Aging, family history, and lifestyle contribute to increased risks for health conditions that commonly afflict men. Knowing your risk factors can help you and your family medicine practitioner better monitor your health and prevent problems you could be susceptible to.
The American Heart Association has named cardiovascular disease the number one health issue in men, with more than one in three having some form of the disease, increasing their risks for heart attack, chest pain, or stroke.
The CDC also reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, with 70% to 89% of sudden cardiac events occurring in men.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following as common symptoms of heart disease:
- Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
- Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) which can be signaled by:
- Fluttering in your chest
- Racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting (syncope) or near fainting
Heart disease can also be caused by heart defects; heart weakness; heart infections; or heart valve disease.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Sex, with men having a higher risk than women
- Family history
- Poor diet
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
Regular visits to your primary care doctor is important so they can better monitor your overall health and lifestyle, and advise you with regards to your risks for cardiovascular disease and how you can minimize them.
One of the most common types of cancer in men is prostate cancer. The cancer is typically confined in the prostate gland where it grows slowly and does not cause serious harm; but some cases are aggressive and spread quickly to other organs, making successful treatment less likely. Older men and those with a family history of the disease (as well as of breast cancer) have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, “black men carry a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.”
Your family doctor would recommend getting screened for prostate cancer starting at age 40 if you have the risk factors for the disease.
Colorectal cancer is more common in men than in women, with a lifetime risk of 4.49% in men compared to 4.15% in women, according to the American Cancer Society. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- A diet high in red meats and processed meats
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); colorectal polyps; or colorectal cancer (even if it had been successfully removed)
- A family history of the disease and of cancerous polyps
- Having type 2 diabetes
- Being African American or a Jew of Eastern European descent
If you have any of these risk factors, your primary care physician would also recommend that you start getting screened regularly at age 40 or 45.
Erectile dysfunction (ED), or impotence, usually occurs as result of at least two other chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes. ED is more common among men in their 50s, but it can also begin for some men while still in their 30s.
Occasional ED is normal; when it happens frequently, however, it could be a symptom of more serious underlying conditions. You should visit a family doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms for more than two months:
- trouble getting an erection
- difficulty maintaining an erection during sexual activities
- reduced interest in sex
- premature ejaculation
- delayed ejaculation
- anorgasmia, which is the inability to achieve orgasm after ample stimulation
- cardiovascular disease
- damage from cancer or surgery
- obesity or being overweight
- increased age
- relationship problems
- drug use
- alcohol use
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection among men in their 20s; it can lead to various cancers, but the condition is also easily preventable with regular HPV vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting immunized for HPV starting at 11 and up until 21; for men who are also engage in sexual intercourse with other men and those with weakened immune systems or HIV, the CDC recommends receiving the HPV vaccine until they are 26.
Other STDs with increased rates of incidence among men include herpes, chlamydia, and syphilis. Again, these conditions and other STDs can be prevented simply by practicing safe sex. Being open to your primary care doctor about your sexual activities also makes a huge difference in lowering your risks.