According to a survey conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, men simply don't talk about their health. In casual conversation with other male friends, only 7% of respondents claimed to talk about their health. According to the same survey, 43% of men would wait until they are "afraid they have a serious condition" before even going to a doctor.
This hesitancy—born from machismo or other cultural norms—is unfortunate because of the danger it creates. Many of the greatest risks to a man's health are not the kinds of conditions that emerge overnight. The five risks we are going to examine for Men's Health Month all benefit from preventative practices, early detection and treatment. These things are not possible if a man waits until the worse symptoms appear—so no matter what, begin having these conversations early, be sure to schedule regular appointments and be mindful of any changes in your health.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men in the United States. In 2013, it was responsible for 1 in every 4 male deaths. And while cardiovascular disease (also called heart disease) is known as the "silent killer" because it doesn't present any early symptoms, do not be tempted into thinking that there is no reason to look into talking to your healthcare professional about the issue early.
In truth, there are a number of risk factors that can be monitored and mitigated with your doctor. Some risk factors are conditional, while others are behavioral. Diabetes (we'll talk more about that in a moment) is a conditional risk factor for heart disease, as is having high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or being obese. Behavioral risk factors include having a poor diet, not getting enough physical activity, or excessive alcohol or tobacco use.
By communicating with your doctor early and often, you can be mindful about these risk factors and monitor how they might contribute to your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
While prostate cancer is more common in men, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. In fact, lung cancer is more lethal than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. What's even more sobering is that estimates predict about 116,440 new cases of lung cancer in 2019 among men. Lung cancer is also very difficult to detect early, meaning prevention is the best way to counter the disease.
The good news is that as smoking rates are falling, fewer men are developing lung cancer than ever before. Smoking remains the leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for about 90% of cases of the disease. Smoking also happens to be a contributing factor to many other conditions on this list, including cardiovascular disease—so if you're still smoking, you can do a great deal to your chances of surviving this list by quitting now.
Behind skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. About 1 in 9 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime - and it can be a very serious. The good news with prostate cancer is that the chances of death are far lower than that of lung cancer—with only 1 in 41 prostate cancer patients dying from the disease.
The thing that comes to mind for most men regarding prostate cancer is early screening for the disease - the infamous latex glove test. In the event that you're a man who has been dreading that exam, you should know that the American Cancer Society now recommends informed decision-making when it comes to prostate cancer screenings. That means that the risks of the screening may outweigh the benefits of early detection.
But the only way to be certain as to whether or not you should be screened is by talking to—and having a good relationship with—your healthcare professional. Only they can help you to understand the disease and what sort of screening might be appropriate for you.
According to a troubling study published in the year 2003, boys born in the year 2000 have a 1 in 3 chance of developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. That is a number likely to alarm anyone and, like several other threats on this list, diabetes typically doesn't show any overt symptoms until in its much more dangerous stages.
But with proper nutrition and physical fitness, your risk of developing diabetes can be drastically reduced. It is important for men to monitor these risk factors, meaning developing a positive relationship with your healthcare professional and understanding your risk of type 2 diabetes.
And it is so important that you do so—diseases and conditions that diabetes opens you up to are considerable. Diabetes makes you more prone to heart disease, and can cause strokes, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. It is a very serious risk to your health.
Depression and Suicide
For decades, clinical depression was seen as a "women's disease." As a result on our society, men are less likely to seek treatment for depression, and may not have a full understanding of what the symptoms of their depression even are. Depression in men may present as feelings of anger or aggression instead of sadness - meaning that friends and family may have difficulty assessing the underlying issue. What's worse is that left untreated, depression may lead to suicidal thoughts, where men frequently turn to more lethal methods of suicide than women.
Like any other medical condition on this list, it is important for men to seek medical attention. Being aware of the risks can help lead men to treatment, which can help them cope with their symptoms and prevent risks of suicidal thoughts.
Seeking out medical attention doesn't make anyone less of a man. There are no rewards for a stiff upper lip—only increased risks of developing or advancing serious medical issues. We recommend making regular appointments with your health care professional and monitoring threats to your health. Augusta Health has many practices dedicated to family care that can help you get started, with locations throughout Augusta County. To schedule an appointment you can call our centralized call service center at (833) 242-4584.