By Kathy Hubbard
In 1920, the life expectancy gender gap was only one year. Today, women’s life expectancy is 82 years to a man’s 77.5.
The facts are sobering. According to Men’s Health Network’s website, men die at higher rates than women from nine of the top ten causes of death. That includes heart disease, cancer, injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s pneumonia/flu, suicide, homicide and HIV/AIDS.
In their lifetime, one out of two men will be diagnosed with cancer compared to one in three women. Why? Maybe because women are 100 percent more likely to visit the doctor for an annual examination? Makes me wonder if “men’s health” is an oxymoron.
“There is a silent health crisis in America … it’s that fact that, on average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women.” Dr. David Gremillion from MHN said.
So, the question begging to be asked is, why? Dr. Gremillion says that men make half as many visits to their physician for preventative screening as women and that research on male-specific diseases is under-funded. He says that men may have less healthy lifestyles including risk-taking at younger ages.
Men’s Health Network has a nifty chart that specifies what check-ups and screenings men should have and how often. They say it’s a reminder to take responsibility for your health.
“Regular checkups and age-appropriate screenings can improve your health and reduce premature death and disability. You should consult your healthcare provider to discuss if this screening schedule is appropriate for you,” they say.
Starting with the apparently dreaded physical exam, men ages 20 to 39 should have checkups every three years. From ages 40 to 49 you should reduce that to every two years, and after 50 an annual is recommended. At that exam, the clinician might check your blood pressure, do blood screens such as cholesterol, diabetes, kidney or thyroid dysfunction screen for heart abnormalities with an EKG (electrocardiogram) and screen for hemorrhoids, lower rectal problems, colon and prostate cancer.
I know those last eight words made every man cringe. But, wouldn’t you rather be treated and cured than to die from prostate or colon cancer? And, look on the bright side, most of the time they find nothing out of the ordinary.
“Chest x-rays should be considered in smokers over the age of 45,” MHN says. But, then they qualify it with, “The usefulness of this test on a yearly basis is debatable due to poor cure rates of lung cancer.” My advice is to stop smoking immediately, or better yet, don’t ever start.
A questionnaire and a simple blood test can determine if you have low testosterone levels. Testosterone is the hormone made in the testicles that are important to normal male sexual development and functions. It’s common for testosterone levels to decrease with age, but if you have any of the following symptoms you should consult your primary care provider:
Low sex drive, fatigue, reduced lean muscle mass, irritability, erectile dysfunction and depression are symptoms of Low-T, but there’s a “but” in this sentence.
“There are many other possible reasons for these symptoms, such as: opioid use, some congenital conditions, loss of or harm to the testicles, diabetes, and obesity,” the Urology Care Foundation says. “See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.” Then the two of you can discuss treatment.
Talk to your care provider about whether or not you should have a PSA blood test. “Prostate Specific Antigen is produced by the prostate. Levels rise when there is an abnormality such as an infection, enlargement or cancer,” MHN says. Whether or when you have the test is up to you and your PCP.
While you’re talking, talk about whether you’re due for a tetanus shot, especially if you work around rusty nails. Or, if you’re in need of a tuberculosis test.
The three steps you guys can take to start yourselves on a healthier path and longer life: 1. Eat healthier. Say no to super-sizing and yes to fruits and vegetables. 2. Get moving. Play outside, take the stairs, go for a walk, and 3. Make prevention a priority. Get checked out, so you don’t check out until you’re really old!
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.