Just as Eskimo-Aleut languages have dozens of words for snow, American English gifted us with infinite ways to describe a muscular person. Jacked, fit, ripped, cut, shredded, buff, and swole are just examples, and there must be more. But men’s health isn’t all kettlebells and protein shakes. Men are at higher risk of several health conditions. For Men’s Health Month, we dive into five conditions every man should be aware of. What are they, who is at risk, and how do you diagnose and treat them?
Before we begin
The number one biggest medical problem among men is lack of treatment. Above any specific condition or singular symptom, American men tend to “walk it off,” and only go to the doctor when they feel that the problem is anywhere between severe to unbearable. Men are also less likely than women to get annual check-ups. The problem with this approach is that, unlike a bruise, it is impossible to “tough out” diabetes or heart conditions. For instance, if you don’t know that you have prediabetes and you don’t treat it, you set yourself up for a much harder battle. It is easier to take care of a leaking sink than a burst pipe. As a society, we have to encourage men to talk about their health, get checked, and take care of themselves.
If there is one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: preventative medicine can improve your health and save your life. Get tested regularly and don’t wait for the last minute. With today’s technology, you can do it comfortably from your home or office.
Health Conditions That Affect Men More than Others:
From high blood pressure to coronary artery disease, heart diseases are the leading cause of death in males in the U.S. They account for an astounding 24.2% – almost 1-in-4 – of male deaths in the country.
Risk factors include your age (the risk goes up with age), family history and lifestyle, especially diet, exercise, and consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Whereas you can’t change your family history or age (yet), you can certainly make adjustments to your lifestyle. Eat better, introduce workouts to your routine, and try to smoke and drink less.
Some heart conditions have more symptoms than others. Hypertension, for instance, is called “the silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms until it’s too late. Luckily, all you need to do in order to check if you have hypertension is measure your blood pressure. When was the last time you checked your blood pressure? If your answer is somewhere along the lines of “sheesh! How should I know?!” then we recommend you prioritize it. Remember that feeling great on the outside doesn’t meant that nothing is brewing on the inside.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, our recommendation would be to adjust your lifestyle and have a treatment plan built for your needs. Antidote Health’s clinicians are ready to get you started.
The second most common cause of male death in the U.S. is cancer. Types of cancer that often affect men include prostate, colorectal, lung, and skin cancers. Some types of cancer, like colorectal cancer, are highly affected by lifestyle. Smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight and physically inactive, and eating unhealthy foods make men at higher risk of getting the disease. Other types, like prostate cancer, aren’t as affected by decisions you make but rather by factors such as your age and family history. We encourage you to learn more about the different types of cancer and change whatever you can to help your body – wear sunscreen, work out, eat better, and don’t smoke.
The way to diagnose cancer is screening. But because screening in and of itself comes with health risks, you should only do it if suggested by a clinician. Contact your doctor and ask them if they recommend you get tested for different types of cancer. In cancer, like most diseases, early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment. Finding it before it spreads will increase the chance of recovery.
Type 2 Diabetes
One reason that does make men visit the doctor is erectile dysfunction (ED). What people might not know about this unnecessarily shameful condition is that it is usually a sign of a larger problem. In fact, men with diabetes are three times more likely to have ED.
About 1-in-10 Americans have diabetes. Most Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, in which the body fails to keep blood sugar at normal levels. An alarming number of people who have diabetes are unaware of their condition, which is problematic. First, because untreated diabetes is linked to other severe conditions, inducing heart disease. And second, because type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed, and managed – given the right treatment at the right time.
Lifestyle choices, including sticking to a healthy diet and exercising, can make a big difference. But sometimes, medication is inevitable. Either way, the first step would be to test your blood sugar levels as soon as possible.
HIV and other STDs
About three-quarters of Americans with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, are men. Other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and gonorrhea, also tend to be higher among men than women. Even though we have the medical tools to suppress HIV, it can still lead to death for a few reasons. One of the main reasons is that 1-in-7 men with HIV are unaware of their condition. This leads to two problems: (a) without diagnosis people aren’t treating their condition, leaving it to worsen. And (b) without knowing they have it, people don’t know how critical it is for them to practice safe sex, therefore spreading the disease further.
The upside is that testing for HIV is very easy. All that’s needed is a simple blood sample, oral fluid, or urine test. And as mentioned, people can live a full life with HIV given the right treatment. As always, we suggest taking preventative measures. In this case, the risk level drops by practicing safe sex. In other words, use a condom.
Parkinson's Disease and ALS
ALS and Parkinson’s Disease share more than a few similarities. They both affect movement, speech, eating, and breathing. They both happen for reasons we still don’t fully understand. And they share some symptoms, such as tremors, stiffness, and slow movement. With that said, they are not the same condition. While Parkinson’s Disease damages specific parts of the brain, ALS affects the neurons in the body. ALS usually starts in a certain part of the body and spreads from there, while Parkinson’s Disease often includes non-movement related symptoms, such as fatigue.
The way to diagnose Parkinson’s Disease is through a neurological examination. And although there is no cure for it, medication can ease the symptoms. ALS usually appears between the ages of 40 to 70, and is usually diagnosed by process of elimination. Both ALS and Parkinson’s Disease are more common in men than women (except for ALS after the age of 70).