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Men’s Health: A Guide to Wellness at Any Age

In 2019, the Cleveland Clinic conducted an online health survey of 1,174 US males ages 18 and older. Of the men polled:

  • 72% said they would rather do chores like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn than go to the doctor.
  • 40% never scheduled a routine checkup and only went to the doctor for a serious health issue.
  • 19% of those who did get regular checkups admitted they only went so their spouse or partner would stop bugging them about it.
  • 20% said they were not always totally honest with their doctor.

Why do so many men avoid seeing the doctor? Some will say they are too young and healthy. Others say they are “not sick enough” or are simply too busy. The most dangerous excuse, which most people tend to keep to themselves, is fear of what the doctor might find.

Live Healthy, Live Long

The average American man lives to 76.1 years of age, which is about five years less than the average American woman. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), women are 100% more proactive about screening and preventive care, and 33% more likely to make a doctor’s appointment when they don’t feel well. Understanding your health risks, getting regular checkups, and adopting a healthier lifestyle can help you live a longer, more active life.

There’s More to Men’s Health Than Urology

People often think of “men’s health” as urologic issues such as prostate hyperplasia, prostate cancer, Peyronie’s disease, incontinence, or erectile dysfunction (ED). Personal issues like these do tend to get men to the doctor. They can also be a canary in the coal mine — symptoms of something more systemic. For example, ED may be linked to hypertension, elevated cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. A frequent need to urinate, a common problem for men as they age, could also be a symptom of bladder cancer. Never use aging as an excuse to ignore a change in your health — only a doctor can determine what’s behind your symptoms.

Monitor Your Heart Health

According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease is responsible for one in four male deaths each year. You can take charge of your own heart health by:

  • Quitting smoking. 13.1% of men are smokers and tobacco use is a primary risk factor for heart disease.
  • Drinking moderately or not at all. The CDC defines moderate drinking for a man as no more than 2 drinks a day.
  • Controlling your blood pressure. 50% of all men have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. 34.1% of men are overweight, which raises your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Exercising regularly. A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for heart disease.

Learn more about your heart health and risk factors by taking our quick and free assessment.

Be Cancer Conscious

The most important thing to know about cancer is that early detection is your best protection. A National Cancer Institute study found that, compared to women, men had higher rates of most cancers. Men are nearly 11 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer, 3.5 times more likely to develop cancers of the larynx and bladder, and 3.3 times more likely to develop a type of stomach cancer called gastric cardia. One in two men will develop some form of cancer in his lifetime.

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, other than non-melanoma skin cancer. Fortunately, survival is high because many prostate cancers grow very slowly and there are a variety of treatment modalities. In fact, 96% of prostate cancer patients who were diagnosed from 2012 to 2018 were still alive five years later. However, screening remains essential because some types of prostate cancer are especially malignant and fast growing.
  • Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men, affecting one man in 28. NEVER ignore urinary symptoms, especially if there is blood in your urine or urination becomes painful.
  • Colorectal cancer rates have gone up in men and women under 50. As a result, the American Cancer Society has lowered the recommended age for a first colonoscopy to 45.
  • Melanoma occurs in one in 27 men and can be fatal if not caught early. Don’t wait to see your doctor about any new moles or changes in existing ones.
  • Head and neck cancers account for 4% of all cancers in the US and are more than twice as common in men. This is also a good reason to see your dentist, as they will check for oral cancer as part of a routine checkup,

Consume Fewer Carbs — Especially from Sugar

That candy bar you’re craving may give you a quick energy boost, but a diet consistently high in sugar and processed carbs causes weight gain and raises your risk for diabetes. Men between the ages of 35 and 54 are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women. This may be partly due to the fact that men tend to have more visceral fat, a type of fat located deep inside the body that produces hormones that can affect your metabolism. Your doctor can prescribe tests to see if you could have pre-diabetes and recommend lifestyle changes to keep it from progressing to full-fledged type 2 diabetes.

Do you know your risk for diabetes? Find out now by taking this quick and free risk assessment.

Know Your Family History
As fascinating as it is to learn that you descend from Charlemagne, Genghis Khan, or Cleopatra, it’s your family health history that has the greatest impact on your everyday life. Find out what your late relatives died of, or whether they had any chronic conditions. There are hereditary risk factors for heart disease and certain cancers. An older relative who fell and died from a broken hip could have had osteoporosis, which also runs in families. While the condition is more common in women, one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Alcoholism and depression have a genetic component as well. Talk to your older relatives and share whatever you learn about your family health history with your doctor.

Getting Ready for Your Checkup

Think of your primary care physician (PCP) as your healthcare quarterback — the doctor who helps you stay healthy and manage chronic conditions, cares for you when you are sick, refers you to specialists when needed, and works with those specialists to coordinate your care. To get the most out of your checkup, be prepared! Go in with a list of questions, so you don’t forget to ask them. Bring a list of medications, vitamins, and supplements you are currently taking. Share your family history of heart disease and/or risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, excess weight, or erectile dysfunction. Don’t be embarrassed to bring up erectile dysfunction or depression — these are common conditions that your doctor needs to know about. Be totally honest about any use of alcohol and/or recreational drugs. If your spouse or partner says you snore, tell the doctor! You could have sleep apnea. Over the years, your checkups may include:

  • Height and weight tracking
  • Blood pressure test
  • A testicular exam to check for lumps or swelling
  • Cholesterol panel — total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides
  • Blood glucose or A1c test
  • Other blood tests based on your age and risk factors
  • Mental health screening
  • A skin exam to check for potential skin cancer
  • Vision and hearing tests
  • Immunizations such as the flu vaccine, tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap), meningococcal, shingles, and the pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Counseling regarding lifestyle changes around diet, exercise, stress reduction, and other issues.

Don’t have a primary care provider? Community Memorial offers exceptional primacy care in multiple locations across Ventura County. Find a doctor now.