SAN DIEGO – One truism of most modern Western societies is that men die at higher rates than women for all the top 10 causes of death, as compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that – on average – men also tend to die younger than women. Are men “stuck” because of their genetics, or can they take steps that will help them to be healthier?
The good news is that many of the top causes of death and disease are preventable – and they can be treated proactively if they are discovered soon enough.
In order to help men (and women) increase their knowledge of health issues, Nicholas “Dr. Nick” Yphantides, M.D., M.P.H., medical editor for TOPS Club, Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, briefly examines things that everyone should know about heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and prostate cancer.
Guard a heart early
Although heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, almost twice as many males die of conditions that affect the cardiovascular system. Heart disease is thought to begin in men about 10 years earlier than it does in women. This means that men have a shorter time to prevent the development of the underlying causes of heart disease.
While men are more likely to make their health a priority later in life, by that time — it may be too late. Men need to be more decisive and intentional earlier. Some risk factors for heart disease include gender, family history, and age. Modifying one’s lifestyle to regularly eat right, stay active, avoid or quit using tobacco products, and get early medical screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all proactive things to do.
Managing healthy blood pressure
Strokes are the third leading killer of men after heart disease and all forms of cancer. While the rate of strokes in men is higher than it is for women, differences between the sexes are not as significant as people get older. The key risk factor in predicting a stroke is high blood pressure. Behaviors that can reduce the risk of stroke are almost identical to those that can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Breathe easy and breathe clean
Lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer of men and women. Each year, it claims more lives than prostate, colon, and breast cancer combined. Fortunately, rates of lung cancer have been dropping since the 1980s. In men, this trend is directly related to drops in the consumption of tobacco products in the wake of negative attention tobacco use received in the 1960s.
Tobacco use is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer cases, so the full focus of personal prevention efforts is to quit. As soon as a person stops smoking, their chances of getting cancer from smoking shrink. Remember, one can prevent further damage to their lungs no matter how long they have been using tobacco.
Beyond personal smoking, additional risk factors for lung cancer include exposure to secondhand smoke, asbestos, radon, and air pollution. If anyone is concerned about possible exposure to carcinogens, they should ask their doctor.
Have prostate screenings
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Not enough is yet known about the causes of prostate cancer to be able to prevent it. Treatment options for prostate cancer are much better if the disease is found while in its earlier stages, though. Part of the challenge with prostate cancer is that it shows no symptoms until cancerous cells have spread to other parts of the body.
Starting at age 50, all men – and especially men who are at higher risk (those with a family history of the disease and African-American men) should get an annual physical exam and blood tests. The prostate is a small organ in the body, but ignoring it can result in major consequences.
Don’t ignore pain related to any of these health problems; it can become progressively worse and may be a signal that something much more serious is going on in the body. Following these tips and/or sharing this advice with men will help heighten awareness and encourage early detection and treatment of these issues.
To learn more about the TOPS Club Inc.® (Take Off Pounds Sensibly®), visit www.tops.org.