Common Men’s Health Issues
Steps you can take at any age to help avoid or minimize them
Often men fail to prioritize taking control of their mental and physical health as work, raising a family and hobbies can seem more important or more appealing as a way to spend their time. Not prioritizing your health frequently results in skipping check-ups and screenings that can ensure one lives a long and healthy life. Men who fail to prioritize the health of their mind and body may develop serious health issues. According to the CDC, the “medical gender gap” and its consequences are real, with men dying about five years earlier than women on average.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive to take control of your health. The first step is to prioritize preventative measures from eating better to quitting bad habits like smoking to attending regular check-ups. Below are the most common male health issues and the steps you can take at any age to help avoid them.
1. Heart disease
More men die of heart disease than any other cause of death, so take charge by managing your unique risk factors. This should include eating a balanced diet with fruits and veggies, exercising, stopping smoking, reducing stress and taking medications as instructed by your health-care provider.
Also, be sure to get regular checkups with a family medicine or internal medicine physician. These check-ups will ensure you get screenings that can often detect heart problems before they become serious. For example, many people do not realize they have hidden risk factors for heart diseases, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Treating these silent health problems can help in preventing heart problems.
The CDC reports that cancer follows heart disease as the second-leading cause of death among American men. Common cancers diagnosed in men include skin, prostate, colorectal and lung cancers. Health-care providers suggest a combination of a healthy lifestyle and regular screenings to keep these cancers at bay. Simple actions like wearing sunscreen, limiting processed or red meat, regular exercise and quitting smoking can significantly reduce your cancer risk.
Compared to women, men have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes at a lower weight. This is partly because male bodies have more belly fat, which itself raises the risk of this chronic disease. Managing your weight and getting more exercise can help reduce this risk. It’s also good to know if you are at risk for prediabetes so that you can take action early. Go to the CDC website for online tests to assess your risk of diabetes.
4. Erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common in men, especially those older than 75, but that doesn’t mean it should impact your sex life. Treatments such as medications can help, and actions like quitting smoking or limiting alcohol can have a preventive effect, too. ED can be a sign of a more severe issue, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. As such, those experiencing ED should see their family medicine or internal medicine physician for further evaluation.
While we all wish we weren’t still dealing with COVID-19, the reality is that COVID-19 can hit men harder. Research shows that men who contract COVID-19 have a higher risk of hospitalization and death. Now that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, getting vaccinated should be pursued as it can help prevent the risk of infection and its severity if you do become infected.
6. HPV and other STIs
As the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), human papillomavirus (HPV) often resolves on its own. Still, some men with HPV can develop certain health problems such as penile cancer, genital warts and even throat cancer from the infection. Thankfully, there are vaccines to prevent HPV infection in both men and women. Condoms are also an important measure to prevent HPV and other STIs.
7. Low testosterone
Testosterone starts to drop in a man’s 30s, but if that natural decline causes unwelcome symptoms like low sex drive or trouble concentrating, ask your provider whether you need a blood test to check your hormone levels. A health-care professional can diagnose any underlying issues that may be causing the “low-T” and discuss options like testosterone replacement therapy.
Depression often goes undiagnosed in men because men are more likely to sweep their feelings under the rug. Any male who suspects suffering from depression should reach out to a health-care professional as help is available.
Preventive and proactive care is the answer to living longer and healthier lives
Regardless of your health issues, you can take charge of your well-being by taking preventive and proactive steps today. If you’ve been delaying scheduling a checkup or even a first appointment, please do so today. You can’t control genetics, but you can control your actions, so act now to create the best possible health-care future.
Peter H. Seidenberg, MD, MA, FAAFP, FACSM, RMSK, is professor and chair, Department of Family Medicine, and interim director of Medical Student Research, LSU Health School of Medicine.