In the health world, men have a bad rap. Out of the 15 leading causes of death, men lead women in 14 of them. The only disease that women are more likely to get than men is Alzheimer’s disease and that’s because many men don’t live long enough to develop it. If you’re a married heterosexual male, chances are you’ll die an average of five years earlier than your wife. The explanation behind this health gap is a complicated one.
To start, according to a 2001 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are 33% more likely to visit a doctor, which helps in preventative care. In addition, most men put their physical and mental health low on the list of priorities. Instead, most men focus on living up to their roles in society by making enough money, securing a stable job, and developing personal relationships while paying little attention to their own health.
1. Heart disease
Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, but almost twice as many males will actually die of conditions that affect the cardiovascular system. According to the CDC, one in four males has some form of heart disease, and if you have a family history of heart disease or are a high-risk ethnicity, it pays to be extra careful. For starters, get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly and don’t smoke. An active lifestyle is also a key preventative measure.
2. Lung cancer
This is a nasty one because lung cancer can be present in the body long before it shows up on an x-ray or causes any physical symptoms. Because of this, it can spread quickly and aggressively before you have a chance to treat it. Tobacco smoke causes 90% of all lung cancers and even though the number of U.S. smokers is declining, it is still the leading cancer killer in men. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, then keep in mind that the earlier you quit smoking, the lower your risk of developing lung cancer becomes.
3. Prostate cancer
The most common cancer in men is cancer of the prostate. It’s rarely seen in men younger than 50, but like lung cancer, it can develop under the radar, only rearing its head when it has already taken hold of the body. Prostate cancer can be diagnosed with routine screening tests that include a rectal examination and a blood test. The good news is the cure rate for this form of cancer has increased, and only 10% of cancer-related deaths among men are due to the prostate. To help prevent prostate cancer, it helps to eat plenty of red foods like tomatoes, watermelon, and red peppers, which contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Omega-3s and isoflavones, which are found in tofu, chickpeas, and peanuts, are also great choices.
Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Men are less likely to openly show depression, which leads them to go untreated and undiagnosed. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 6 million men have depression each year, but for most men, depression shows up in anger, aggression, and substance abuse. It’s important to cultivate supportive relationships, get exercise, and challenge negative thinking, according to HelpGuide.org. If you feel depressed, Mayo Clinic recommends you make an appointment to see your doctor right away.
5. Erectile dysfunction
Unlike the others on this list, erectile dysfunction is not life threatening, but it is a common health issue in men. This embarrassing and frustrating phenomenon is most often caused by atherosclerosis, the same process that causes heart attacks and strokes. Frequent erectile dysfunction may be a sign that your body’s blood vessels are in less-than-perfect health and may be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease. Beat erectile dysfunction by staying in good shape and eating less processed meat and refined grains.