Many men ignore signs of illness and tend to put off going to the doctor. Almost 20% of men admit only going to the doctor in order to stop a loved one from nagging them about it. In general, men in their 20s and 30s should go to the doctor for routine checkups every other year. Once men are in their 40s and beyond, annual checkups should be the norm. Men who don’t take their health seriously are more likely to develop serious health issues that could have a better outcome if caught earlier. In fact, on average, according to the CDC, men die five years earlier than women.
The news isn’t all bad. Men can take control of their health and lifestyle to improve their quality of life and lifespan.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. More than one in three adult men have some form of cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure is common in males under the age of 45. Routine doctor visits check cholesterol levels and blood pressure and may help detect heart problems before they become serious. Changes to a man’s lifestyle will also improve the risk of heart disease. Smokers who smoke a pack of cigarettes daily are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who don’t smoke. Other proactive measures like eating a balanced diet that includes fruit and vegetables, staying active, reducing stress, and taking medications as directed can also improve heart health.
The second leading cause of death in men is cancer. The most common cancers diagnosed in men include skin, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers. Being proactive by wearing sunscreen and being aware of skin changes can help prevent and/or detect skin cancers. Regular doctor visits can detect prostate cancers, and a baseline colonoscopy at the age of 45 for men with no family history can prevent colon cancer. Quitting smoking and limiting processed or red meat in the diet can also reduce cancer risk.
Men have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes at a lower weight compared to women. One of the main reasons for this is belly fat. Men are more likely to be undiagnosed for diabetes than women. Diabetes brings a greater risk for heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure, and amputation of a toe, foot or leg in both men and women. But for men, diabetes can cause low testosterone (low T) and erectile dysfunction (ED).
Testosterone begins to drop in a man’s thirties and can bring symptoms of low sex drive and trouble concentrating. Men with diabetes are twice as likely to have low T than men who don’t have diabetes. A blood test can check hormone levels and a doctor can diagnose any underlying issues that may be causing the low testosterone levels and discuss options like testosterone replacement therapy. However, the replacement therapy can also make low blood sugar worse and increase blood pressure, so regular checkups are essential to spot and manage any problems.
ED is common in middle-aged and older men, but men with diabetes are three times more likely to have ED. High blood sugar is one known cause of ED, but it can also occur due to nerve damage from high blood pressure. Medications for high blood pressure, depression, and allergies can also play a role in ED. Other causes can include an enlarged prostate or treatment for prostate cancer, tobacco or alcohol use, and sleep disorders.
An estimated 6 million men suffer from depressive disorders, including suicidal thoughts, annually. However, depression is often undiagnosed in men because the symptoms are more of anger and irritability than sadness. Regular exercise and talking with your doctor about treatment options are ways to combat depression.
Men are also not always honest with their doctors about their health. It’s essential to choose a doctor that you can be honest with so you can get the best care possible. So, don’t avoid the doctor, but rather establish a relationship with a good one as part of your healthy lifestyle.