Men’s Health: What You Need to Know

Men’s Health: What You Need to Know

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The good news with respect to men’s health is that life expectancy has improved and is currently at an all time high, despite being outpaced by women. The average lifespan of a Caucasian male is 75.4 years (80.5 for females) and of African-American males is 69.2 (76.1 for females). There are a variety of factors that have contributed to the change in life expectancy for men in the United States. For example, since 2002, the following causes of death have declined:

    1. Heart disease
    2. Stroke
    3. Cancer
    4. Suicide
    5. Flu and pneumonia
    6. Chronic liver disease
    7. Accidents
    8. Homicide
    9. HIV
    10. Alcohol and drug-related

Just like everything else, men’s and women’s health differs in many ways. As we just learned, on average men do not live as long as women. Men have higher rates of smoking, drinking, and violence and they are also more likely to suffer from stress.

Men are more likely to die from a variety of illnesses, including the following: lung cancer, cirrhosis, motor vehicle accidents, violence, suicide, coronary artery disease, and emphysema. This may sound like all doom and gloom, but the good news is that most of these are preventable and if you are reading this article, you may have improved your chances of prevention because you are taking the time to educate yourself about your health.

On average, men have a lower standard of care than women. First, men are less likely than women to seek medical care, which substantially reducing the chances of addressing a health concern in its earliest possible stages. Men are less likely to see a doctor for preventative care. Women have been conditioned to see their doctors on an annual basis for their yearly pap smear and gynecological exam. Men also tend not to take the initiative when it comes to their own health. Overwhelmingly, the #1 reason why men tell me they decided to come to the doctor is that “my wife sent me”. I have never once heard a woman say “my husband sent me”.

Screening for disease is the crucial key to helping men lead longer, healthier lives. This is because most leading causes of death in men are preventable. Health screenings help assess the potential risk of future medical problems, they encourage a healthy lifestyle, they help track the dates of your vaccinations, and they help establish a relationship with a doctor you trust in the event you do have a more serious illness down the road you will want to have a doctor in whom you have confidence.

There are numerous reasons men do not go to the doctor regularly. Among the more common excuses I hear are the following: I don’t get sick, I don’t want to know, and I don’t have time.

First, everyone gets sick at some point or another so to say you never get sick is not a legitimate excuse. Following the same logic, you may have never gotten into a car accident, but I’ll bet you still wear a seat belt. Just like a seat belt can prevent injury, routine medical care can help prevent you from getting sick.

While you may say that you would rather not know what is wrong with you, knowing is a gift. For example, having high cholesterol is an early warning sign of heart disease. By knowing you have high cholesterol now, there are things you can do to avoid developing heart disease.  Would you take a pill if you knew it would prevent brain cancer 10 yrs from now? You can take a pill to prevent heart disease.  It is as simple as the saying… “an ounce of prevention today…”

As far as not having time to see a doctor, one way or another you WILL find time to visit a doctor – either as a well person trying to stay well or as a sick person trying to get better. If you don’t make time to be well, you will find time to be sick.

There are some vaccines that require routine boosters in order to be effective, like TdaP.

  • Last year was the worst outbreak of pertussis in 60 yrs and the CDC is now recommending that all patients get a pertussis booster.
  • The HPV vaccine is an interesting vaccine because it has been used primarily for women. Now, there is an indication for men, to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts. The cervical cancer portion is for community prevention, because men don’t get cervical cancer, but they can spread the virus that causes it in women. As for their own protection, it does prevent genital warts.
  • The pneumonia vaccine is due at age 65.
  • Hepatitis A and B vaccines are optional, but recommended if you travel a lot.

If, like many adults, you do not know what vaccines you have or have not had, your doctor can help you get up to date and avoid potential problems with your health that are completely preventable.

Depending on your age and your health, to keep yourself in the best health possible, you require routine maintenance, just like your car. Unlike your mechanic, however, your doctor is less likely to tell you that you require new parts. Every year you can expect the following items to be checked:


  1. Blood pressure
  2. Cholesterol screening
  3. Dental/Eye Exam
  4. Vaccines – DTaP
  5. Testicular exam
  6. STD screening
  7. Physical exam, height and weight


  1. Blood pressure
  2. Cholesterol screening
  3. Dental/Eye exam
  4. Colon Cancer Screening
  5. Vaccines – DTaP, flu, Shingles.
  6. Prostate Exam
  7. Physical exam, height and weight


  1. Blood pressure
  2. Cholesterol screening
  3. Dental/Eye/Hearing Exam
  4. Vaccines – Pneumonia, flu, Shingles,DTaP
  5. Colon Cancer Screening
  6. Prostate Exam
  7. AAA ultrasound – smoker
There are several health issues affecting men that require additional mention.

Colon Cancer
Colon cancer, although it does not only affect men, is something people must actively be screened for. Why? The reason is simple. Colon cancer is a cancer that can be detected before a person ever experiences any symptoms. Colon cancer screening can detects polyps, BEFORE they become cancerous. Polyps can be easily taken care of before they become cancerous. However, once a polyp becomes cancerous, treatment becomes significantly more invasive. On average people should start getting screened for colon cancer at the age of 50. They should then have a colonoscopy every 5 to 10 years – OR – you should have a fecal occult blood test every year – OR – you should have a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 3 years. The gold standard is clearly colonoscopy, and it’s not as uncomfortable as some would fear. The Fecal occult blood tests are inferior to colonoscopy, but represent an easy test to perform.

Prostate Health
Prostate health is an issue that is likely to affect almost every man. Prostate cancer is an eventuality if you live long enough, with 90% of men exhibiting signs of prostate cancer by age 90. Prostatic cancer is slow growing, but may be more aggressive if found in a younger man. The treatment for prostate cancer depends on the age of the individual when the cancer is found because it is such a slow growing cancer, people who are at an advanced age may find the disadvantages of treatment outweigh the benefits.

Cardiovascual Disease
Cardiovascular disease is another common problem, but it is one in which you may have significant control. You can reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease by having annual cholesterol screenings, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and not using alcohol in excess.

Sexual Function
There are several items that can affect a man’s sexual function as he ages. If you experience a change in your sexual function, it is best to see your doctor right away rather than dismissing it as a possible medical problem because some issues that affect sexual function can be treated. Problems with sexual function are commonly associated with levels of testosterone, problems with the prostate and erectile dysfunction.

Ok…so what does all this mean? The most important thing you can do for your health is to have an annual physical. You should stop putting it off and make an appointment today. Ask your doctor for a cholesterol screening, watch your weight, increase your exercise, and if you smoke, STOP.