For men, an enlarged prostate is as much a part of getting older as graying hair. Osteoporosis is also more likely in older men, and so is arthritis.
While these and many other men’s health problems are common, that doesn’t mean they’re trivial. For example, men who have low testosterone may also have weak bones or sleep apnea. Erectile dysfunction can result from cardiovascular disease, and blood in the urine can be a symptom of both bladder stones and bladder cancer.
Ignoring symptoms can seem like the easiest path — in fact, it’s a common strategy among men with busy lives. Between careers, family and other responsibilities, it’s hard to find time to see a doctor. For men who have kept their health on the back burner, now is the time to tune up healthy habits. Here are eight specialty areas important to men’s health.
General Men’s Wellness
Men are statistically less likely to go to the doctor. When they do go, it’s often only after a serious condition has already developed. Follow these straightforward strategies to tackle any current health issues and also prevent future problems:
- Find a doctor who can address specific concerns, speaks a preferred language, and provides guidance on how to stay healthy.
- Know which factors, like age, lifestyle choice, weight, family health history and ethnicity, increase the risk for specific problems.
- Have regular checkups and screenings.
Digestion involves multiple organs and tissues, and it’s great when they all perform smoothly. But when they don’t, the symptoms can range from mild to debilitating.
- Make an appointment to see a doctor if any of these occur: abdominal pain, bloody vomit or stool, constipation, ongoing diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, nausea and vomiting, and regurgitation.
- Lifestyle can affect digestive health. Some digestive problems can be avoided or improved with changes to diet and lifestyle, such as adding fiber, avoiding stress, and maintaining a healthy weight.
- Get screened for colorectal cancer. For most men, screening should start at age 50.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men in the U.S., accounting for 1 in 4 deaths. Many men with heart disease don’t know they have it. Take steps to keep the heart healthy.
- Make an appointment with a primary care physician to determine personalized risk for heart disease.
- Don’t sit back and let the arteries become hardened and narrowed with plaque. Take charge and eat heart-healthy foods, get more exercise, manage stress, don’t smoke, and get enough sleep.
- Be aware of signs and symptoms that should lead to a visit with a doctor, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing that doesn’t go away, swelling in lower extremities, fatigue, and irregular heartbeat.
Problems with bones or joints are among the most common reasons men go to the doctor. While it’s not likely men will escape orthopedic injury or illness as they age, there are a few strategies to prevent many problems or minimize their effects.
- Stay active to keep bones and joints healthy.
- Seek medical attention right away for a joint injury that causes intense pain, swells quickly, deforms the join or limits use of the joint.
Sexual health carries a unique burden compared to other issues. It can interfere with relationships, affect self-image, and lower the quality of life. Sexual dysfunction in men often results from a separate, underlying medical condition.
- See a doctor for a thorough overall health assessment. If an underlying condition exists, the priority is it to treat that problem.
- Be cautious of products that promise quick results, are described as alternatives to prescription drugs, sold in single doses, or advertised via unsolicited emails.
Millions of people in the U.S. have trouble sleeping, and the reasons may be obvious like having a caffeinated drink in the evening. In some cases, though, sleep loss results from issues that are tougher to uncover. The fallout from chronic sleep loss can affect not only men’s health but work, relationships and even sex life.
- Take a good look at everyday habits to see what might be impacting sleep. Temporary sleep loss can result from working at night, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeine, and stress.
- Make changes to improve sleep, including establish a regular sleep routine, make the bedroom quiet, keep electronics out of the bedroom, try meditation, and don’t stay in bed if sleepless.
- Consult with a doctor if lifestyle changes don’t improve sleep.
The urinary tract not only removes urine but filters out waste, regulates certain body chemicals, helps control blood pressure, and contributes to strong bones and healthy blood cells. All these functions work efficiently most of the time, but when problems occur, they can cause pain, embarrassment, loss of function and even serious illness.
- Take these steps to lower risk of urologic problems: don’t smoke, drink plenty of fluids, exercise and maintain a healthy weight, eat fish and lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoid occupational exposure to chemicals that increase risk of cancer.
- Get screened for prostate cancer. For most men, screenings starts at age 50.
Balancing the demands of work, home and even friends can be stressful. Combine that with difficult life events, like moving, job loss and illness, and the outcome can manifest itself in symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
- To keep stress at a manageable level try to get regular exercise, spend time outdoors, prioritize the day, schedule time to do something that is relaxing, get enough sleep, eat well, stay connected and check in with a doctor if physical symptoms are worrisome.
- Talking about feelings can be difficult. Look to a professional to help find a path to wellness. Many mental health conditions can be treated effectively with talk therapy, medications or a combination of both.
Visit our Men’s Health Program for more information.