There is no denying that the roles and differences between men and women have shrunk over the decades. But when it comes to health, the differences and risks become glaringly obvious. Out of the 15 leading causes of death, men lead women in all of them, and a man’s life expectancy is five years less than a woman’s. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent these health issues-just by making some simple changes to your lifestyle.
Common Issues in Men’s Health
Men’s health is a growing concern, and unfortunately, from the moment of birth, men’s health begins to decline, causing their life spans to be considerably shorter than women’s. According to the Men’s Health Network (MHN), men die at higher rates than women in all top ten causes of death. Luckily, by making some easy lifestyle changes, men can help prevent the top threats of poor health, like heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
1) Heart Disease
Most people know heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, but did you know that twice as many men die from cardiovascular disease? According to the American Heart Association, one in three men have some type of heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease, or atherosclerosis, occurs when cholesterol plaques gradually block passage in the arteries of the heart and brain. While it is a global health issue, it is especially an issue for men in the United States. There are many contributing factors when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Age, poor dietary habits, stress, smoking, family history, obesity, and high blood pressure are just a few factors which can play a part in heart health.
There are many ways to help combat heart disease, and it all comes down to lifestyle choices and changes.
- • Stop smoking. Nicotine is known to constrict blood vessels, and the carbon monoxide that is inhaled can damage their inner lining, making atherosclerosis more probable.
- • Eat better. Cut out those meals that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
- • Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure can result in thickening and hardening of the arteries, narrowing blood vessels and slowing blood flow.
- • Get moving. Research has found that a lack of exercise is associated with heart disease. Try taking the stairs, going on a nightly walk, or joining a gym to get those heart rates up.
- • Stress less. Stress has a significant effect on the body, and is known to damage arteries, and worsen other risk factors involved.
Strokes are another killer where men seem to have higher incidences of occurrence, and are 1.25 times likely to experience a stroke. Like heart disease, we find a list of risk factors that can be overcome with some simple lifestyle changes. Hypertension is a critical factor when it comes to strokes. Other risks are smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol and substance abuse, and family history.
Many of the suggestions to prevent strokes fall in line with heart disease prevention. By maintaining a healthy diet, getting active, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol and drug intake, the risk of hypertension diminishes, as well as your chance for stroke.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in men. There are numerous cancers that men need to be aware of and get screened for yearly. Prostate, lung, colon, and skin cancer are just a few which lead the high number of deaths among men each year.
Prostate and skin cancer are the most prevalent among men. It is said that close to 200,000 men will develop prostate cancer this year. While it is unknown what exactly causes prostate cancer, it is treatable in its earliest stages. Prostate cancer, according to Djenaba Joseph, M.D., Cancer Prevention Officer for the CDC, is slow growing, and screening for prostate cancer should be done yearly for early detection and treatment.
Men over the age of 50 are at highest risk for skin cancer, and more than twice as likely to develop it than women, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. This higher risk may be attributed to more frequent sun exposure, or that men visit the doctor less often than women for checkups. Make sure to wear sunscreen while outside and get any moles or strange bumps checked out.
It might surprise you, but men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, according to the Men’s Health Network, and undiagnosed depression is often the culprit. Dr. William Pollack, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School stated, “Men are more prone to suicide because they’re less likely to openly show depression.” The National Institute of Mental Health believes there to be more than 6 million men who are currently experiencing depression, but that number could be higher.
Men tend to have different signs of depression than women. Instead of feeling sad and crying on the couch, men might display their depression through anger, aggression, midlife crisis, alcohol abuse, or other high-risk behaviors. Men are less likely to acknowledge their depression and are less likely to seek help.
Studies have shown that while women attempt suicide more often than men, men are more likely to die from suicide. To help men combat depression and suicide, it is vital for those closest to them to pay attention to behaviors and offer help and support. Let them know it is OK to have these feelings and let them know there is help available. There are many doctors and counselors available who specialize in men’s mental health.
According to the CDC, unintentional injuries were the third leading cause of death for men in 2009, right behind heart disease and cancer, accounting for 6.2% of deaths for men, and only 3.5% in women. Some of these unintentional deaths come from motor vehicle crashes, falls, burns/fires, and drowning.
According to studies, one’s lifestyle, job, behavioral risks, as well as masculine socialization merit consideration to unintentional deaths and injuries. Male excess plays a large role in these injuries. It is important to stay alert and when performing jobs or tasks. More accidents happen when drowsy or unaware. When playing sports, make sure to spend time learning the correct form and movements, and warm up accordingly. Men should know their limits in each situation in order to prevent unwanted injuries. It is also imperative to stay healthy and active and eat well in order to prevent injuries from happening. When driving, stay focused on the road, and keep your cool when dealing with other, less thoughtful motorists.
No Health Monitoring
One of the main issues why men are more prone to these deadly diseases and issues is because men do not see a doctor as regularly as women do. “Men put their health last. Most men’s thinking is, if they can live up to their roles in society, then they’re healthy.” says Demetrius Porche, DNS, RN, editor of the American Journal of Men’s Health. It is shown that women are more than 33% likely to visit a doctor for regular checkups than a man is.
These yearly screenings could be the difference between life and death. Get in the habit of visiting your doctor each year. Board member of MHN, Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, says that “Any human being not connected to a physician to screen for major health problems is at greater risk (of disease and death).” Don’t wait until there is something terribly wrong before you see a doctor. Many issues, like cancer and heart disease can be halted or reversed with early detection, and by regular heart pressure and cholesterol checks, you can help take control of your heart health.
Men’s health is a growing concern, but many of the issues plaguing men are easily preventable with a few lifestyle changes. By understanding the risks men face, and becoming proactive in your health, you can halt these staggering statistics from happening to you.
- Start by getting that checkup you’ve put off for so long.
- Work in 20-30 minutes of exercise each day.
- Eat a healthier diet by adding in additional fruits and vegetables to your meals.
- Learn to meditate or find other ways to help lower stress.
- Continue getting regular health screenings to reduce your risks of heart disease, stroke, depression, and to stay healthy and have a longer life.