We asked Dr. Kevin Polsley, internist at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, for his insight into some of the most pressing health concerns for men today.
While heart disease is an increasing concern for both men and women, men have a higher risk of heart attacks, a risk that increases with smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of heart attacks, Dr. Polsley explains. So what can men do to stay healthy? “Routine preventive care visits to a primary care doctor can help identify most of these risk factors, and modification and treatment of these risk factors can help decrease the risk of having a heart attack,” he advises. Routine cardiovascular exercise can help as well, so do your best to get your man moving!
Another concern that ranks high on the list of men's health concerns is sleep apnea, which might not seem serious but it’s still worth keeping an eye on. “Subtle symptoms may be snoring, waking up frequently at night to urinate, headaches in the morning or waking up with a dry mouth,” notes Dr. Polsley. “Long-term complications can include high blood failure, heart failure, heart attacks and strokes, so this is an important condition to diagnose and treat,” he says. Undergoing a sleep study can help determine whether a sleep apnea diagnosis is appropriate, and weight loss may help minimize symptoms.
Even though there is often a strong genetic component to this male health concern, there are still things men can do to lower their blood pressure. Obesity can play a role, so weight loss can help decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure, says Dr. Polsley. In addition to losing weight, he also advises adopting a low-sodium diet, something that requires reading food labels, not just avoiding table salt.
It’s a good idea for your husband or partner to get his cholesterol tested regularly to ensure levels are within a healthy range for his age, since high cholesterol is another major concern for men, says Dr. Polsley. “There also may be a strong genetic component for high cholesterol, but diet and exercise can be preventive,” he says, adding that oily fish or a fish oil supplement can help lower cholesterol as well.
No one likes to talk about it, but colon cancer is a serious health concern that needs to be addressed. “Every man and woman should have a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50, or possibly earlier if there is a family history of colon cancer,” advises Dr. Polsley. Encourage your man to talk to his physician about getting a colonoscopy if he is over 50.
Obesity is a contributing factor to almost all of other men's health issues, so it’s important that the man in your life maintains a healthy weight. “It's been said a million times, but diet and exercise are vital to weight control,” says Dr. Polsley. “Men need to think about how many calories they are taking in and how many they are expelling through daily activity and exercise," he advises. "Though controlling weight does not guarantee you will not have health issues, it sure helps.”
Men can find it difficult or demeaning to ask for help, especially if it has to do with their mental health, notes Dr. Polsley, but it’s important for men to find a healthy way of managing stress. He encourages men who might be struggling to find a person they can turn to who can get them the help they need. “Suicides and homicides have higher rates in men, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate for men is four times higher and the homicide rate is three times higher than it is for women."
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