Most guys find it easy to discuss sports or vent about work. But talk about their health? Nope, that’s not happening, well, at least not for the majority of men, reports a Cleveland Clinic men’s health survey of 500 men ages 18 to 70. The national telephone survey found that 53 percent of men do not talk about their health, and 60 percent resist seeing a doctor and only go for a checkup if a health problem or symptoms become too painful and troublesome. The survey also determined that men ages 52 to 70 are the most tight-lipped about their health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks these serious and chronic medical conditions and tabulates what leads to people’s deaths. For all U.S. men, the top 10 causes of death are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (accidents), chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, diabetes, suicide, Alzheimer’s disease, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease.
Take Charge of Your Health
So what can guys do to be more proactive about their health?
- See a doctor for regular checkups. Even if you feel fine, it is still important to schedule at least an annual physical to stay ahead of diseases and conditions that do not always have symptoms. The doctor can help you stay current with immunizations, screenings and medications.
- Get the appropriate screening tests. Taking the right screening tests at the right time goes a long way toward the prevention and detection of diseases. The following is a guideline for screening tests for men:
Prostate cancer — A digital rectal exam by a physician is recommended, and possibly a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. For healthy men, discussions with one’s doctor should begin at age 50 for average-risk men and at age 40 for men with a strong family history of prostate cancer.
Colorectal cancer — Colorectal cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer death. Screening for average-risk men should begin at age 50. Those with a family history of colorectal cancer are advised to start with colonoscopies earlier.
Testicular cancer — Most cases of this uncommon cancer develop in men between ages 20 and 54. Regular self-exams and a screening during a routine physical are recommended.
Skin cancer — The health experts at WebMD.com report that older men are twice as likely as women of the same age to develop melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Beginning in young adulthood, skin self-exams are important as well as routine checkups by a dermatologist or health professional.
Diabetes — One-third of Americans do not know they have diabetes. Healthy adults should have a screening for diabetes every three years starting at age 45. Those at higher risk should be tested more frequently.
High blood pressure — The likelihood of high blood pressures increases with age, excess weight and poor dietary choices. Hypertension is treatable, and those with higher blood pressure levels can learn to check their numbers regularly at home.
High cholesterol — Men who are at increased risk for heart disease should start regular cholesterol screening at age 20 for LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides (blood fat). At age 35, men should get a regular screening for cholesterol levels.
Glaucoma — Certain eye diseases can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness. Your eye doctor can oversee your risk for glaucoma and other eye conditions, but a general rule for glaucoma screening is:
Under age 40: every 2-4 years
40-54: every 1-3 years
55-64: every 1-2 years
65 and up: every 6 to 12 months
- Keep active and eat healthy. Here are questions men can ask themselves: What is a healthy weight for me? Are there foods I need to avoid for any health conditions? Are there any foods I need to add to my diet? How much exercise is best for my age and fitness level?
- Stop smoking. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration finds that men who smoke are 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. Smoking decreases a man’s life expectancy by at least a decade. Males who smoke or use other tobacco products are encouraged to talk to their doctor about quitting.
- Go easy on alcohol. The CDC notes that 23 percent of adult men binge drink five times a month, averaging eight drinks per binge. Men consistently face higher rates of hospitalizations and alcohol-related deaths than women. If a male chooses to drink, moderation is key.
- Stay safe on the road. Automobile accidents are a primary cause of death among men. Wearing a seatbelt, following speed limits, and avoiding driving while sleepy or intoxicated helps saves countless lives.
- Manage stress. Feeling constantly under pressure or anxious takes a toll on the immune system. Coping with stress is an individual experience, but common symptoms of stress for men include chest pain, shortness of breath, muscle pain, indigestion and high blood pressure. Stress reducers include exercise, mindfulness practices and setting personal boundaries.
Financial Options and Resources
For men who reason that they can’t afford to see a doctor, many health insurance companies provide free annual checkups and some screening tests. For senior males, Medicare Part B medical insurance covers a number of preventive and screening services for such conditions as colorectal cancer, depression, diabetes, glaucoma and prostate cancer, as well as immunizations for flu, hepatitis B and pneumococcal infections.
Men of all ages are encouraged to take advantage of local, nationwide and online health resources including the following:
Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Information Center https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic, 301-504-5755
Men’s Health Network http://www.menshealthnetwork.org, 202-543-MHN-1 (6461) ext. 101
Men’s Health Resource Center http://www.menshealthresourcecenter.com/health-topics/
National Institutes of Health (NIH) https://nccih.nih.gov/health/mens-health, 1-888-644-6226
National Institute on Aging https://www.nia.nih.gov/health, 1-888-644-6226
Mayo Clinics https://www.mayoclinic.org, Arizona: 480-301-8000; Florida: 904-953-2000; Minnesota: 507-284-2511
What keeps you or other men you know from talking about your health?