Today, humans live in a time when people have a lot of control over the environment and their bodies. Additionally, there is now access to life-saving equipment and medications that have a significantly prolonged lifespan and even completely eradicated some diseases.
In spite of this, many men are reluctant to go to the doctor. Studies show that men are far less likely to go to the doctor than women and that this reluctance to seek advice can sometimes lead to shorter lifespans for men because, by the time they are diagnosed with a condition, it could be too late to treat it.1,2
Part of the reason that men don’t go to the doctor very often is simply down to traditional masculinity values and a desire to be perceived as independent, but it is likely that other issues such as busy work schedules also have an impact on willingness to seek health care.3
Whatever the cause, there are some serious issues that are common in terms of men’s health, and collectively changing attitudes about men’s health will encourage individuals to get the healthcare they need before their health issues become a concern.
Common Health Issues Affecting Men
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for one in every three deaths, according to the American Heart Association.4 Heart attacks and strokes are serious consequences of heart disease, but they can often be prevented. Smoking and alcohol consumption can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. For a long time, these were habits more common in men than in women, which means that there are several generations of men that are suffering from these as a much greater risk factor.
Lung cancer is another condition which disproportionately affects men. More men are being diagnosed with the condition each year than women, although there are more women currently living with the condition.5 Part of this also stems from the fact that so many men were smokers until a decade or two ago. Another potential reason for this statistic is that more men tend to work in jobs where they may be exposed to hazardous chemicals or substances such as asbestos, which can cause a form of cancer known as mesothelioma.
Studies into alcohol consumption show that men are more likely to drink alcohol and also more likely to engage in high volume drinking. Young women do tend to be heavy drinkers but are more likely to quit drinking as they get older, while men continue to drink.6
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Excess alcohol consumption can damage the liver, causing a condition known as cirrhosis. In addition, alcohol is high in calories and excess consumption can lead to weight gain, which can have other complications such as increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.7
Depression and Suicide
Mental health support for men is poor in most developed countries. Statistics from Canada show that out of 3,728 suicides in 2011 a total of 2,781 of them were male. Men aged 40 to 60 were the most likely to commit suicide.8 Those who have experienced hospitalization for severe depression are more likely to struggle with suicidal thoughts.9
Some industries are more dangerous than others and work-related injuries or fatalities are far more common for men than they are for women, in part because of the industries that they tend to work in. The issue here is compounded by attitudes towards health and safety, which can be hostile in certain traditionally masculine jobs.10
Workplace injuries can cause life-altering damage, especially for men that work in factories, construction sites, ships, oil rigs, or other dangerous environments. Even those who work in front of a computer are at risk of issues such as back pain or repetitive strain injuries which can cause long-term damage.
There are two kinds of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is hereditary and discovered in childhood. Type 2 diabetes used to be referred to as “adult-onset diabetes” because it was a disease that would develop later in life. A significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes is obesity.
Those who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who are at a healthy weight. According to research conducted by Diabetes U.K., men are almost twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes than women.11
Statistics from the U.S. show that more men are prediabetic.12 Prediabetes is a condition which means that a person’s blood glucose levels are elevated. Those with prediabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease.
There are several different kinds of skin cancer, but melanoma is the most common. Fair-skinned men are more likely than any other demographic to contract skin cancer. The good news is that skin cancer is treatable and the survival rate is quite good.
However, twice as many men die of skin cancer compared to women. Men are more likely to develop skin cancer because they tend to be more likely to work outside and they are also less likely to be cautious when it comes to protecting themselves from exposure to the sun. Men are also less likely to notice changes in their skin, preventing early treatment for the conditions and resulting in lower survival rates.13
It wasn’t all that long ago that HIV was considered to be a terrifying condition and all but a death sentence. Today, it is less worrying because antiretroviral drugs can control the virus for a significant period of time.
With that said, HIV is still a serious condition and not something to be taken lightly. Men are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with HIV. In 2016, gay and bisexual men accounted for around 67 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States.14 HIV can be prevented, but a lack of education about how the disease is spread means that it is still not as under control as it could be.
Prostate cancer kills 10,000 men each year in the U.K. alone, and yet it is a condition that can be treated quite effectively if it is caught early.15 Prostate exams can flag the condition before it becomes serious, but the stereotypical fear of going to the doctor prevents many men from taking advantage of the screening option even if there is a family history of prostate cancer.
Improving Your Health
Many of the conditions that men are at risk of developing are ones that can be prevented with some basic lifestyle changes. There are clear guidelines about exercise, sleep, alcohol consumption, and diet that can guide people towards making positive decisions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults aim to be active for at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week, doing a moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Alternatively, they can do 75 to 150 minutes, at least, of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
In addition to that, they should engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week.16 Most young men do lead relatively active lifestyles thanks to the sports culture in colleges. Once they graduate, however, activity levels drop off, and men are more likely to be sedentary because they drive to work and likely work a desk job.
Maintaining a good degree of physical activity can help men avoid potential issues such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and back pain.
There are also clear guidelines for healthy eating. All adults are encouraged to eat:
- A variety of vegetables from different categories
- Whole grains
- Dairy products
- Healthy oils and fats
They are also encouraged to keep added sugars down to no more than ten percent of their daily calorie intake and to minimize consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium.17
There is no universal daily calorie intake recommendation since the number of calories that you should consume per day depends on your age, height, weight, gender, and activity levels. Many people who struggle with their weight find that simply using smaller serving plates and following the government recommendations for food choices is enough to bring down their daily caloric intake and put them on the path towards achieving a healthier weight.
There are recommendations for alcohol consumption as well. The U.S. government considers “moderate alcohol consumption” to be two standard alcoholic drinks per day, no more.18 Sticking to that recommendation could help to reduce the risk of liver disease and other alcohol-related health issues.
Men’s Health and Stress
One of the toughest things that both men and women face is stress. In the short term, stress can be a useful and productive motivator, but in the long-term, it can be quite damaging and can impact almost every part of your body.19
Stress can have an impact on the musculoskeletal system, causing muscles to tense up and aggravating chronic pain. It can also make people breathe harder, which is not going to be an issue for a healthy person but could be problematic for someone with asthma or other respiratory issues. Indeed, acute stress can even trigger asthma attacks.
Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease because the consistent, ongoing increase in heart rate takes its toll on the cardiovascular system. Women who have not yet gone through menopause benefit from the protective effects of estrogen, which can offset some of this problem. Men are less protected.
Stress triggers the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Cortisol regulates blood pressure and is also involved in the regulation of other systems in the body. Chronic stress can cause excessive amounts of cortisol to be produced and this can have an impact on the functioning of the male reproductive system, as well as impair the immune system.
For these reasons, it’s important that men find ways to reduce the stress they are exposed to and find positive outlets for alleviating the stress that they are feeling.
Ways to Improve Your Health
Because the social landscape is changing, men are becoming more aware of their health and more willing to discuss health issues.
If you want to take better care of your body, remember the following:
Go to the Doctor
Routine checkups are important. Even if you feel healthy right now, going to the doctor to get a routine checkup could save your life. Don’t fall into the trap of not going to the doctor because you are scared that you won’t like what they find. Screenings are there to find diseases at the stage where they are still treatable, giving you the best chances for recovery.
Adults need immunizations just as much as children do. If you’re going abroad, make sure you have the vaccines you need. If you’re in an “at risk” group, get your annual flu vaccine. The flu is far worse than a “bad cold,” and you may have forgotten how bad it can be. Even healthy individuals can die from the flu every year, and immunization could stop you from developing a serious infection.
Learn Your Family Medical History
Some health conditions are genetic and learning your family history could help your health care providers understand what you are most at risk for so they can give you the correct screenings.
Put Down the Fast Food
You don’t have to become the world’s best cook, but learning how to cook some basics so that you can eat a balanced diet will work wonders for your health. Men should be aiming to eat two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables per day. So, cut back on the bread, pasta, and potato chips and start eating more fresh food.
Being active will help improve your mood, manage your weight, and improve your cardiovascular health. A lot of people—men and women—assume that since they aren’t sporty, there’s no point in exercising. The truth is that you don’t have to run marathons or lift incredibly heavyweights. Even gentle exercise such as brisk walking can have protective effects.20
Ditch the Nicotine
Most people know that smoking is bad for your health, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that chewing tobacco is also a carcinogen and the jury is still out on vaping and e-cigs too.
While supporters of e-cigs note that they contain fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes, there is still only limited information available about the risk profiles of the chemicals that are contained in e-cigs.21
Find Ways to Relax
Learn what your early warning signs of stress are and try to find ways to manage them. That could be going for a run, practicing martial arts, reading a good book, meditating, or getting a massage. Learn what works for you, and then take advantage of it.
Essential Oils for Promoting Men’s Health
If you’re a fan of meditation or massage, then essential oils could be a good addition to your health and wellness routine in order to promote overall health.
Essential oils can help to improve feelings of well-being, reduce cravings, decrease stress, and make you more alert. In general, essential oils transcend gender and are good for both men and women, but there are some essential oils that are particularly good for men, or that have scents that men prefer, some of which are highlighted below.
Frankincense Essential Oil
This earthy, uplifting oil has a long history of being used in anointing and religious ceremonies. It is good for the immune system, and also for protecting the skin.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil is cooling and fresh and can help improve alertness. It is also good for curbing cravings, which means that it can be helpful for people who struggle with overeating or snacking when they are stressed.22
Peppermint oil can be used on the skin if diluted in a carrier oil or put onto a tissue to be sniffed throughout the day. It can also be used in a vaporizer, room diffuser, or personal diffusers like Vibrant, Forest, Mountain, or Ocean MONQ.
Sandalwood Essential Oil
This essential oil is often used in beard oils, conditioners, and soaps that are aimed at men. It is rich in sesquiterpenes, which are useful for regulating emotions and supporting better sleep. It is also good for the circulatory system and for improving skin health.
Massaging sandalwood oil into your skin can help with both relaxations and with protecting the skin and using colognes that contain sandalwood can be good for regulating your mood. Additionally, sandalwood can be useful for reducing feelings of fatigue.23
Don’t Fall for Supplement Sellers Pushing Testosterone Boosters
One piece of information that men often get told by marketing messages is that they probably have a problem with their testosterone levels. Testosterone boosters are marketed aggressively by many companies, but the benefits of them are questionable.
In general, herbal, unregulated testosterone boosters are not going to do you much good if you are generally healthy. Eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep will help your body produce testosterone up to its genetic potential without the need for supplements.
If you do have an issue with low testosterone, then this will get picked up when you go to the doctor. Low testosterone can leave you feeling tired, weak, and low libido.24 Your doctor will test you to see if you do have low testosterone, and if they notice this, then they will be able to offer treatment and ensure that there is not an underlying medical condition causing you to have low testosterone.
Especially when it comes to testosterone, it’s not a good idea to self-medicate because taking growth hormone, testosterone boosters, or testosterone itself can have unpleasant side-effects. For instance, young people who take testosterone to give themselves a competitive edge in sports can damage the ability of their body to make testosterone naturally, leaving them with lifelong ill effects.
Many of the symptoms that people may traditionally think of as being associated with low testosterone are actually associated with thyroid problems. Those who have an underactive thyroid may notice feeling tired and find that they gain weight too.25
Trying to medicate a thyroid problem (or some other similar issue) using testosterone would be counterproductive and could lead to other long-term issues. That’s why it’s so important to get an official diagnosis. It’s perfectly possible for someone with a thyroid issue to manage their symptoms once they’ve worked with their doctor to figure out a plan.
Medical science has advanced to the stage now where many once serious conditions are treatable. So, don’t undo all of that innovation by living in fear of the doctor. Consider anything they have to say to you to be important information for continuing to keep your body health, and look after your body so that you can enjoy a long and healthy life.
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