Men’s health involves a variety of gender-specific issues, like testosterone production, sexual health and the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior. Many men avoid doctors and hospitals but suffer from preventable diseases and conditions. Unfortunately, there are a number of drugs and supplements that men are exposed to 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.
- A healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise can prevent and treat most problems associated with men’s health.
- Men are often unaware of the dangerous side effects some drugs have to their health.
How Men Age
From infancy to old age, men’s bodies go through diverse changes. The actions men perform at younger ages affect their bodies differently at older ages, and younger men should not take medications and treatments meant for older men. It’s also important for men to be aware of the changes taking place in their bodies.
From the moment life develops in the womb, men are genetically predisposed to be more likely to suffer from blood clotting conditions, muscle dystrophy and Fragile-X syndrome, the leading cause of mental retardation. There are positives to being a boy though. Baby boys are more curious than girls, and they tend to interact with caretakers more.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, the testosterone in boys makes them more likely to engage in physical activity, play games involving navigational skills and develop an interest in sex. Studies show societal expectations cause men to suppress emotions and develop a fear of communicating about changes in their lives. Experts 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 almost twice as 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. Men develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than women, and almost 25 percent of all deaths from heart disease occur in men ages 35-65.
Men’s bodies never completely stop producing testosterone. In their 60s and 70s, the remaining testosterone production contributes to hair loss and enlarging prostates. It also helps decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. In older age, men become less active and need fewer calories. However, their bodies can’t absorb nutrients at the same rate so they must pay closer 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.
Unfortunately, doctors could prevent and treat many of the common health conditions unique to 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.
- 22% less likely to get their cholesterol tested
- 24% less likely to visit the doctor once per year
- 24% more likely to be hospitalized for preventable pneumonia
- 28% more likely to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure
- 32% more likely to be hospitalized for long-term diabetes complications
- 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 experience prolonged sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, or stress or if they feel little pleasure doing things.
- Men should begin screening for diabetes if they have high blood pressure.
- High Blood Pressure
- Begin screening at age 50, or if they use tobacco, are overweight, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, have a family history of heart disease or a history of heart attacks.
- Get screened if they are 65 or younger. If they are older than 65, men should talked to their doctor about being screened.
- Lung Cancer
- Men should begin screening for lung cancer if they have a 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 until age 45. The odds even out between the ages of 45-64, and then men’s risk for high blood pressure is lower than women at 65 and older. 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.
High blood pressure is also a symptom of diabetes, which is a major concern for many men. 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 11 percent of men older than 19 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 49 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 and colorectal cancer.
Lung cancer causes more male deaths than any other cancer, and skin cancer is the most common cancer that affects men. Both forms of cancer are preventable. Cigarette smoking is almost always the cause lung cancer, and excessive exposure to sunlight is the top cause of skin cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second 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, so men should talk to their doctors to discuss their options.
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 as likely to die from suicide as women. Men account for 79 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, hormones and stress. However, men who seek help or treatment often 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 skeletal system 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 as women.
The most common fractures in men 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 alleged sexual enhancement 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 (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.
Other dangers lurk in advertisements by companies trying to take advantage of self-conscious men.
Sexual Enhancement Drugs
The top prescription drugs for male sexual enhancement – Cialis, Viagra and Levitra – generated more than $4.3 billion in revenue in 2014. Unproven herbal supplements, like Enzyte and Extenze, generated hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue during the peaks of their successes.
However, potentially dangerous side effects accompany each drug. Viagra has been linked to sudden drops in blood pressure, vision loss and hearing loss. All three prescription male enhancement drugs contain potential side effects like chest pain, dizziness, rash and difficulty breathing.
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 (ED) refers to the inability to produce or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual activity.
Age is the most significant factor that contributes to ED. One study found about 40 percent of men age 40 suffer from ED, and about 70 percent of men age 70 suffer from ED. Other contributing factors include stress, depression, low testosterone and clogged arteries.
However, the top cause of ED in 70 percent of men is a separate medical condition. It’s often a warning sign of heart disease and 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 harm fertility in men. Most of the time, a disruption in the testosterone production process harms 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)
- Used to treat depression and anxiety affect sperm movement and may harm sperm. They also cause a decrease in libido.
- Alpha blockers
- Used to treat high blood pressure decrease the volume of ejaculation or may prevent ejaculation.
- Testosterone therapy treatments, like, Fortesta, Aveed, AndroGel, Testopel, Adroderm, Android and Depo-Testosterone.
- Anabolic steroids. Depending on the type, dosage and duration of anabolic steroid use, the damage done to fertility may be irreversible.
- Hair loss products, like Propecia and other 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors
- The pill form of Ketoconazole, used to treat fungal infections
- Cancer drugs and treatments, including chemotherapy
- Opiates, including prescription opioids and illicit drugs
- THC in marijuana
- Heavy alcohol consumption
Condoms have a failure rate between 11 and 16 percent, meaning between 11 and 16 women would get pregnant if a couple relied solely on condoms for contraception in one year.
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 about 95 percent of the time, but it is not always reversible.
The good news for men is that a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise 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. But a number of drugs may do more than good, so 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.
- Older than 60 should get a shingles shot.
- Older than 65 should get a pneumonia shot.
- 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, 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 vaccinated for hepatitis A and B and HPV.
- 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 Dangerous to Men
There are several drugs that men take every day that could pose a number of health risks.
- IVC Filter
- IVC Filter Device inserted into inferior vena cava to trap blood clots linked to migration, breakage and other complications.
- Avastin treats metastatic colorectal cancer, but it can cause gastrointestinal perforation, hemorrhaging, heart attack and severe high blood pressure.
- Crestor and Other Statins
- Crestor, Lipitor and other statins lower cholesterol and the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But, they can cause kidney damage and Type 2 diabetes.
- 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 it can lead to initial acute blood pressure and gynecomastia (breast development) in boys.
- Prinivil treats high blood pressure, but it can cause decreased sexual ability and has been linked to liver damage.
- Risperdal and Invega are antipsychotics used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorders. But they are 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.
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.