Whichever way you look at it, men’s health is uniformly worse than women’s.
Although the gender gap is closing, men still die, on average, five years earlier than women and are likely to experience more health complaints throughout their life. In saying that, there are a number of reasons that contribute to this with men being more likely to:
- Smoke and drink
- Make unhealthy or risky choices
- Put off regular checkups and medical care
While the reasons are partly biological, men’s approach to their health plays a role too.
Research shows, men go to the doctor less than women and are more likely to have a serious condition when they do go.
In efforts to help the men reading this, or women who care about the health of the men in their lives, we address five of the top health threats to men, and how to avoid them.
Cardiovascular Disease: The Leading Men’s Health Threat
Cardiovascular disease is the number one leading health threat to males and it’s caused by cholesterol plaques gradually blocking the arteries in the heart and brain. If a cholesterol plaque becomes unstable, a blood clot forms, blocking the artery and causes a heart attack or stroke.
- Get your cholesterol checked, beginning at age 25 and every five years.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol, if they’re high.
- If you smoke, stop.
- Increase your physical activity level to 30 minutes per day, most days of the week.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables and less saturated or trans fats.
Lung Cancer: Still a Health Threat to Men
Although lung cancer can be caused by environmental exposures, most efforts to prevent lung cancer emphasize tobacco control because 80%-90% of lung cancers are attributed to cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke.
There’s no sure way to prevent lung cancer, but you can reduce your risk if you:
- Don’t smoke. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start.
- Stop smoking. Quitting reduces your risk of lung cancer, even if you’ve smoked for years. Talk to your doctor about strategies and stop-smoking aids that can help you quit.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. If you live or work with a smoker, urge him or her to quit. At the very least, ask him or her to smoke outside. Avoid areas where people smoke, such as bars and restaurants, and seek out smoke-free options.
- Test your home for radon. Have the radon levels in your home checked, especially if you live in an area where radon is known to be a problem.
- Avoid carcinogens at work. Take precautions to protect yourself from exposure to toxic chemicals at work. Follow your employer’s precautions. For instance, if you’re given a face mask for protection, always wear it.
- Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Choose a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise most days of the week. If you don’t exercise regularly, start out slowly and try to exercise most days of the week.
- Prostate Cancer: A Leading Cancer for Men
Prostate cancer occurs when cells within the prostate gland become cancerous (malignant) forming a tumour. The causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood however, it is known that the chances of developing the condition increase with age. It is also known that prostate cancer is more common in men who have a history of prostate cancer in their family.
Other factors, such as smoking and dietary, hormonal and environmental influences (such as exposure to certain chemicals) may also increase the chances of developing the condition.
There are a number of different checks and examinations your Doctor can do to check your risk of prostate cancer and prostate problems. For more information on this, talk to your General Practitioner.
Depression and Suicide: Men Are at Risk
According to helpguide men tend to be less adept at recognizing symptoms of depression than women. A man is more likely to deny his feelings, hide them from himself and others, or try to mask them with other behaviors. The diagnosis of depression is made when several core features are present:
- pervasive low mood
- loss of interest and enjoyment (anhedonia)
- reduced energy and diminished activity.
- poor concentration and attention
- poor self-esteem or self-confidence
- ideas of guilt and unworthiness
- a bleak pessimistic view of the future
- thinking about, planning, or attempting suicide
- crying for no reason
- disturbed sleep
- poor appetite
- decreased interest in sex
Don’t try to tough out depression on your own. It takes courage to seek help—from a loved one or a professional.
Diabetes: The Silent Health Threat for Men
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body can’t control blood glucose levels properly.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body gradually become resistant to the effect of insulin. The pancreas responds by churning out more of the hormone but eventually it can’t keep up, and blood sugar levels begin to climb.
Talk to your doctor about being tested, especially if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- increased thirst
- increased hunger
- frequent urination, especially at night
- unexplained weight loss
- blurred vision
- sores that don’t heal
June 12 to 18 marks Men’s Health Week – It’s a great time to think about the health of men and how important it is, to start talking about it with our friends, families and doctors.