Dear Men, You’re Not Invincible
Deal with the Top Men’s Health Risks Now, Not Later.
The headline is in jest, of course, but it highlights an important double message society sends special delivery to men: You can, and should, do it all and live life invincibly without any real concern. You can work, play, eat, and even drink to extremes and worry about the effects later. And don’t worry, if a problem develops you can probably buy a cure for whatever-it-is online, anyway.
Men’s health risks and how they face them is a complex picture. Men’s life expectancy, for example, has hit a record high of 78.7 years in the US, which is good. But men are living an average of five years less than women compared to one year less in 1920. Today, of the top leading causes of death men lead in all of them, except Alzheimer’s disease which most men do not live long enough to develop. Men experience a number of serious health risks that, with simple lifestyle modifications, can significantly improve their overall health, extend their life expectancy, and help prevent some to the top risks, but often times men themselves stand in the way of better health.
Common Barriers to Men’s Health
Masculinity can be a barrier to good health. In the United States, and in most countries in the world, males are more likely to die in their first year of life, and every year thereafter than females. There are many factors playing a role in this. Men are more likely to engage in over 30 behaviors that increase their risk of injury, morbidity, and mortality. They are also less likely to adopt preventive health behaviors and do not seek medical attention when they need it. Simply put, men tend to put their health last on their to-do list, and as long as they can keep going and being productive, they simply don’t stop to consider the real risks.
Shedding Light Men’s Health
June is Men’s Health Month, an initiative anchored by a Congressional health education program whose mission it is to highlight men’s health risks and how to effectively address those risks. Across the country, healthcare providers, policymakers, and individuals are encouraged to learn more about men’s health and encourage the men and boys in their lives to be proactive about their health and overcome those common barriers. Studies show that men who take the time and initiative to invest in their health can often avoid the top dangers to their health, or at least catch them at the earliest and most treatable stages when they are most treatable.
The Top Risks in Men’s Health
Men like a known enemy to battle and fortunately, the top threats to men are very much known, common, and preventable.
Call it public enemy number one for men. According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 men have some form of cardiovascular disease and 2.8 million men experience a stroke each year. Heart disease is the cause of every 1 in 4 male deaths and is by far the leading cause of death for men over 50. For men who wait for symptoms to get “bad enough” to pursue care consider this: Half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.
Research continues in heart disease. Of recent interest is the scientific research surrounding studies where animal metabolism is altered blocking abnormal cholesterol production, transport, and breakdown successfully preventing the development of atherosclerosis, the main cause of heart attacks and stroke.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer is the second leading cause of death in men. Of all types of cancers, skin, lung, prostate, and pancreatic cancers are most common causes of cancer death in men. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is most common but with early detection can often be treated successfully. While smoking is down in the US, cigarettes remain the number one cause of lung cancer, with other factors such as exposure to asbestos, contributing to the risks. Contributing factors for other cancers also involve lifestyle issues such as obesity.
There are an estimated 1.5 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year, half of them men. Nearly 79 million Americans have prediabetes, the precursor to Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and vision loss among many other issues.
Scientists have been working hard to find more effective treatments, better management techniques, and cures. Currently, research is underway using “virgin beta cells” to restore the functionality of the pancreas.
ED is common, especially for men that have diabetes. Because men with ED have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, it is important to discuss this and all health issues with your physician.
DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE
Suicide in the United States has surged to an all-time high in nearly 30 years, a federal analysis has found. It is has been called the “silent epidemic” because of its high incidence, substantial contribution to men’s mortality, and lack of public awareness. Part of the problem is men’s symptoms of depression are harder for others to recognize. While women are more likely to express being sad or depressed, men are more likely to turn to substance abuse.
The use of alcohol is another problem causing health issues in men. Men binge drink twice as much as women and, according to the CDC, men experience higher rates of alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths. Alcohol consumption also increases risks for mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon cancers in addition to interfering with hormone production and testicular function.
Men’s higher use of alcohol and tobacco create another risk— liver disease. Over time, damage to the liver results in scarring, which can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition.
Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death for men — and all Americans — of all ages, and can largely be prevented. Men are far more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as driving while intoxicated, driving recklessly, or while distracted, for example. Accidental death accounted for 6.2% of deaths in men according to the latest CDC reports.
Weight is another serious issue for men. Men are more likely to be overweight or obese than women, and less likely to participate in weight-loss programs or to reach and sustain a healthy body weight. Obesity is also a major contributor to other men’s health risks.
You May Not Be Invincible But…
Men may not be invincible but they can wield all of their power to fortify a healthy future. Healthcare professionals and family members alike should encourage men to take the important steps to improve and protect their health.
GO TO THE DOCTOR
The fear of not being healthy may keep many men away from the doctor’s office but getting regular healthcare and regular screenings are the best way to catch small issues before they become life-threatening problems.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY
Men need to be encouraged to trust their instincts. If something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t dismiss it or wait for it to “get worse”. The risk of being wrong is far easier to deal with than waiting and the possibility of dealing with irreversible health issues.
DEAL WITH DEPRESSION
Mental health issues are far more likely to go undiagnosed and untreated in men because men are so much less likely to speak up. Many men mistakenly believe depression is all about feelings, an area most men fear treading, rather than about the brain’s chemistry and how it affects you emotionally and physically. Talk to the men in your life about how they are feeling, and listen when they speak. Open the door to discussing mental health and how to take steps to live the best life possible.
OUT WITH THE BAD, IN WITH THE GOOD
Many of men’s health issues can be handled by replacing unhealthy habits with healthy ones. Kick the cigarettes to the curb, and the fast food, too. Opt into a healthy diet, exercise, and only moderate alcohol consumption. With a few simple changes, you can reduce your body weight and many of the serious risks that plague men’s health and reap great additional benefits such as increased energy and a more focused mindset.
At Healthy Kansas City magazine, we want to take Men’s Health Month as an opportunity to educate, empower, and inspire men of all ages to live longer and healthier lives. We strongly believe that through advocacy and awareness, we can have a dramatic impact on men’s health.