Are You Avoiding the Doctor?
Sometimes, it takes a highly personal concern like ED or incontinence linked to prostate hyperplasia for a man to finally see a doctor. According to a survey conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, 40% of men never schedule routine checkups and only go to the doctor for a serious health issue. The same survey also found that 19% of the men who do get checkups admitted they only went to get a spouse or family member to stop nagging them! Meanwhile, according to the CDC, women are 33% more likely to go to the doctor when they don't feel well and 100% better at screening and preventive care! When asked why they don't go to the doctor, some men claim to be "too busy", or they diagnose themselves as "not sick enough." Dig a little deeper and some will admit that they are afraid of what the doctor might find. Knowledge is power, and staying on top of your health screenings and issues is the best way to live well.
Healthier Living for a Longer Life
The average American life expectancy for men is 73 years old, which is nearly 10 years less than the average woman. Understanding your health risks, getting regular checkups, and adopting a healthier lifestyle can help you live a longer, more active life. Understanding more about the facts and statistics of the health risks men face should help raise your awareness of potential threats:
- One in two men will develop some form of cancer in his lifetime, compared to one in three women. Of the 700,000 men diagnosed with cancer each year, 230,000 of them, or one man in nine, have prostate cancer. While prostate cancer only affects men, they are also more susceptible to several types of cancer that can affect both men and women:
- Melanoma will affect one in 27 men and one in 40 women in their lifetimes. Men are also more likely to die of melanoma.
- Colorectal cancer rates are slightly higher in men than women – one man out of 23 will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer compared to one woman in 25.
- Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men, affecting one man in 27 compared to one woman in 89.
- Head and neck cancers, which account for 4% of all cancers in the US, are more than twice as common in men than women.
- A National Cancer Institute study found that men had higher rates of most cancers that affect both men and women. Compared to women, they were more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus (10.8 times higher); larynx and bladder (each 3.5 times higher); and a type of stomach cancer called gastric cardia (3.3 times higher).
As with all cancers, the earlier you are diagnosed, the better your odds of beating the disease, so it's another reason to get that check-up you've been postponing.
- According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease is responsible for one in four male deaths each year. It is likely no coincidence that 50% of all men (vs. 44% of women) have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. 13.1% of men are smokers vs. 10.1% of women. Men also drink more alcohol and are more likely to drink in excess. Both tobacco and excessive drinking contribute to the development of heart disease.
- Men between the ages of 35 and 54 are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women. Research indicates that this may be partly due to differences in how men and women carry fat. Men tend to have more visceral fat, a type of fat located deep inside the body, around the abdominal organs, whereas women are more likely to accumulate fat around their thighs and hips. Visceral fat produces hormones that can affect your metabolism. Even worse, men are more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.
- Men are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. They are also less likely to seek help than women. Interestingly, men with hearing loss have trouble hearing higher frequencies whereas women develop problems hearing lower frequencies.
- 30.6% of men have suffered from a period of depression in their lifetime, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Of the currently depressed men who participated in the survey, only one in four had spoken to a mental health professional. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In fact, the two can negatively impact each other, with health issues causing stress and depression and emotional issues leading to poor sleep, overeating, drinking too much, and lack of exercise.
- Up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. We think of osteoporosis as a woman's disease because it affects one in five women over 50 compared to one in 20 men. However, osteoporosis is still a real concern for men. In fact, a man is more likely to break a bone due to the condition than get prostate cancer! While women suffer osteoporosis related fractures on average 10 years before men do, men 75 and older have a higher risk of dying after these fractures, both in the hospital and within the year after their return home.
The good news: by being more proactive and taking steps to live a healthier lifestyle, many diseases can be prevented, managed, or treated effectively – especially when caught early. It's never too late to make healthy changes, and these steps are a great place to start!
Get a thorough checkup. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time and bring up anything that's been bothering you, from poor sleep to strange moles to not hearing as well as you used to. Your doctor will order the appropriate tests and refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Change your mindset. Focusing on what you shouldn't eat, drink, or do can make you feel deprived and discouraged. Instead, think about being healthy and leading a long, full, active life and make choices that support that goal.
Make small, incremental changes as opposed to sudden, drastic changes. Rather than signing up for a marathon, take a short walk or work out to an exercise video. Remember that small changes, when done consistently, become healthy habits very quickly!
Share your goals with a buddy who's looking to improve his health too. Research shows you're more likely to be successful if you have someone to hold you accountable. Set up a weekly time to check in with each other and compare notes.
Quit smoking. Call our tobacco cessation program at 650-940-7301 for more information.
Control your weight. Being overweight increases your risk for a multitude of health problems. Ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian to help you plan healthier meals and ensure you're eating a well-balanced diet.
Exercise regularly. As mentioned above, you don't have to go all out every day, but consistently getting 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise every day is good for just about every part of your body – including your mind.
Get screened for prostate cancer. Talk to your doctor about when to start screening. For most men, it's age 50, but it could be age 45 or even younger if you have a family history of the disease.
Schedule your colonoscopy. Did you know that during a colonoscopy, polyps can be removed so it actually prevents cancer? And if your test is normal, you won't have to have another colonoscopy for five – or maybe even 10 - years. Also, because rates of colorectal cancer are rising in younger people, the CDC has lowered the recommended age for a first screening to 45 for at-risk individuals.
Have your cholesterol checked and blood pressure checked annually. If your blood pressure is borderline, ask your doctor if you should monitor it regularly at home. At home blood pressure monitors are inexpensive and very accurate when used correctly – so they can help you identify rising blood pressure and treat it before it becomes a bigger concern. Remember, normal blood pressure is now considered 120/80 or below. Anything above that is elevated and needs to be taken seriously.
Take all your medications as recommended. Those statins and blood pressure meds can’t do you any good if they're still in the jar.
If you snore, or don't wake up feeling refreshed after a night of sleep, ask your physician about sleep apnea. To learn about sleep disorders, click here.
Get evaluated for low testosterone. If you are experiencing decreased energy, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, decreased work performance, you feel moody, grumpy, or depressed, or you're having trouble managing your weight, the problem could be low testosterone.
Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of heart disease and/or risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, excess weight, or erectile dysfunction. Your doctor may want you to see a cardiologist to get a baseline of your heart health.
See a urologist about any difficulties with urination.
Protect yourself during activities. Use appropriate protective gear when exercising, riding a bike or motorcycle, or playing sports.
Try a mobile health app. Free food and exercise trackers like MyNetDiary or MyFitnessPal or fee-based lifestyle weight loss programs like Noom are a convenient and encouraging way to track your progress.
This article first appeared in the June 2023 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.