Men’s health involves a variety of gender-specific issues, like testosterone production, sexual health and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behavior. Many men avoid doctors and hospitals but suffer from preventable diseases and conditions. Unfortunately, there are also a number of supplements targeted toward men that may do more harm than good. Men can take control of their health by eating a healthy diet, making simple lifestyle adjustments and visiting the doctor regularly.
Facts About Men's Health
Many men do not make their health a high priority in their lives. The ailments that cause the most deaths and illnesses in men are either preventable or treatable. Unfortunately, men are usually less willing than women to visit doctors for checkups or preventative care, to seek treatment during the early stages of an ailment or to seek mental health advice. Men are also more likely to engage in risky behavior like drinking alcohol in excess, smoking tobacco and driving dangerously. Luckily, there are many easy steps that men can take to improve their health.
- Major risks to men’s health include heart disease, cancer, depression and the tendency to engage in risky behavior.
- Men are less likely than women to visit the doctor, resulting in more hospitalizations and deaths from preventable conditions.
- Harmful substances and the natural aging process are the top detriments to men’s sexual health.
- Regular checkups and health screenings can result in longer, healthier lives in most men.
- Living a healthy lifestyle can prevent and treat most problems associated with men’s health.
How Men Age
From infancy to old age, men’s bodies go through diverse changes. It’s important for men to be aware of the changes taking place in their bodies. Older men may require different things than younger men in order to maintain their health.
During adolescence, increasing testosterone levels often lead boys to develop an interest in sex and pursue more risky behaviors. Societal expectations may cause them to suppress emotions and develop a fear of communicating about changes in their lives. Some believe this may be why men are more likely than women to suffer unintentional harm or to die from homicide or suicide. Men are also more likely to die in an alcohol-related car accident.
Men's Health Risks over Time
Through their 20s and 30s, when men are in their physical prime, they mature and begin to stop engaging in risky behaviors. Still, men are more likely than women to abuse alcohol, smoke and die of accidental deaths.
During their 40s and 50s, men’s bodies produce testosterone at declining rates. They begin to lose muscle mass and become more prone to weight gain. Their risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes increases. On average, men develop heart disease about 10 years earlier than women, and 1 in 4 male deaths is caused by heart disease.
Men’s bodies never completely stop producing testosterone, but testosterone production may decrease with age. When men reach their 60s and 70s, they may begin to experience hair loss and enlarging prostates. In older age, men often become less active and need fewer calories. However, their bodies can’t absorb nutrients at the same rate so they must pay close attention to what they eat.
Checkups and Screenings
Historically, men avoid seeking healthcare until they have to. About 38 percent of men admit to only going to the doctor when they are extremely sick or when symptoms don’t go away on their own. In a survey from the American Academy of Family Physicians, 55 percent of men admitted that they had not seen a doctor for a physical exam within the previous year, although 40 percent of them had one or more chronic health conditions.
Unfortunately, doctors could prevent and treat many of the common health conditions in men with early diagnoses. If caught early, doctors can more effectively treat major conditions like heart disease and colon cancer.
Interestingly, men who are married are more likely to visit the doctor and seek preventative services than cohabitating men or other non-married men. Visiting the doctor regularly can help men catch potentially deadly diseases or conditions early.
- Colon Cancer
- Begin screening for colon cancer at the age of 50. Men with a family history of colon cancer should begin screening sooner.
- Men should talk to a doctor or therapist if they feel little pleasure doing things or if they experience prolonged sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, or excessive anger.
- Men should begin screening for diabetes if they have high blood pressure. All men should begin regular screening for diabetes around the age of 45, but screening may begin earlier in men who are overweight or have other risk factors for diabetes.
- High Blood Pressure
- Blood pressure should be screened at least every 2 years in men with normal blood pressure. Men with high blood pressure or risk factors for heart disease or stroke should be screened at least once per year.
- High Cholesterol
- Men who are 35 or older should have their cholesterol checked regularly. Men who have risk factors for heart disease should begin screening sooner.
- Men who are 65 or younger should be screened. Men older than 65 should talk to their doctor about being screened.
- Lung Cancer
- Men between the ages of 55 and 80 years old should begin screening for lung cancer if they have a significant history of smoking tobacco.
Common Diseases and Conditions
Men suffer from many of the same conditions that women suffer from, but the conditions affect the sexes differently.
Men are at a higher risk for high blood pressure than women until age 64. At ages 65 and older, women are more likely to get high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a number of problems, including heart failure, aneurysms (bulges in arteries), and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.
Many men with high blood pressure are also at risk for diabetes, which is a major health concern. The excess buildup of sugar in the body caused by diabetes can lead to severe health problems, including stroke, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease, kidney disease and nerve damage. An estimated 14 percent of men older than 18 have diabetes in the U.S.
Heart disease causes about 25 percent of all male deaths in the U.S. every year. The lack of symptoms before sudden death from heart disease is one of the scariest aspects of the illness. About one half of all men who die suddenly from heart disease never experience symptoms.
The risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. An estimated 51 percent of American men possess at least one of those risk factors.
Several other factors can contribute to the disease, including diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol intake.
Cancer kills more than 300,000 American men every year. The most common types of cancer that affect men include skin, prostate, lung, bladder and colorectal cancer.
Lung cancer causes more male deaths than any other cancer, and prostate cancer is the most common cancer that affects men. Cigarette smoking is almost always the cause of lung cancer, so avoiding or quitting smoking can help prevent this type of cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, but it grows so slowly that many men do not die from it. In fact, many men die from other causes and never know they had prostate cancer. Treating and screening for cancer may not be helpful for all men, so men should talk to their doctors to discuss their options.
Testicular cancer is another major issue among men. Rates of testicular cancer are highest among men ages 30 to 39. Another concern is human papillomaviruses (HPV), which can sometimes cause cancer in men. The CDC recommends HPV vaccines for boys ages 11-12, and for men younger than 27 who have not already been vaccinated.
Testicular cancer is another major issue among men. It most commonly occurs in men ages 20-54. Another concern is human papillomaviruses (HPB), which can cause cancer. Doctors recommend HPV vaccines for boys ages 11-21, and for men younger than 27 who have sex with men.
Although everyone can experience depression, men and women experience it differently. Men are usually more likely to feel tired and irritable and lose interest in work, family and hobbies. Men suffering from depression are usually more likely to find sleeping difficult.
Although women attempt to commit suicide at a higher rate, men are almost four times more likely to die from suicide than women. Men account for 78 percent of all American suicide deaths.
Many men fail to recognize and seek help for depression, often because they are less likely to talk about their feelings. Depression affects men of all ages and races. A variety of factors contribute to the disorder, including genes, environmental stress and illness. However, men who seek help or treatment can recover.
Osteoporosis is more likely to affect women than men, but that does not mean men are immune to it. Osteoporosis causes a weakening of the skeleton which makes it easier for bones to break. Millions of men in the U.S. suffer from the disease.
Osteoporosis carries a stereotype as a “woman’s disease” because men have larger skeletal frames that begin to suffer bone loss later in life. But as humans begin to live longer, the disease is a serious threat to older men. It is of most concern to men older than 65, the age at which most men begin to lose bone mass and fail to absorb calcium at the same rate.
The most common fractures in osteoporosis occur in the hip, spine and wrist. The fractures can cause disabilities, and complications from hip fractures are more likely to kill men than women.
The importance of sexual health to men is evident by the billions of dollars men spend on sexual enhancement drugs and supplements each year. Sexual health refers to a state of wellbeing in which a man can completely participate and enjoy sexual activity.
Hormones like testosterone drive sexual desire in men, but many men view sex as more than a reproductive function. For most men, sex is also a pleasurable activity and a way to strengthen bonds between two people.
A wide variety of factors affect men’s sexual health, including physical, psychological, social and interpersonal factors. Sex is not without its downsides though.
Sexually-transmitted diseases, or STDs, can ruin men’s overall health and sexual health. While abstinence is the best way to avoid STDs, it’s not an option many men are willing to consider. Men can reduce the risk of obtaining an STD by knowing the sexual history of their partner, using latex condoms and receiving vaccinations.
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Sexual Enhancement Drugs
The top prescription drugs for male sexual enhancement – Cialis, Viagra and Levitra – generated more than $4.3 billion in revenue in 2012. Unproven herbal supplements, like Enzyte and Extenze, generated hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue during the peaks of their successes.
However, rare but potentially dangerous side effects have been associated with these drug. Viagra has been linked to sudden drops in blood pressure, vision loss and hearing loss. All three prescription male enhancement drugs may cause headache, chest pain, dizziness and rash.
Experts also accuse herbal supplements of being nothing more than scams preying on men’s perceived sexual inadequacies. Herbal supplements do not go through an approval process before being sold to consumers. Many sexual enhancement supplements sold online contain traces of the active ingredients of prescription drugs as well as other potentially dangerous chemicals.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, refers to the inability to produce or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual activity.
ED becomes more common as men age. One study found about 40 percent of men age 40 suffer from ED, and about 70 percent of men age 70 suffer from ED. Contributing factors include stress, depression, low testosterone and clogged arteries.
ED may be due to another medical condition in up to 70 percent of men. ED may be a warning sign of heart disease or other serious issues.
The ability for men to produce healthy sperm and reproduce is an important part of sexual health. However, many drugs and supplements can affect fertility in men. Most of the time, a disruption in the testosterone production process decreases fertility by blocking the testicles from receiving sperm production signals. This causes low sperm concentration or an absence of sperm in the semen.
Men looking to have sex without causing pregnancy should use contraceptive methods. The most popular and proven contraceptive methods for men are condoms and vasectomies.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- These drugs are used to treat depression and anxiety, and may affect sperm movement or harm sperm in other ways. They may also cause a decrease in libido.
- Alpha blockers
- These drugs are used to treat high blood pressure, and may decrease the volume of ejaculation or prevent ejaculation.
- Testosterone therapy treatments, like Fortesta, Aveed, AndroGel, Testopel, Androderm and Depo-Testosterone.
- Anabolic steroids. Depending on the type, dosage and duration of anabolic steroid use, the damage done to fertility is usually reversible within 12 months of stopping use.
- Hair loss products, like Propecia and other 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors
- Cancer drugs and treatments, including chemotherapy
- Opiates, including prescription opioids and illicit drugs
- THC in marijuana
- Heavy alcohol consumption
Condoms have a failure rate of approximately 13 percent, meaning that about 13 out of 100 women will become pregnant each year if condoms are used as the couple’s only method of contraception.
Condoms are disposable, and most are made of latex or polyurethane. Latex and polyurethane condoms reduce the risk of spreading STDs. Other condoms, like those made of lambskin, do not reduce STD risk.
Vasectomies, also referred to as male sterilization, have a failure rate of less than 1 percent.
Vasectomies require surgery. During the surgery, a doctor will cut, close, or block the path between the testes and the urethra, preventing sperm from leaving the testes. However, it usually isn’t fully effective until three months after the surgery. A vasectomy can be reversed in many cases, but it is not always reversible.
The good news for men is that eating well, living a healthy lifestyle, and exercising regularly can prevent and treat almost all of their major health problems. Men can also talk to their doctors about taking nutritional supplements and receiving immunizations to help ensure long-lasting health.
Even if men exercise, eat well and maintain a healthy lifestyle, they may still get sick. Men should always consult their doctors to make sure the benefits of any treatment outweigh the risks.
- Should get a flu shot every year.
- Should get a shot for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
- Should get a shingles shot if they are older than 50.
- Should get a pneumonia shot if they are older than 65.
- Be physically active
- This includes walking, playing sports or doing yardwork. Try to do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity during most days of the week.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Eat a diet balanced in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products, and avoid foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Balance calories consumed with calories burned.
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Most men should not drink more than two drinks per day.
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a smoke-free environment.
- Manage stress
- Talk to family, friends or your doctor about seeking treatment if you feel depressed.
- Drive safe
- Wear a seat belt, follow the speed limit, and use common sense on the road.
- Take steps to avoid STDs
- Get tested, know your partner’s history, use latex condoms and get appropriate vaccines.
- Engage in mentally-stimulating activities
- Intellectual activities help protect men older than 60 from some mental health diseases.
- Ask your doctor about taking aspirin
- Aspirin may help prevent a heart attack for some men older than 45.
- Ask your doctor about maintaining vitamin levels
- Calcium and vitamin D, specifically, can help prevent osteoporosis.
Drugs with Potential Risks in Men
There are several drugs that could pose a number of health risks to men.
- Diuretics and Beta Blockers
- Diuretics and beta blockers treat high blood pressure, but they can cause erectile dysfunction.
- Jalyn treats enlarged prostates, but it can increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
- Norvasc treats high blood pressure, but in rare instances it can lead to gynecomastia, or breast development, in boys.
- Prinivil treats high blood pressure, but it can cause erectile dysfunction and has been linked to liver damage in rare instances.
- Risperdal and Invega are antipsychotics used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorders. But they have been linked to gynecomastia in boys.
Men can live long, happy lives by paying attention to very basic aspects of their health. Although they may feel pressured by society or stereotypes to hide ailments or feelings, seeking regular healthcare can improve a man’s quality of life. By eating healthy, exercising moderately, living responsibly, and avoiding dangerous drugs and supplements, men can maintain long-lasting health.
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