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The Top Seven Health Issues Facing Men

This edition of My Hometown Health has been dedicated to raising awareness and increasing understanding about men’s health issues. On the previous page we discussed prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. Here, we take a look at seven more of the most common health issues facing men so they’ll know the symptoms, be able to detect them early and see the right medical specialist for treatment. 

1. Heart Disease
At least 48 percent of adult Americans have some form of heart disease, the narrowing or blockage of the arteries or veins that provide oxygen and blood to the body. Left untreated, heart disease can lead to heart failure or stroke. 

There are several different types of heart disease. Three of the most common are:

  • Coronary Heart Disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become hardened and narrowed.
  • High Blood Pressure occurs when the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries consistently exceeds 130/80, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is the most common form of heart disease. 
  • Atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, is caused by a buildup of cholesterol and calcium deposits (plaque) inside the lining of the arteries.

The first step in the fight against heart disease is to schedule an annual physical exam and have your blood pressure checked regularly. 

Who To See: Cardiologist specializes in the treatment of the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and blood vessels. 

2. Diabetes
More than 34 million Americans suffer from diabetes, a condition in which the body does not properly convert food into energy. Another 88 million Americans have prediabetes, when blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Left untreated, diabetes can severely damage the eyes, kidneys and nervous system as well as lead to a stroke or a heart attack. 

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for more than 90 percent of all cases, usually occurs in people 45 and older. Signs of diabetes include:

  • Hunger and fatigue
  • Urinating more often and experiencing thirst more often
  • Dry mouth and itchy skin
  • Blurred vision

Anyone who is overweight and 45 or older should be tested for diabetes. 

All it takes is asimpleblood test, performed by your primary care provider.

Who To See: An Endocrinologist specializes in treating the glands of the endocrine system, including the pancreas, the gland involved in diabetes.

3. Liver Disease
About the size of a football, the liver sits just under the rib cage on the right side of the body. Liver disease can be inherited, but it can also be caused by viruses, obesity and alcohol use. Over time, these conditions can damage the liver, leading to scarring (cirrhosis). This can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition. Men are twice as likely to suffer from cirrhosis of the liver compared to women. One of the telltale signs of liver disease is jaundice, when the skin and the eyes appear yellow in color. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, itchy skin, dark-colored urine, swelling in the legs and ankles, chronic fatigue, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. 

Who To See: Both a Gastroenterologist and a Hepatologist are medical specialists who treat disorders of the liver. 

4. Skin Cancer
Men, especially those with lighter skin, are more likely to get skin cancer than women. Men are also more likely to die from melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. By age 65, men are twice as likely to develop melanoma, and that number jumps to 3x more likely by age 80. To spot melanoma, examine moles and birthmarks using the ABCDE rule:

Asymmetry: One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.

Border: The edges are irregular, ragged or blurred.

Color: The color is not the same all over.

Diameter: The spot is larger than a pencil eraser.

Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape or color. 

Who To See: Dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating the skin, hair and nails.

5. Lung Cancer
After prostate cancer, lung cancer is the most common cancer in men. Smoking is still by far the leading cause of most lung cancers—up to 90 percent—so quitting smoking is a huge step in preventing the disease. By the time lung cancer is found, it is often at an advanced stage and difficult to treat—so early detection is critical. Symptoms include a new cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain and hoarseness.

Who To See: Pulmonologist is a medical doctor who provides care for people with breathing issues and with diseases of the lungs.

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and trouble breathing. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two of the most well known types of COPD. Most people aren’t aware of how common COPD is. In fact, it’s the third leading cause of death in the United States. 

COPD is usually caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases, such as cigarette smoke. Having COPD increases your risk of heart disease, lung cancer and other medical conditions. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, especially during physical activities, wheezing, chest tightness, a chronic cough and frequent respiratory infections.

Who To See: Pulmonologist is a medical doctor who provides care for people with breathing issues and with diseases of the lungs.

7. Mental Health
Because of the stigma that often surrounds mental health, many men are reluctant to seek help when they need it the most. That can lead to tragic results. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among men and even higher among young men. American men are also more than 3.5 times more likely than women to commit suicide. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse are other mental health issues that affect men. If you think you or a loved one might have a mental health issue, we encourage you to reach out to a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker. 

Who To See: Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and substance use disorders.

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Sources: Mayo Clinic, webmd, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Lung Association