From eating better to quitting smoking and attending regular checkups, here's how you can take steps to avoid common men's health problems.
Some men struggle to look after their mental and physical health, which may cause them to skip checkups and screenings that can ensure they live long, healthy lives. Men who don't take the health of their mind and body seriously may develop serious health issues. The "medical gender gap" and its consequences are real, according to the CDC, with men dying about five years earlier than women on average.
The good news is that you can do a lot to take control of your health, starting with prioritizing prevention. From eating better to quitting bad habits like smoking and attending regular checkups, here are several steps you can take to avoid common men's health problems at any age.
1. Heart disease
More men die of heart disease than any other cause of death. Men can play an active role in their heart health by managing their unique risk factors. This should include eating a balanced diet with fruits and veggies, quitting smoking, staying active, reducing stress and taking medications as instructed by your healthcare provider.
Also, be sure to get regular checkups. These visits are an opportunity to get screenings or tests (like blood pressure or cholesterol) that may help detect heart problems before they become more serious.
Cancer follows heart disease as the second-leading cause of death among American men, the CDC reports. Common cancers diagnosed in men include skin, prostate, colorectal and lung cancers.
Providers suggest a combination of a healthy lifestyle and regular screenings to keep these cancers at bay. Simple actions like wearing sunscreen, limiting processed or red meat, quitting smoking and talking to your provider about testing can all go a long way toward reducing your cancer risk.
Compared to women, men have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes at a lower weight. This is partly because male bodies have more belly fat, which itself raises the risk of this chronic disease. Managing your weight and getting more exercise can help reduce this risk. It's also good to know your risk for prediabetes so that you can take action early. Take this prediabetes risk test from the CDC to get started.
4. Erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is common in men, especially those older than 75, but that doesn't mean it should impact your sex life. Treatments such as medications can help, and actions like quitting smoking or limiting alcohol can have a preventive effect too. In any case, it's good to get any symptoms checked out by your provider, as this condition could be a sign of a more severe issue, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
5. HPV and other STIs
As the most common sexually transmitted infection, human papillomavirus (HPV) often resolves on its own. Still, some men with HPV can develop certain health problems such as penile cancer or genital warts from the infection. HPV vaccines can help prevent infection, but they will likely be most beneficial before a person is 26. Condoms are also an important measure to prevent HPV and other STIs.
6. Low testosterone
Testosterone starts to drop in a man's thirties, but if that natural decline causes unwelcome symptoms like low sex drive or trouble concentrating, ask your provider whether you need a blood test to check your hormone levels. Your provider can help diagnose any underlying issues that may be causing the "low-T" and discuss options like testosterone replacement therapy.
Depression can go undiagnosed in men because the symptoms don't always align with what they might expect. Men sometimes experience depression as anger or irritability rather than sadness. They're also more likely to sweep these feelings under the rug. If you suspect you are suffering from depression, take the first step by talking with your provider. Remember, providers are trained to help, not judge.
COVID-19 can hit men harder. Research has found that men who contract the disease have a higher risk of hospital interventions and death. Now that COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available, getting vaccinated can help prevent the risk of infection altogether.
Take action with preventive, proactive care
No matter what health issues you might face, you can take command of your well-being by taking preventive and proactive steps today. Take care of your body inside and out, and consider your provider a partner in your healthcare. They can guide you toward recommended tests, answer any questions you may have and put you on a path to better health.