Facts and Figures
On average, the lifespan of men is five years shorter than that of women. One reason may be that men visit the doctor half as frequently as women do, ignoring symptoms and not getting the preventive care that they need. Men also are more likely than women to drink alcohol, use tobacco, and make risky choices, all of which threaten their health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has concluded that 12 percent of men are in fair or poor health.
In addition, an American Academy of Family Physicians survey found that 55 percent of men had not seen a doctor in the previous year, despite 40 percent of those surveyed having at least one chronic health problem. Nearly 30 percent of respondents said they wait as long as possible to seek medical care when feeling ill or having pain.
Men’s Health Month’s focus is to educate men on common health problems and to encourage regular visits with health care professionals in order to promote early detection and treatment of disease in men and boys.
Men’s Most Common Health Concerns
According to the CDC, the leading causes of death in males are, in order:
- heart disease
- unintentional injuries
- chronic lower respiratory (lung) disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- influenza and pneumonia
- chronic liver disease
To prevent disease, men are encouraged to seek the following routine screenings:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm test: A onetime ultrasound test conducted in men aged 65 to 75 can detect a ballooning in the aorta, the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the body.
- Blood pressure testing: Blood pressure testing can be done anytime, but at least every two years for someone with normal blood pressure or once a year for those with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Cholesterol testing: A cholesterol test should be performed every five years or more frequently for those at risk for heart disease, as high cholesterol greatly increases the risk of a heart attack.
- Colorectal screening: Men aged 50 and older should get a fecal occult blood test annually, a flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure every five years, and a colonoscopy—either invasive or noninvasive—every 10 years.
- Diabetes screening: A blood glucose test should be performed on men 40 and older and who are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure, or meet the risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including having a parent or sibling with diabetes, being physically inactive, and having high cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Hepatitis B virus testing: Men at higher risk should be tested regularly (check with a doctor on frequency), such as those who have unprotected sex with multiple partners, share needles during intravenous drug use, have sex with other men, are health care workers exposed to others’ blood, live with someone with hepatitis B infection, or travel to regions with high hep B infections.
- Hepatitis C virus testing: Men who have had blood transfusions, are health care workers who may have been stuck by a needle, or are current or former intravenous drug users should be tested.
- Lung cancer screening: Tests involve using a low-dose CT scan for men 55 and older who have smoked regularly for more than 15 years and who currently smoke or recently quit.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing: A blood test can detect high levels of PSA, which may indicate prostate cancer. Because of the lack of benefits of the test, digital rectal examination (DRE) is no longer recommended to detect prostate cancer. Men should discuss the need for a prostate screening with their doctor.
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) test: Men who have unprotected sex with a partner whose history is unknown should be tested for STIs.
- Weight and height screening: A body mass index (BMI) may be helpful in determining overweight. Weight should be measured annually and height, every 10 years.
A Healthy Lifestyle
Men can do the following to protect their health:
- Quit smoking
- Consume a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Limit alcohol intake
- Manage stress
- Stop avoiding the doctor
- Make safe choices
- Seek help for suicidal thoughts (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255)
As with any pain, illness, health concern, or diet and exercise plan, consult a physician for the best approach to wellness.
Sources: CDC, Health Equity: Leading Causes of Death—Males, https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2017/all-races-origins/index.htm; Harvard Health Publishing, Men’s Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/mens-health, Routine Screening Tests for Men, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/routine-screening-tests-for-men; Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle: Men’s Health, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/mens-health/art-20047764; NAMI, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/; National Center for Health Statistics: Men’s Health, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mens-health.htm