We all know a stubborn man who refuses to go to the doctor, right? This may be one reason why men have a shorter life expectancy than women. In 2012, the average life expectancy in the US was 78.8 years – a record high. But women still outlive men by 4.8 years, with an average life expectancy of 81.2 years compared to men’s life expectancy of 76.4 years. Men simply tend to put their health last on their to-do list, and as long as they can keep working and being productive, they often don’t consider the risks.
Men who take the time and the initiative to be proactive with their wellbeing can avoid the top five dangers to their health – or at the very least, catch them at an early stage when they are more treatable.
Get a cholesterol check at age 25 and every five years from there on
1. Cardiovascular disease
Whether you call it heart disease or atherosclerosis, it all points a finger at the leading cause of death in the US, not just for men but also women.
Cardiovascular disease is when plaques of cholesterol that build up within the arteries block blood flow to the brain and heart. Plaque that becomes unstable by forming a blood clot can block an artery leading to a heart attack or stroke.
For men, cardiovascular disease begins earlier than for women, with a man’s average age for death from this disease at under 65 years.
Men can take steps to prevent this – the earlier in life they start, the better. Begin by getting a cholesterol check at age 25 and every five years from there on, controlling blood pressure, being physically active most days of the week, eating more fruit and veggies and less saturated and trans fats, and never smoking.
2. Lung cancer
Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women. But more men are diagnosed with lung cancer than women according to the American Lung Association. It’s an aggressive disease that begins in the lungs, spreading early before it has grown large enough to cause symptoms or show up on an X-ray. When it is discovered, it is often advanced and difficult to cure with less than half of men still alive a year later.
Smoking is the main cause of this disease, leading to 90% of all lung cancers. It is still the leading cancer killer in men – more than enough to fill the New Orleans Superdome stadium every year.
Men who have chosen to smoke need to quit, as quitting smoking at any age reduces the risk of lung cancer. There are many ways a man can quit smoking and working with his doctor can help.
Even though prostate cancer is slow-growing and unlikely to spread, it can also be aggressive
3. Prostate cancer
Other than skin cancer, this is the most common cancer in men, with around 161,360 men who will be diagnosed with it in 2017, and around 26,730 men who will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
This walnut-sized gland behind the penis secretes fluids important for ejaculation but tends to enlarge and causes problems for men as they age.
Even though prostate cancer is generally slow-growing and unlikely to spread, it can also be aggressive. If men are not getting annual physicals they will often have no idea if their prostate is functioning properly or not.
Screening for prostate cancer requires a digital rectal exam and a blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA). Regular screening and discussing with their doctor the risks of prostate cancer can keep a man better informed and attuned to the signs and symptoms of prostate problems.
4. Depression and suicide
We all can get depressed at times but clinical depression is an emotional disturbance affecting the whole body and overall health.
Because men tend to suffer in silence, hiding their depressed emotions, they often may not be diagnosed with the condition. Signs of depression in men may include appetite changes or weight loss or gain, sleep disturbances, fatigue or lack of energy, feeling restless, irritable or withdrawn, feeling worthless or hopeless, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts about hurting or killing themselves. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among all men; for younger men it’s higher.
Any man displaying these symptoms needs to be referred to a doctor experienced treating individuals with depression to get them started with treatment right away before it’s too late.
Many men who are initially diagnosed with diabetes are shocked – it’s a disease that begins silently, often without symptoms. Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels or glucose remain elevated in the blood and spill over into the urine. This seventh-leading cause of death in the US is like a slow poison that can gradually cause complications of heart disease, blindness, stroke, kidney failure, neuropathy and amputations.
Excess weight gain, an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can be leading contributors to developing diabetes. Men who begin to make important lifestyle changes of moderate weight loss, becoming more physically active and eat a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat can reduce their chance of diabetes and the complications that go with it.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SamadiMD.com and Facebook.