Being informed is essential to good health. Every day, researchers and studies uncover more information about what impacts health and how to optimize health. Understanding health conditions and illnesses, nutrition, healthy lifestyle habits, and how drugs can help or be dangerous, are all important to making the right choices for a healthy and long life.
Health information varies by subgroups of people. All people have certain things in common in terms of health, but there are also crucial differences for certain populations. Men, women, children, seniors, pregnant women, and students all need to know how their health differs, what risks they are most susceptible to and how different drugs or medical devices may harm them.
Health Care for Everyone
All people have different needs when it comes to health care and health information. Men have certain health risks, for instance, like prostate cancer that women do not. Women may go through pregnancy, which presents different health needs than what men can expect during a similar life stage. Older adults also have certain health risks and may be impacted by prescription drugs in different ways than younger adults.
Although there are these important differences, there are also similarities. All people, of all ages, need to understand basic human health, how healthy lifestyle habits keep us well, the risks of illnesses, infections, and diseases, how the aging process affects the body, how mental health concerns should be addressed, and how to keep up with the risks and dangers posed by certain medications and medical devices.
Healthy Habits for All Ages
Everyone, of all ages and both genders, can benefit from practicing good health habits. This means maintaining a healthy weight, for instance, because being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for things like diabetes and heart disease. Good nutrition, eating a healthy and well-rounded diet, and getting regular exercise, help to control weight, but also provide health benefits and reduce the risk of certain illnesses.
Causes of Death
An important part of understanding health is to know what the leading causes of death are for Americans as a whole. By knowing what the biggest risks to health are, everyone can take steps to avoid these causes of death or at least to reduce the risks of developing them. Although the list will look a little different by subgroup, the number one cause of all Americans is heart disease. The second-leading cause is cancer, followed by chronic lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis.
The list of the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S. continues with accidents, or unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and intentional self-harm, or in other words suicide. This last cause of death highlights how important and often overlooked mental health is. It is possible, for most of these causes of death, to take steps to reduce the risk factors for them and to live a longer and healthier life.
Common Health Conditions
The leading causes of death point to some of the more common health conditions that anyone, regardless of age or gender, may be susceptible to and may struggle with at any time of life. Heart disease, for instance, is a big problem in the U.S. Many people have risk factors for heart disease, which are largely preventable, including high blood pressure, obesity, and high-stress lifestyles.
Cancer is another common health concern for all people. This is the kind of insidious disease that can attack anyone, of any age, gender, or socioeconomic status. There are many different types of cancer, and some with risk factors that can be controlled, but many come without warning, regardless of any preventative steps a person has taken. The most preventable type of cancer is lung cancer caused by smoking. Not smoking may be the single best health decision anyone can make. In addition to preventing lung cancer, not smoking also reduces the risk of developing deadly lower respiratory diseases.
The incidence of type 2 diabetes is growing and this is a health problem that can be prevented. Diabetes is chronically high blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is genetic, but type 2 is the result of being overweight or obese and eating a poor diet. Having diabetes can lead to other serious health complications, like vision loss or kidney disease. The drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes come with the risk of serious side effects, so to prevent this disease by practicing healthy lifestyle habits is the best option.
Dangerous Drugs and Devices
All people, men, women, children, and other subgroups, also have in common the fact that dangerous drugs and medical devices can cause harm. Medications and devices are supposed to heal us and make life better and easier, but when there are side effects, quality issues, or defects, these things can cause serious harm and even kill people.
Type 2 diabetes drugs have proven to come with serious risks, while also controlling blood sugar. Drugs like Victoza, Byetta, Tradjenta, and others may increase the risks of developing harmful conditions like pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Antidepressants are now known to increase the risks that young people using them will experience suicidal thoughts and even act on those thoughts. Narcotic painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone come with a serious risk of dependence as well as the risk of dying from an overdose.
Medical devices can also cause major issues. Transvaginal mesh, for instance, which was supposed to provide an easy solution to a common health problem in women, has proven to cause irreversible and painful damage. Many hip and knee replacement joints have failed due to design flaws that result in the need for more surgeries, and many have even caused serious and lasting tissue and joint damage.
Health Issues for Women
Women have significantly different health needs as compared to men. The leading causes of death for women include some of the same as those for the population in general, like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and lower respiratory diseases, but women are also more likely to die from kidney disease and septicemia.
One of the most important ways in which women’s health differs from men’s health is in the stages of life that women experience important hormonal shifts. Pregnancy is one of these, and it presents a number of unique health concerns for women and their babies. Menopause is another, and it can cause symptoms that are both physically and emotionally difficult. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions than men.
Health Issues for Men
Like women, men are susceptible to heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. They are also more likely than women to be injured or to die from unintentional injuries and accidents, like vehicle crashes and falls. Men are also less likely to visit the doctor or take preventative measures to maintain good health. They are much less likely to reach out for help for mental health concerns and are diagnosed with these conditions less often.
Men also experience hormonal changes as they age, most notably a decline in testosterone. This can cause fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and muscle mass loss. Many men are enticed to use testosterone supplements as they get older, but these medications can cause serious and dangerous side effects. Men may also be susceptible to the dangerous side effects of statin drugs, used to lower cholesterol, blood thinners, and medical devices like hip replacements and IVC filters.
Health Issues for Seniors
Both men and women, as they age, begin to face new health concerns and may need to change lifestyle habits to stay healthy. The leading causes of death for seniors are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, unintentional injuries, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and infections, and septicemia.
While certain health problems become more of an issue for aging adults, others become less important. Seniors are less likely than any other age group to die from unintentional injuries, for instance. What seniors are more vulnerable to, are dangerous drugs and medical devices. As people age, they are likely to need more medications and more devices, and this puts them at greater risk of side effects and complications.
Health Issues for Children
Children and teens face a lot of unique health needs and risks. From one year of age to early adulthood, the leading cause of death is unintentional injury. Children and young people are more likely to die in an accident of some kind than any other way. For teens and older children, suicide is the second-leading cause of death. Both of these major causes of death for kids and teens are preventable by using safety procedures and devices, and by addressing mental health issues.
Young people are also at risk for the dangerous side effects of a number of drugs. Antidepressants pose a big risk. Most of these drugs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, teens, and young adults. Children are also at risk for the side effects of amphetamines and other stimulants used to treat ADHD. Children are now prescribed antipsychotic medications more than ever before, and these drugs can cause serious, but rare conditions like tardive dyskinesia.
Health Issues for Students
College students represent yet another unique population with its own health needs and risks. The three leading causes of death for this age group are unintentional injuries, suicide, and homicide. The first of these is likely to often be tied to alcohol and drug abuse. Nearly half of all college students binge on alcohol and that can lead to serious accidents, some of them deadly.
Students also face issues like abusing stimulant drugs. Many students use these drugs, often ADHD prescriptions, to stay awake and to be better able to focus on studying, but this comes with serious risks like addiction, insomnia, and depression. College students are also at risk for the consequences of unprotected sex, like unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, but also for abuse and assault, and many of these risks are tied to drinking and drug use.
Health is important for all people to have the best quality of life. Some people take health more seriously than others, but everyone faces the consequences of having poor health. Different populations have different concerns, risks, and needs, but everyone is susceptible to the dangers posed by certain prescription drugs and medical devices. Knowledge about these drugs and devices, and the risks they pose, is crucial to avoiding the side effects that can cause illness and even death.