The Biggest Threats to Men's Health
No doubt, you likely already knew these types of habits contribute to poor health, yet that doesn’t make them any easier to break or the challenge of developing healthier practices any less daunting.
But for men, and all people alike, it’s important to stay educated about your health. It’s the first step in taking action towards improvement.
According to Dr. Kevin Polsley, an internist at Loyola University Health System and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, men are more likely than women to die from nearly all the most common causes of death, yet they’re still less likely to go to the doctor and will more commonly ignore symptoms that could be indicative of larger health issues.
"A lot of men think going to the doctor is just one more thing on a seemingly endless 'to-do' list,” Polsley said. “But to get all those other 'to dos' done men need to starting thinking about their health and making it a priority.”
Educating yourself about the biggest threats and learning about what you can do to reduce your risk is an important first step.
The following health issues and risks are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes of death for men in the U.S. Here’s what you need to know about each and what you can do to protect your health.
According to the American Heart Association, men tend to develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than women, which is why they are more likely to die from it at a younger age. Polsley says men have a higher risk for heart attacks than women and the risk increases when there is a family history of the disease.
According the CDC, key risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, but diabetes, obesity, a poor diet, not exercising enough and drinking too much alcohol may also contribute to an increased risk. "Exercise and diet are extremely important in preventing heart attacks,” Polsley said. “Routine preventive care appointments with a primary care physician can also help identify most of these risk factors, and modification and treatment of these risks factors can help decrease the risk as well.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in U.S. men and according to the CDC most cases are caused by smoking. Behind lung cancer, men are most likely to die from prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. The risk for both prostate and colorectal cancer increases with age and family history plays a role in increasing your risk for either as well, which is why regular screenings are important in the prevention of both.
Polsley says both men and women should have a routine colonoscopy every 10 years after the age of 50, or earlier if there’s a family history of the disease. "If caught early, the prognosis for colon cancer is good,” he said. As for prostate cancer, researchers are still trying to determine what factors outside of age, family history and race might contribute to an increased risk, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends against prostate-specific antigen based screening for prostate cancer in men who don’t have symptoms.