By Dr. S. George Kipa, MD
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are 24 percent less likely than women to have seen a doctor in the past year. The unfortunate reality, however, is that males are also more likely to die from eight out of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. than women. November, also known as “Movember,” is recognized as a rallying cry for men to get smart about their health and raise awareness around the conditions that affect males most, along with preventive measures that can be taken to stay healthy.
Leading health issues
Data shows men and women differ in terms of the types of illnesses they undergo. The risk for the following health conditions varies based on age, race, health history and lifestyle choices, among other factors:
• Cancer: One in two males are at risk of developing some form of cancer in their lifetime and one in four are at risk of dying as a result. Colorectal, lung and prostate are a few of the leading cancers affecting men in the U.S.
• Depression, anxiety and suicide: The suicide rate among American men is about four times higher than women. The National Institute of Mental Health shares that males tend to disregard symptoms of poor mental health and therefore do not receive the treatment necessary.
• Heart disease: Cardiac events (heart attack/acute coronary syndrome, stroke, coronary artery disease, etc.) are the leading killer of men in the United States and the cause of one in four deaths. Those who are overweight, smoke and have high cholesterol or blood pressure are at a heightened risk.
• Type 2 Diabetes: Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes and more than a quarter aren’t aware. The likelihood of being diagnosed increases for African American and Hispanic men, older individuals and those who are overweight/obese.
Continuing the conversation
In addition to the leading conditions affecting males, there are a variety of unique health challenges discussed less often. These include, but are not limited to:
• Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: Also referred to as BPH, this event involves an enlarged prostate. As men age, their prostates go through two growth periods: the first in puberty and the second near age 25. It continues to grow and half of all men between ages 51 and 60 have BPH. It can decrease the urine stream, weaken the bladder and cause an excessive need to urinate frequently.
• Dyslipidemia: When lipid (fat) levels in the bloodstream become too high or low, dyslipidemia, a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease, occurs. The risk is most apparent for those who have high cholesterol, diabetes and/or obesity.
• Gout: This is a complex form of arthritis, historically associated with diets rich in meats and sweets. It causes severe pain, redness and tenderness when crystals form in the big toe and other joints. An attack of gout can occur suddenly, leaving any body part feeling severely weakened. Untreated, it can lead to joint damage and other complications such as skin nodules (tophi) and kidney stones.
Methods of Prevention
Believe it or not, 70 percent of a male’s overall health is controlled by lifestyle choices. The following measures of prevention should be taken, regardless of age or ethnicity:
• Don’t smoke. One in five men are cigarette smokers. Not only does it lead to lung cancer and heart disease, it contributes to the severity of nearly every illness.
• Get active, eat healthy. Proper diet and exercise improves mental and physical health while lowering the risk for chronic illness. Men should aim for three to four moderate workouts a week and between five and seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
• Know your history: Learning the medical history of family members is key in managing the risk of chronic illness and helps determine which health assessments should be top of mind.
• Visit the doctor. Men are likely to put off routine checkups and delay seeing a health care provider, even when they clearly have a symptom or a health problem. According to the American Heart Association, this is due to a variety of reasons, including lack of time, a sense of invincibility and a fear of examinations. Establishing a relationship with a primary care provider makes it easier to assess the risk of health issues, manage existing conditions and detect unidentified symptoms.
-Dr. S. George Kipa, MD, is a deputy chief medical officer and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provider. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org