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September 17, 2023/Living Healthy/Men's Health

Most Common Health Issues for Men

It’s important to watch for and guard against conditions like heart disease and cancer

male getting an annual check up

Nobody lives forever, guys. That’s a fact. The human body may be an amazing bit of engineering, but all those parts that keep you moving and grooving across this planet eventually wear out.

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But you’ll notice that there’s no set expiration date stamped on you. How long your body keeps going depends largely on … well, YOU. Paying attention to your health and taking care of your body can help you avoid or minimize issues that may cut your lifespan short.

Unfortunately, those tasks often get ignored by men. A 2023 survey by Cleveland Clinic found men are often lacking when it comes to scheduling health screenings, eating a healthy diet and talking with medical professionals about stress.

That indifference can play a role in these 10 health issues that often affect men, says primary care specialist Daniel Sullivan, MD.

Cardiovascular disease

Approximately half of all adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease. That’s the umbrella term for a group of life-threatening conditions affecting your heart and blood vessels.

Cardiovascular disease increases your risk for heart attack and stroke, two leading causes of death among men.

“When I have the privilege of seeing someone in the office, I’m thinking of how I’m going to make sure they don’t end up in the wrong half when it comes to cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Sullivan.

So, how can you guard against cardiovascular disease? It starts with lifestyle choices. “Your risk goes down if you eat a diet that’s more plants and less animals, exercise regularly and don’t smoke,” he adds.

Keeping tabs on your health is key, too. Regular health screenings that measure “hidden” factors such as cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure can offer signs of cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes

When it comes to diseases, diabetes can sneak up on you. Many people don’t even know they have elevated blood sugar until testing confirms it. (Could this be you? Learn the early symptoms of diabetes.)

More than half a BILLION people around the world have diabetes — and the number keeps swelling. In the United States, about 1 in 9 people have the condition.

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“It has become an epidemic,” notes Dr. Sullivan.

Left untreated, the high blood sugar that comes with diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke and damage to your kidneys (nephropathy), nerves (neuropathy) and eyes (retinopathy), among other issues.

Lifestyle changes and medications can help you manage diabetes or decrease your risk of the disease progressing.

Skin cancer

There’s a significant difference in sunscreen use between men and women. In every age group, men are less likely than women to apply products protecting their skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

Not coincidently, men have higher rates of skin cancer and usually experience worse outcomes after a diagnosis.

Changes to your skin (such as a new or larger mole) may signal skin cancer, so talk to a healthcare provider if you notice anything different. A full-body skin exam done by a dermatologist also is recommended to search for suspicious spots.

If skin cancer is found and removed early, your chance for a full recovery is extremely high.

Prostate cancer

The prostate may be a small gland in the male reproductive system, but it can be a big concern.

On average, 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer — a slow-growing disease that typically appears later in life, says Dr. Sullivan. It’s recommended that prostate cancer screenings (such as a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, test) begin by age 55.

Early detection of prostate cancer improves the chances of a positive outcome. It should be noted, too, that anyone with a prostate, including transgender women and nonbinary people assigned male at birth (AMAB), can get prostate cancer.

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Testicular cancer

There’s another below-the-belt cancer that affects men and people AMAB ­— and this one is more common among the younger crowd.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men ages 15 to 35, says Dr. Sullivan. The good news? It’s very treatable when detected early. The most common sign of testicular cancer is a painless lump in your testicle.

Taking two minutes once a month to do a self-exam of your testicles is recommended to check for anything unusual.

Colon cancer

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to colon cancer. The good? Overall, fewer people are being diagnosed with the disease, a downward trend that’s been ongoing since the 1980s.

The bad? Colon cancer has been steadily rising in people younger than age 50.

Current guidelines recommend colon cancer screenings beginning at age 45, notes Dr. Sullivan. If you have elevated risk factors (such as a family history of the disease), earlier testing is encouraged.

A colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” when it comes to prevention, as it’s a way for cancer-causing polyps to be found and removed. (Stool tests also can be used but aren’t as accurate or effective as a colonoscopy.)

Alcohol-related issues

Men consume alcohol more often and in much greater amounts than women — and that’s a truth that comes with increased health risks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Drinking beer, booze and wine can up your chances of developing:

Alcohol use also can contribute to mental health issues (such as depression) and cause decreased sexual and reproductive health (like erectile dysfunction and infertility).

“The reality is that alcohol is a toxin,” states Dr. Sullivan. “No amount is truly safe to consume, but the more alcohol you drink the more likely you are to have an illness related to it. It’s something to be mindful of.”

Respiratory illness

If you have a history of smoking, this is an area of concern.

Puffing on cigarettes or other tobacco products elevates your risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes life-threatening conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Early detection of respiratory illness and various treatments can help minimize long-term effects. And if you smoke, breaking the habit is the best thing you can do for your health.

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Viruses

Viral infections come in all shapes and sizes — and they can come at you in numerous ways. Viruses can lead to something as simple as the common cold or be at the root of a global pandemic. (COVID-19 in case you forgot).

Vaccines can help protect you from the worst of viruses causing:

Dr. Sullivan also suggests regular blood tests to check for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and hepatitis C, which can be picked up through sexual contact or something inadvertent. He adds that there are “staggeringly effective” treatments once they’re detected.

Injuries

The No. 3 cause of death for all men in the United States? It’s unintentional injuries. (Admit it: You’re right now thinking of countless YouTube videos showing guys making unwise decisions.)

So, use your seatbelt, wear a bike helmet and think of taking a few more precautions while rolling through life, suggests Dr. Sullivan.

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