Men experience worse long-term health than women and die on average six years earlier, according to men’s health awareness organization the Movember Foundation. Worse, this gap in life expectancy has been increasing in recent years. Why is this? Part of the reason may be because men have a hard time talking about their health, and they often put off dealing with an issue until it becomes too serious to ignore.
As an integrative physician who specializes in men’s health, I believe strongly in prevention through intention and accountability—so much so that I gave a TEDx Talk on the topic. One of the ways that men can take charge of their own health is by knowing the top health risks. Here are six key threats to be aware of.
Cardiovascular disease accounts for about 1 in 3 deaths in the United States, killing more people every year than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined. Luckily, there are lots of simple things you can start doing right now to help improve heart health. Minor tweaks like getting the right amount of exercise and choosing heart-healthy snacks instead of raiding the office snack stash can have a big impact. See my post here for more life-saving information about heart attack and stroke prevention.
Depression and Anxiety
Many men have a hard time asking for help when it comes to mental health problems, even though they’re incredibly common. More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and anxiety disorders are so common that the National Institute of Mental Health reports up to 18 percent of adults in America have one. How do you know if you’re one of the millions of people with a mental health issue? For a depression/stress/anxiety test, see my post here.
If there’s one thing men feel more uncomfortable talking about than mental health, it’s the prostate. But prostate cancer is a real concern—around 1 man in 9 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. In addition to being upfront with their doctors about prostate symptoms, men can make lifestyle changes to help lower their risk of developing prostate cancer. See my list of potentially carcinogenic foods to avoid here.
Maintaining a healthy weight is so important, not least because it helps lower your risk of a number of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. If losing weight seems like too big a challenge, keep in mind that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in your health. The CDC says losing even a modest amount of weight—say 5 to 10 percent of your body weight— can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
Another common concern for men that’s associated with a bunch of serious health problems? Chronic stress, which has been linked to anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, depression, and more. You might not be able to avoid the things in your life that cause you stress, but you can control how you react to them. See my post here for some stress management training exercises, or check out a list of my favorite mindfulness meditation apps here.
If you have even a fleeting interest in nutrition, you probably know that the best way to get the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need to function optimally is through food. In spite of our best intentions, though, most of us don’t eat as well as we should. Whether you travel for work or just work a lot, many of us don’t have time to shop for high-quality groceries (much less cook healthy meals with them), so chances are your diet is lacking in something. And even if you do eat well, you could still be missing key nutrients. That’s why I’m a big proponent of micronutrient testing. Knowing your body’s deficiencies can make a huge difference in your health because a few simple tweaks can fix underlying problems you didn’t even know you had.
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About Myles Spar, MD
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher