Check out these strategies from the Mayo Clinic to help you prevent the condition.
Prostate CancerProstate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in men and the second most common cause of cancer death. Approximately 180,000 men are diagnosed each year with prostate cancer and approximately 27,000 men die of the disease. Because symptoms of prostate cancer generally appear in the more advanced stages, it’s critical that men check in routinely with their doctor for PSA test and a physical exam. When should you get started with screening?
*At age 50 for men who are at average risk
*At age 45 for men at high risk, including African Americans and men who have a father, brother, or son who was diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65.
*At age 40 for men at highest risk – with more than one first-degree relative with an early prostate cancer diagnosis
Learn more from the American Cancer Society’s Prostate Cancer Screening Guidelines.
Erectile DysfunctionIf you have erectile dysfunction (ED), more than your sex life is at risk! Occasionally having trouble getting or keeping an erection is common and generally not a cause for concern. But if it’s happening with more frequency, it may signal something more serious. Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of other underlying health issues – like heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, among others.
One thing you may not realize that’s having a big, bad effect on your sexual performance? Smoking. That’s right, if you smoke your risk of ED is nearly two times that of men who don’t. Smoking makes getting and keeping an erection more difficult, and quitting is considered one of the simplest ways you can improve your overall cardiovascular health. Learn more about symptoms and causes of ED here.
Lung CancerDid you know that lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined? The risks are high – the American Cancer Society estimates that about 224,390 Americans will be diagnosed with new cases of lung cancer this year. Even more alarming are the death statistics—another nearly 158,000 lung cancer deaths are expected. Finding lung cancer early is the goal – when treatment is most effective. That’s why scheduling regular checkups with your physician is critical. If you’re a current or former smoker, ages 55-77 and have smoked for 30 years (one pack a day or more), or if you’ve quit within the last 15 years, you may be appropriate for a low-dose lung CT screening for lung cancer.
We also know that tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet more than 45 million Americans still smoke cigarettes. As of 2013, there were also 12.4 million cigar smokers in the US, 8.8 million smokeless tobacco users, and 2.3 million who smoke tobacco in pipes. If you’re still smoking, today is the perfect day to quit! For more information and tools you can use to help you kick this habit once and for all, visit WebMD’s Smoking Cessation Center or the American Cancer Society for tips on fighting cravings.
If you're experiencing some of these symptoms or haven't seen your physician recently to keep up with routine screenings, don't wait! Make an appointment with your health provider today. And here's to a long, happy and healthy life!