As the daughter of one, wife of another, mother to 3 and nana to a little one, men’s health is a primary concern of mine. Dr. David Gremillion of the Men’s Health Network believes there is a silent health crisis affecting men in the United States because on average men live sicker and die younger that American women. 100 years ago, women lived an average of 1 year longer than men but now men die an average of 5 years younger (81 years to 76 years). Men die at higher rates from 9 of the 10 top causes of death. For examples, men die from heart disease at double the rate for women. Men are victims of 92% of workplace deaths and suffer double the number of injuries at work. Testosterone is linked to elevated LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) and declines in HDL (the good stuff). Men have fewer T-cells, the infection fighters, than women and are generally believed to have weaker immune systems. Looking at male biology, 115 males are conceived for every 100 females, but male fetuses are at a higher rate for miscarriage or stillbirth. 25% more male newborns die than females and 60% of sudden infant death cases are male.
Many men prefer to believe they are invincible or bulletproof (or at least the men in my family do). Here is a list of male health issues and conditions that warrant attention and information.
The number one cause of death for men and which causes a higher percentage of deaths for them versus women. The American Heart Association believes 1/3 of all men have some form of heart disease. Men have more risk factors leading to heart disease as well like obesity, alcohol and nicotine use. High blood pressure is quite common in men under age 45, a leading risk factor for stroke and diabetes. African American men experience 100000 more deaths due to heart disease than Caucasian men.
Be aware of the innocent ‘smokers cough’ which can be a red flag for ling cancer, emphysema and COPD. Men smoke more than women and smoking is linked to 90% of lung cancers. Each year more men develop and are diagnosed with lung cancer than the previous year and it affects African American men more than any other racial/ethnic group. Men also have an increased risk of asbestos exposure in the workplace, another common lung cancer culprit.
Men binge drink 2 times more often than women and have higher rates of hospitalization and death due to alcohol. This also raises the risk for aggressive behavior and sexual assaults. Alcohol use increases risk for mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon cancer as well as interfering with testicular function and hormone production leading to impotence and infertility.
DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE
Whether it is social stigma or not, men are far less likely to seek help for feelings of isolation or loneliness. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 6 million men suffer from untreated depression and are 4 times more likely to commit suicide. More men commit suicide when drinking than women. Males age 15-19 have rates 3 times, age 20-24: 4.5 times and over 65: 3 times higher than their female counterparts.
INJURIES, ACCIDENTS, HOMICIDES
In 2006, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) listed unintentional injury as a leading cause of death for men (drowning, brain injury, fireworks to name a few) Motor vehicle (cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, snow machines) accidents and deaths for men are 2 times that of women. Male workers account for 92% of the fatal work injuries in 2006. Homicide rates for men are also significant and pose an unusually high risk for African American men. The statistics look like this: 1 in 30 for black males, 1 in 132 for black females, 1 in 179 for Caucasian males 1 in 495 for Caucasian females.
Our liver adds in food digestion, absorbing nutrients and removing toxins. Men have a significantly higher rate of cirrhosis, Hepatitis, autoimmune/genetic liver disease, bile duct cancer and alcoholic liver damage. The American Cancer Society cite alcohol and tobacco use as increasing the likelihood of liver disease.
It is estimated that men account for more than 50% of untreated diabetes. This leads to liver, heart and kidney disease, stroke and vision problems possibly leading to blindness. Men with diabetes are at a higher risk for low testosterone and sexual impotence, which in turn can feed the cycle of anxiety, depression and substance abuse. The American Diabetes Association recommends that men ‘get out, get active, get informed.’ Men need to pay close attention to their family history, eat healthy and exercise.
INFLUENZA AND PNEUMONIA
Men are at high risk for these if they have underlying conditions like COPD, diabetes, CHF, Sickle Cell Anemia, HIV or cancer. According to the American Lung Association, men are 25% more likely to die from flu or pneumonia than women.
On average men spend 10 hours/week more than women outdoors. Men generally have shorter or thinner hair exposing the ears and scalp, the 2 locations men develop skin cancer most often. In 2013 2/3 of melanoma deaths were men, more than double the women’s rate. 60% of all deaths from skin cancer are Caucasian men over 50.
In 2010, 1.1 million people have HIV and 75% were men. Men may have HIV and not know it. 75% of men over 40 who have it don’t know it contributing to further infections and missed opportunities for medical treatment. Most men who are infected are homosexual, bisexual or have frequent sex with men, as well the high-risk behavior of IV drug use. African American men have the highest rate of infection.
This disease attacks the brain cells that control movement. People with Parkinson’s experience shaking and tremors in their hands, arms, legs and even face. As this progresses, there is stiffening of limb and balance issues. Actor Michael J. Fox is the most visible spokesman with this nasty disease that has no cure. It affects 50% more men than women and no one knows why.
AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS
Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This affects nerve cells and as they break down and die, the person gradually loses control of their arms, legs and body. It eventually affects the chest muscles needed for breathing resulting in many needing mechanical assistance to simply catch their breath. Approximately 30000 people are diagnosed with ALS at any given time and 60% are men. Life expectancy can be as long as 10 years, but most succumb in less than 5. Interestingly, military veterans, especially those who served in the Gulf War are 2 times more likely to develop ALS.
Why Are Men at Such High Risk?
A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage in the US and men make ½ the preventative visits to their healthcare professionals as women. More men are employed in high-risk professions like mining, fishing, construction, first responders and the lumber industry. They also have a greater risk of asbestos exposure. Younger men (and older ones who should know better) engage in risk-taking activities that their female counterparts tend to avoid. American society often discourages men and boys from healthy or preventative behaviors like healthy eating, weight management, exercise, and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol. “Be A Man” can have horrible health consequences.
Men and women have different health issues just as they have different biology. Men are at a greater risk for some conditions compared to women and research into male-specific diseases is often underfunded. For men and the families who love them, ‘fore-warned is fore-armed’. It is important for you today, tomorrow and for your long-term future.
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