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Published on July 05, 2022

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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. By itself, that can shorten life.

Cause, Effect and Making Changes

Knowing the threats men face helps. Ten top causes for men’s shorter lifespans include:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Stroke
  • Lung diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Flu and pneumonia
  • Suicide
  • Kidney disease
  • Alzheimer’s dementia

That’s an intimidating list. Let’s look at the top risks.

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.

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.

No. 2: Cancer

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The leading cause of 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 or at least catch them early.

Early detection of prostate cancer through regular appointments with a provider can save lives. 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.

No. 3: Unintentional Injuries

Men are 49% more likely to die from accidents that lead to these injuries. Leading causes for 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. 4: Stroke

Stroke symptoms that include sudden changes in your vision, speech or balance are also emergencies. Act fast and get help.

COVID-19 has brought a new aspect to men’s health. It’s been a leading cause of death over the past couple years. So prevention, including vaccination, remains important. Also, studies find men who had the coronavirus are three to six times more likely to have strokes in the first month after having COVID-19. The virus also impacts other parts of health, from breathing to sensory response.

Stopping Threats to Men’s Health

Here’s how 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 adequate rest. Aim to reduce your body mass index (BMI) to a healthy level.
  • Know your family’s health history.
  • Get yearly checkups.

Men check many parts of their mowers, cars and trucks regularly to keep them running longer. The same is true for our bodies.

We want you around for a long time, so stay diligent in your efforts to avoid all these common health risks. We need you. Please get started today with this checklist, and then by making an appointment for a checkup.

By Gregory Kosters, DO, FACOFP, a family medicine physician with Avera Medical Group Sibley

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