We’d hate to sound melodramatic, but if you’re male this list could save your life.
Avoiding the doctor does you no good
A recent Cleveland Clinic survey found that only three out of five men get an annual physical, with 40 percent of respondents saying they see the doctor only when something is wrong. But a yearly visit to your general practitioner is important to your overall health, says Joe Aquilina, MD, chief medical officer for the SharpCare Medical Group in San Diego. “Annual physicals are still the cornerstone to maintaining the patient-provider relationship and key to health maintenance,” says Aquilina. “Medicine works best when we can get away from treating acute health issues and help focus on preventing health issues. During these routine annual visits many routine health issues can be addressed and we can work to keep people well or minimize the effects of any health issues they may have.”
Your heart matters even more than you think
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four men die from heart disease — and 70 to 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men. “I think people always think a heart attack is your left arm hurts and you have crushing chest pain,” says Jennifer Haythe, MD, a New York-based cardiologist. “But it can also be jaw discomfort, a decrease in exercise tolerance, breaking out into a sweat with some chest heaviness. They might feel short of breath, indigestion, or what I call this “swirly” chest pain — you try to take a deep breath and you walk it off. Those are the more subtle signs people may have of blockages that are obstructing but not the typical plaque rupture; a clot forms, and you collapse.” Bottom line: Paying attention to unexpected symptoms now can mean avoiding a larger incident later.
Men account for 76 percent of those living with HIV
It’s true: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of HIV carriers are men. The most frequent means of transmission is sexual contact, so protect yourself by practicing safe sex and getting tested. (And be sure to ask your partner about the last time she or he was tested too.)
Stroke risk is higher among young men than young women
While older women’s risk of stroke (and resulting death) is higher than men’s, the reverse is actually true for young men and women (generally, those younger than 45 years), according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. While some risk factors (like age, gender, and medical history) can’t be avoided, Aquilina says there’s plenty men can do to make a stroke less likely. “Some things you definitely can change, such as smoking, high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, untreated sleep apnea, and high cholesterol,” he says. It’s also imperative to know the symptoms: “Signs of stroke can include focal neurological deficits such as sudden muscle weakness, slurred speech, dizziness, and sometimes sudden onset of severe headache,” explains Dr. Aquilina. “Any patient experiencing these symptoms should get an immediate medical evaluation.”
Diabetes can often go undiagnosed
The CDC’s 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report found that more men (36.6 percent) had prediabetes than women (29.3 percent). And while reported cases of Type 2 diabetes are higher among women, the report estimates that once undiagnosed cases are accounted for, the incidence among men would actually be higher (15.3 million vs. 14.9 million). “The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is associated with aging, obesity, a family history of diabetes, not being physically active, as well as race and ethnicity,” says Aquilina. You can reduce your risk by following a healthy diet and exercising.
Erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign of other problems
While many men are likely to seek treatment for erectile dysfunction in order to perform better in the bedroom, the condition can be symptomatic of underlying health concerns in need of attention. “It can be caused by vascular, neurologic, psychological, and hormonal factors,” says Aquilina. “ED can commonly be related to other conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, and low testosterone. Men with ED can be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly those men who have metabolic syndrome (hypertension, obesity, diabetes).” A medical provider will look at your history and suggest a course of action — sometimes the answer is as simple as quitting smoking.
Suicide rates are highest among middle-aged men
Men are more likely to commit suicide than women — almost four times as likely, in fact. And middle-aged men run the greatest risk of taking their own lives. If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available at the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.