How Men Can Be More Proactive With Their Health

By Beth Lueders

Most men 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 U.S. 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 director of Global Action on Men’s Health reports on the following facts about men’s health worldwide. Globally, men die on average five years sooner than women. By 2030, women are expected to outlive men by seven years. Males face a higher incidence rate of cancer, cardiovascular disease and suicide. Other top causes of death for men worldwide include stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and accidents. Compared to women, men are also more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and make fewer healthy choices.

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 a leading 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 — Health experts 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 — An alarming number of people 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 pressure 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. One public health group finds that men who smoke are 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. Smoking is known to decrease 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. Men consistently face higher rates of hospitalizations and alcohol-related deaths than women. If a male chooses to drink, moderation is key. Health professionals recommend limiting consumption to one drink a day for men over age 65 (e.g., 355 ml of beer, 148 ml of wine). Up to two drinks per day is the limit for men age 65 and younger.
  • 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 national health programs provide free annual checkups and some screening tests.

Right at Home encourages men of all ages to take advantage of local, nationwide and online health resources. 

What keeps you or other men you know from talking about your health?