Why is men’s health an afterthought — for men?

It’s second nature for men to take their cars in for regular maintenance checks. So why is it less common for men to take themselves in for a checkup?

In fact, a Cleveland Clinic survey of men between age 18 and 70 found that only three in five men get an annual physical. And beyond that, 40 percent of men only go to the doctor if they think something is seriously wrong with their health.

But regular checkups with a physician are important for everyone, men included. As we age, these checkups provide doctors with an opportunity to ensure we receive the age-appropriate screenings and vaccinations we need to stay healthy.

Having an annual physical also makes it more likely that any medical condition will be discovered in its early stages, when diseases are most treatable.

Curious what conditions are most common among men? Read on as we take a deeper dive.

Men’s health issue: Heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American men. Nearly one in four deaths occur as a result of heart disease.

This condition can be tricky, because in at least half of cases, men experience no symptoms. That makes regular checkups and blood tests especially important.

During a checkup, your doctor can order bloodwork that allows you to keep an eye on numbers important to your heart health, including cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose (sugar).

Beyond regular checkups, you can take steps to maintain good heart health. Healthy living habits include getting your heart pumping with regular exercise, eating a balanced diet that prioritizes fruits and vegetables, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and getting plenty of quality sleep.

How much exercise is enough? Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly, which averages out to about 20 minutes a day.

What shouldn’t you eat? Limit your consumption of saturated fats, added sugar and excess sodium. Load your plate with fruits and veggies, fatty fish and other lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

Men’s health issue: Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death among American men, leading to more than 20 percent of all deaths. Prostate cancer, colorectal and lung cancers are the most common types of cancer among men.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that nearly 3,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in Tennessee this year. Protect your health by seeing a doctor if you’re experiencing:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • More frequent need to urinate
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Discomfort in the back, chest or hips
  • Erectile dysfunction

Depending on your personal health and family heath history, your doctor may recommend regular prostate-specific antigen tests and/or digital rectal exams.

More than 3,100 cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed among Tennesseans this year, according to the ACS. Colorectal cancer is largely preventable because it’s slow-moving and precancerous polyps can be removed during regular colonoscopies.

Previously, the ACS recommended screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, but the guideline recently changed to recommend an initial screening at age 45. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.

You likely knew that prostate and colorectal cancers were common among men, but what about lung cancer? The number of new cases of lung cancer expected to be diagnosed in Tennessee in 2018 is roughly equal to the number of colorectal and prostate cancer cases put together.

The best way to lower your risk of developing lung cancer? Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit. Your doctor can recommend a smoking cessation strategy that will work best for your specific needs.

Men’s health issue: COPD

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, affects millions of Americans and is a leading cause of disability. The disease causes damage to the air sacs and the lining of the airways in the lungs.

As with lung cancer, smoking is the main cause of COPD. If you smoke, you are 12 times more likely to develop COPD that men who never smoke.

Men’s health issue: Diabetes

When we reference diabetes here, we’re largely talking about Type 2 diabetes, which is often caused by lifestyle choices.

More than 31 million Americans currently have diabetes — and the vast majority of those with diabetes have Type 2.

You’re at a higher risk of developing diabetes if you’re overweight or obese, age 45 or older, lead a sedentary lifestyle, have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol, and have a history of cardiovascular disease.

Men’s health issue: Stroke

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability among Americans, and while it’s more common among women, it’s still an issue for men.

The most important thing to know about stroke: Minutes matter when one occurs. So know the signs of stroke and seek immediate medical attention if one occurs.

About that checkup we mentioned earlier…have you had one recently? Schedule one today. Need a doctor? Find one here.