Men’s health: Beyond heart disease & cancer

Together, heart disease and cancer account for nearly 50 percent of deaths among American men. In recent weeks, we’ve talked about both, along with unintentional injuries. Now let’s focus on a few more conditions common among men.

While the three leading causes of death are consistent across the board, other top causes vary by ethnicity. Here’s a look at three — and how to lower your risk of each.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases

What exactly falls in this category? Chronic lower respiratory diseases are those that affect the lungs.

Of these, the most deadly is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly called COPD. COPD encompasses two main conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many people with COPD have both conditions.

  • With emphysema, the walls between air sacs in the lungs are damaged, which causes the air sacs themselves to lose shape.
  • In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the airways in the lungs is constantly irritated and inflamed, causing the lining to thicken.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases cause 5.4 percent of deaths among American men, and COPD is a major cause of disability.

COPD is largely preventable — smoking is the main cause. If you smoke, you are 12 times more likely to die of COPD than men who never smoked. So if you smoke, stop! And if you don’t smoke, don’t start.


While stroke is more common among women, it’s still a leading cause of death among men. There are a number of risk factors for stroke that can’t be changed, including:

  • Increased age
  • Family history of stroke
  • Prior stroke or heart attack
  • Race

African-Americans are at a higher risk for stroke, at least in part because they also have a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, which are all risk factors.

Did you know that strokes are more common in the Southeast, including Tennessee? Our diet of comfort foods and sedentary lifestyles raise our risk.

Lower your risk for stroke by taking positive steps toward good health:


As of 2012, more than 29 million Americans had diabetes. That number may seem alarmingly high, but consider this — among Americans age 20 and older, 86 million had prediabetes, a precursor for diabetes.

Are you at risk of diabetes? Your risk increases for each one of the following symptoms that applies to you:

  • Age 45 or older
  • Overweight or obese
  • Family history of diabetes
  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • History of cardiovascular disease

African-Americans and Hispanics are at a higher risk of developing the condition. In fact, diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death among Hispanic men.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting 95 percent of those with diabetes. This form of the disease is largely preventable through lifestyle changes:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight has been shown to lower your risk of diabetes.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Be especially aware of the amount of added sugar in your diet, and fill up on whole foods instead, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Get active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week or more strenuous activity on three or more days each week.
  • See your doctor regularly. If you’re diagnosed as having prediabetes, take steps to lower your risk and prevent diabetes.

What’s the bottom line for men’s health? Take care of yourself! The first step is seeing your doctor for an annual physical. Need a doctor? Find one here.