June is National Men’s Health Month, and although men’s health has its own honorary month, guys are still falling behind when it comes to taking care of their bodies and minds.
A recent survey conducted by the Cleveland Clinic showed discouraging facts about men and their health. They surveyed more than 500 men ages 18 to 70 across the United States and discovered a little more than 40% only go to the doctor when they think they have something serious.
What’s more, only three in five men said they get annual physicals, even though the majority reported that annual checkups were important.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has backed up these findings with statistics that showed women go to the doctor 33% more than men and are 100% better at regularly scheduling preventive health screenings.
Men and women are different in so many ways, and men’s health needs are certainly unique. For instance, men are more prone to certain conditions such as colorectal cancer and heart attacks, and also face the possibility of testicular and prostate health issues.
While June is Men’s Health Month, it’s also a time for men to get serious about putting aside machismo to remain healthy.
Common Health Problems in Men
A man’s No. 1 nemesis is heart disease. In fact, heart disease and stroke are the top two leading causes of death worldwide for both men and women. However, men can be at a higher risk.
The American Heart Association states that men have a greater risk of heart attack than women and are more likely to have attacks earlier in life. According to the CDC, 321,000 men died due to heart disease in 2013—representing 1 in every 4 male deaths. Certain risk factors make a man’s likelihood of developing heart disease significantly higher, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, pre-diabetes and diabetes, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, stress, and a family history of heart disease.
By nature of biology, men are also at risk for prostate cancer, which was the second most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men behind lung cancer in 2018. Other cancers most commonly diagnosed in men include colorectal, stomach, liver, and bladder cancer.
Diabetes remains a problem for Americans overall, but due to the risk factors associated with heart disease, diabetes is another top health concern for men. Men can also suffer from higher rates of depression. The CDC reported that males take their own lives at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 77.9% of all U.S. suicides.
Prevention Is Key
The news about men’s health may seem dire, but the good news is that with education and regular checkups, many health issues can be prevented or treated. The key, however, is not being afraid to seek medical advice. Giving up dangerous habits such as tobacco use, excess alcohol consumption, risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, and a sedentary lifestyle are also important for optimal health.
Annual physicals and screenings are the easiest and most important way men can keep on top of their well-being. We’ve listed the most important exams and screenings that men should have on a routine basis below:
- Prostate exam – The American Cancer Society recommends men should have annual prostate exams starting at the following ages:
- Age 50 for the average-risk male
- Age 45 for high-risk men and African Americans
- Age 40 for men with a family history of prostate cancer
- High blood pressure screenings – Systolic and diastolic pressure should be checked regularly to prevent prehypertension or high blood pressure, which are leading causes of stroke and heart issues.
- Testicular cancer exam – The American Cancer Society recommends that all men have a testicular exam when they see a doctor for a routine physical.
- Colorectal exams – The American Cancer Society recommend that men of average risk begin receiving colorectal exams at age 45, but those with a family history should begin screenings earlier.
- Skin cancer screenings – Men are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with non-melanoma basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers than women, and older men are more likely than women of the same age to develop deadly melanoma skin cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone should either receive routine skin checks from their physician or perform self-checks at home on a regular basis.
- Cholesterol test -– A fasting blood lipid panel is an annual test that checks the levels of cholesterol, the “bad” LDL cholesterol, the “good” HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Cholesterol tests should start at age 35 or at age 20 for those with higher risk factors.
- Diabetes test – Starting at age 45, healthy men should begin diabetes screenings every three years using a fasting blood sugar test, glucose tolerance test, or an A1C test.
- Glaucoma test – Eye tests for glaucoma are based on age and personal risk, but men under the age of 40 should be tested every two to four years. Men ages 40 to 64 should be tested every one to three years, while men over the age of 65 should be tested every six to 12 months.
Medications Men Take Most Often
With health concerns that are unique to men and their bodies, it’s no surprise they may be prescribed certain medications more than women.
As men age, their prostates can enlarge. This can have guys running to the bathroom frequently and causing inconvenience. Flomax and other alpha-blockers are common prescriptions men take that help prevent constant bathroom breaks.
Blood pressure medications such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, and alpha-blockers, among others, are also prescribed to help men combat heart disease and stroke risks.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor are another class of prescriptions that men commonly take. Because of the increased risk of heart disease and stroke, high cholesterol is a big concern for any guy who wants to keep going strong.
Erectile dysfunction medications are also frequently prescribed to men. From Viagra to Cialis, treatments for sexual dysfunction are used by millions of American men.
Both men and women are prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, but men should consult with their physicians to make sure they don’t interact with other medications.
Osteoporosis may be more common for women, but men also suffer from the disorder as they age. Common medications for osteoporosis include Boniva, Fosamax, and Reclast, to name a few.
No matter what pills you are taking, a pharmacist can answer your questions about prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.
Health as You Age
Men age differently than women but getting older doesn’t have to lead to illness. Cognitive training with daily puzzles or word games helps keep the brain active, and it’s never too late to start weight training to keep bones and muscles in good working order.
Men reaching the age of 50 should also eat a healthy diet to reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy can boost heart health and weight management.
Being not only physically active but also socially active is vital for emotional and cognitive well-being. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that men over the age of 50 showed improved brain function through regular exercise and strength training and through slower-movement activities like yoga and tai chi. Being social also helps prevent depression and loneliness, a concern for all people as they age or lose partners.
Sexually transmitted infections are a concern for all adults, so regular STI screenings are necessary. Even older men who may have lost a spouse should be tested as they re-enter the dating scene. In fact, according to the CDC, the rates of STIs and STDs in the elderly have increased in the past several years.
While it is still common for men to avoid the doctor until they become sick or have a serious health problem, there are steps men should take to improve their vitality and help prevent health problems down the road. Adopting healthy lifestyles, getting regular physicals and screenings, and not being afraid to talk to a doctor about any health concern can ensure men stay strong, hearty, and healthy.
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