Understanding Men's Top Health Risks
Women live, on average, about five years longer than men, for several reasons.
Men tend to take bigger risks, have more dangerous jobs or more risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. They also tend to be heavier, more suicidal and are less socially connected.
Unfortunately, men also are much less likely to regularly see a health care provider. The top 10 causes for men’s shorter lifespans include:
- Alzheimer’s dementia
- Kidney disease
- Flu and pneumonia
- Lung diseases
- Unintentional injuries
- Heart disease
That’s an intimidating list for any man. Let’s look at the top three risks and the ways they can reduce them. We’re not dismissing the other seven – they are serious – but these top threats deserve focus.
No. 3: Unintentional Injuries
Men are 49% more likely to die from accidents that lead to these injuries. Leading injuries include falls, fires and impaired driving.
You can limit injuries from falls with regular exercise to improve balance, and use appropriate safety equipment. Getting your eyes checked often also helps.
Reduce the risk of death by fire with regular exercise, so you can escape a home fire, which is the most common place they happen. Keep those smoke detectors up-to-date, too.
You can reduce risk of impaired driving accidents by keeping your vehicles maintained, never using cell phones while driving and of course, never driving after drinking. More than 40% of motor vehicle fatalities are due to driving while intoxicated.
No. 2: Cancer
The leading cancer deaths in men are ones affecting the lungs, colon and prostate. Consider the fact that 90% of lung cancer is caused by cigarette smoking. Weight loss, chest pain, persistent cough, wheezing shortness of breath and coughing up blood are possible indicators.
Regular – at least yearly – checkups with a primary care provider can keep you on track to avoid all cancers.
Early detection of prostate cancer saves lives. Those regular appointments with a provider can ensure you get needed prostate cancer screenings. Symptoms include weak or interrupted urine flow, blood in the urine or more frequent urination.
Colorectal cancer is another disease where timing is critical. Changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool are signs. Make sure you start colon screening on time — age 45 for most of us. You can work with a provider to make sure you do.
No. 1: Heart Disease
Heart disease can lead to many conditions. Coronary artery disease is the most common, and the condition reduces blood flow to the heart. That can lead to a heart attack. If you ever feel chest pain or a pressure sensation there, or shortness of breath, lightheadedness and sweatiness, it could be time to call 911.
Stroke symptoms include sudden changes in your vision, speech or balance are also emergencies. Act fast and get help.
Congestive heart failure comes from damaged or diseased heart valves. Heart attacks can do damage without being fatal, and that’s why avoiding chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes is important.
Fearful stuff, these 10 things and the top three threats to men. But there are ways to reduce risk:
- Stop smoking if you currently smoke. Use a cessation program if you want help.
- Limit alcohol consumption completely or never have more than two drinks each day.
- Eat a well-balanced diet and make sure regular exercise is in your life, along with and adequate rest. Aim to reduce your body mass index (BMI) as much as you can.
- Know your family’s health history.
Men check many parts of their mowers, cars and trucks regularly to keep them running longer. The same is true for our bodies. Maintaining a motorcycle or a truck is often easier to understand than health care. That’s why having a primary care provider who can guide you through routine health maintenance is a good idea.
When you keep up with this routine, it can really help you avoid premature death. We want you around for a long time, so stay diligent in your efforts to avoid all these common health risks. We need you.
Gregory Kosters, DO, FACOFP, is a family medicine physician with Avera Medical Group Sibley