Men’s health is significantly different from women’s health with different risks, different common health problems, and different and unique behaviors and attitudes toward health and health care. Men, for instance, are less likely to visit the doctor than women, and therefore to take advantage of preventative health care. Men are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors that put them at risk for different health conditions.
Men have unique health concerns too and there are certain conditions that only men get or that men are more vulnerable too. Some of the drugs that are marketed to men target these concerns, but are not always safe and may put men at risk for dangerous side effects. By being aware of their unique health needs and risks and by visiting the doctor and making healthy lifestyle choices, men can take control of their lives and their health.
Men’s Health Facts
Men have unique health care needs, attitudes, and risks when compared to women. In many ways men and women overlap, but there are significant differences that have an impact on the overall health of people by gender. As compared to women, men do not make health a big priority. Most of the prominent deadly illnesses in men in the U.S. are preventable with healthy lifestyle choices and regular doctor visits.
Men are also more likely than women to engage in risky behaviors including drinking too much alcohol, smoking, driving recklessly, and having casual and unprotected sex. Men tend to avoid seeing the doctor, for preventative care and when sick. Many men suffer from sexual health problems as they age and may turn to drugs, like supplementary testosterone, that can do more harm than good.
Men and Aging
Men age differently from women and the aging process in men raises unique health concerns and risks for certain health problems. The process of aging is not as defined as it is in women, who go through menopause. The changes that men experience are more gradual. In the cardiovascular system the heart slows down and may get larger, while blood vessels stiffen. These changes can lead to heart disease, but can also be combated with healthy habits like exercise.
The bones, as men age, lose density and shrink, while muscles become weaker and less flexible. Good nutrition and exercise can slow these changes. In the digestive tract, constipation becomes more likely, sometimes from poor diet habits, but also as a side effect of medications that men may take for other conditions as they get older. Loss of bladder control is another common problem in men as they age, which can be caused by other medical problems or an enlarged prostate.
Brain changes as men age may cause memory loss or a decrease ability to learn or remember new things. The function of the eyes and ears may also decrease, making seeing and hearing more difficult. The skin becomes thinner and less elastic with age too, and weight is more likely to increase as muscle mass goes down and fat composition goes up.
Another aging issue that all men will face is the natural drop in testosterone, a sex hormone. This is a natural decline, but it can cause some uncomfortable side effects, like fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and sexual dysfunction. Some men turn to testosterone supplements to counteract this natural decline, but there are serious risks of doing so, including an increased risk for a heart attack.
Checkups and Health Screenings for Men
All men should see their doctors for regular screenings and tests. Preventative medicine could mean living longer, catching cancer while it is still treatable, and avoiding things like high blood pressure and heart disease. Doctors will screen men for all the appropriate health factors, like blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and diabetes, bone density, prostate enlargement, and common cancers, like colon cancer. A doctor will also monitor male patients for things like weight, diet, exercise, alcohol use, smoking, and other factors that affect health.
Men and Mental Health
Women are more often diagnosed with some of the more common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, but the reason for this may be that men are less likely to seek help. Men also suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, but they experience them differently from women, and are less likely to reach out and get a diagnosis or treatment.
Depression is a particularly tricky mental health condition for men. Whereas many women experience the obvious feelings of sadness and worthlessness, men are more likely to feel depression as anger and irritability and to act out with aggression or to lose interest in activities. Men are more likely than women to die from suicide.
Important Lifestyle Habits
Many of the top threats to men’s health are preventable and related to lifestyle choices. Men are more likely than women to drink, smoke, drive dangerously, avoid safety equipment when engaging in dangerous jobs, and to ignore healthy eating guidelines. By changing a few of these habits and making new habits, men can take better control of their health and avoid many illnesses.
Drinking and smoking are two major factors in men’s health. Men drink more and smoke more than women, but for optimum health should not smoke at all and should limit alcohol to fewer than two drinks a day or 14 per week. Over the age of 65, men should only have one drink or less per day, and no more than seven per week.
A healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are also important for good health in men. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber, lean protein, and whole grains, with limited saturated fat, sodium, and sugar contributes to overall good health. Regular exercise is also important for cardiovascular health and for maintaining a healthy weight, which in turn lowers the risks of developing cancer or heart disease.
Other good habits for men to make to optimize health include making regular doctor visits and managing stress. Stress can lead a man to make poor lifestyle choices, but it can also raise blood pressure and compromise the immune system. Healthy stress reduction techniques are important. Men should also be visiting the doctor regularly. Too many men avoid the doctor, but preventative care could mean avoiding heart disease or stroke or catching and treating cancer early.
The Top Threats to Men’s Health
The leading cause of death in all men in the U.S. is heart disease, a largely preventable condition. Cancer and unintentional injuries are numbers two and three, with the latter also being preventable. Even cancer, although not always preventable, is easier to treat when diagnosed early as the result of regular doctor visits. The rest of the top ten causes of death in men re chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, suicide, pneumonia and influenza, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic liver disease.
Sexual health is a major concern for many men. Loss of function, issues with fertility, and changes in hormone levels can all impact a man’s health and how he experiences and enjoys life. Some of these issues can have an impact on other areas of health as well, including mental health.
- Fertility. Fertility is possible for men for a longer period of time than women, but they too can struggle with being infertile. There are many reasons that sperm production may become disrupted or lead to poor fertility, including the use of certain medications, like those that treat depression or heart disease.
- Low testosterone. Testosterone production naturally drops as men age, but there are medications and underlying medical conditions that can cause a problematic loss of production. Medications like hair loss drug Propecia, opioid painkillers, like hydrocodone, and anabolic steroids, can all disrupt natural testosterone. This can cause sexual dysfunction and other issues, like fatigue.
- Erectile dysfunction. A man at any age may struggle with erectile dysfunction, which can have a serious impact on quality of life and mental health. There are any drugs that can treat erectile dysfunction, including Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. These drugs may help, but they also come with the risk of dangerous side effects like blood pressure drops, chest pains, and vision loss.
The prostate is a gland that only men have, and it is responsible for sexual function. There are several ways in which prostate health can be compromised, including an enlargement of the gland. This is related to aging and when it happens it presses on the urethra, slowing or even stopping the flow of urine. This can be painful and dangerous, but affects about three-quarters of men over the age of 60.
Prostatitis, which is an inflammation or infection in the prostate, and prostate cancer, are also health concerns men may face. To maintain good prostate health and to diagnose any cancer early, it is important that men after a certain age undergo regular screenings. A manual exam as well as blood tests for prostate-specific antigen should be a regular part of a man’s health routine as he gets older.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and accounts for nearly one-quarter of all adult male deaths in the U.S. Half of these men will not experience any symptoms before a sudden heart attack, which is why prevention and regular screenings are so important. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, smoking, lack of exercise, obesity, and high blood cholesterol.
Cancer of any type is the second leading cause of death in men in the U.S. Most common are lung cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer, and prostate cancer. Many instances of these kinds of cancer are preventable. Not smoking, for instance, reduces the risk for lung cancer significantly. Being vigilant about sun exposure can prevent skin cancer.
Prostate and colon cancers are not so easily preventable, but they can be screened for and diagnosed in early stages. Regular colonoscopies and prostate exams can lead to early diagnoses that increase the chances that treatments will be successful or even cure the cancer.
Unintentional injuries represent the third-leading cause of death in men in the U.S. Over six percent of deaths in men occur because of some type of accident or unintended injury. Of these the most common is falling, followed by motor vehicle accidents, suffocating, poisoning, and fire. Unintentional injuries can be prevented by being more careful, for instance by using safety equipment when in a situation in which a fall may occur or by driving more safely.
Many drugs are available to men for a variety of health conditions, and many of these are useful and even life-saving. Some, though, are dangerous because they increase the risk of certain illnesses or cause harmful side effects. There have been a number of lawsuits filed over some of these drugs, by men who suffered side effects or by their loved ones in the case of a death.
Some examples of drugs men have commonly used that may be dangerous include statins. Drugs like Lipitor and Crestor are designed to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, but they also may cause kidney damage and type 2 diabetes. In boys and young men, the drug Risperdal treats autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, but also may cause breast growth.
Men are also likely to use medications and devices designed to prevent blood clots and heart attacks. Blood thinners, like Xarelto and Eliquis may prevent clots, but have also been shown to be dangerous because of uncontrollable bleeding. IVC filters, devices that can be implanted to catch blood clots, have been found to cause damage to blood vessels when they break apart or come loose.
Men’s health is a unique category of health. Men have different health concerns from women, different health risks, and make different choices about health. Men also have the ability to take control of their health and to prevent many of the most common problems and causes of death. With regular checkups and healthy lifestyle choices, men can live long and healthy lives.