“We’ve all heard this and it’s true – My most ego-centric, macho, male friend agrees. We, as women, play an integral role in the health of the men in our lives – from our partners/husbands, fathers, and sons – we are the primary caretakers.
- We are responsible for making the health decisions regarding providers, health care plans and maintaining the family’s overall health.
- Women drive the economy. We make up 85% of all consumer purchases.
- According to a 2007 MassMutual Financial Group Study, Senior women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth.
- We represent the majority of the online market.
- We bring love, emotion and liveliness into relationships
In Celebration of National Men’s Health Month
I have decided to create dual focus topics – combining information regarding MEN’s health with the impact that women have on their health and wellness. Let’s first start with one of my patients and educate ourselves about the most common medical problems affecting men.
Karen, a 52 year-old menopausal patient of mine, came to me for her annual Well Woman visit. In addition to asking about any new medical problems, changes in family history and surgeries, I inquired about her relationship with her husband. How was his health? How was their sex life? She frowned and said, “He just doesn’t take care of himself. He’s gained over 20 pounds, has stopped going to the gym and seems depressed. Not to mention how our sex life is in the pits. He doesn’t want to go see the doctor and avoids discussing it with me. I really don’t know what to do.”
Sadly, Karen’s complaint is a very common one. While women routinely come in for their yearly exams, Pap smears and mammograms, their male counterparts tend not to be as timely with their check-ups. Michael, like many other men, tend not to admit to any health problems and are less likely to visit their physicians. Karen went on to tell me, “In fact, when we finally went to his doctor to talk about his problems with erection, he told the doctor that everything was fine. I was shocked.”
Here are 6 of the most common health conditions affecting men as they age.
- Heart disease: Heart Disease, which includes stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure, represents the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. It is critical to have blood pressure checked each year as well as routine cholesterol screening every few years, depending on values. Catching high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, as well as high LDL/high cholesterol levels early on can prevent a future stroke or heart attack. Simple lifestyle changes in diet, exercise and stress reduction can markedly reduce this risk.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED): Erectile dysfunction is very common with some estimates indicating approximately 50% of men over the age of 40 may experience some difficulty achieving or maintaining erection. ED is particularly common in men with diabetes or have had their prostate removed. ED may also be a precursor for heart disease – men with ED are 1.6 times more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. Go with your partner/husband to the exam and encourage him to speak openly with his doctor, have his blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked.
- Prostate cancer/Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH): There is much debate surrounding screening for prostate cancer, including a PSA test (Prostate specific antigen). Generally, PSA screening starts at age 50. An elevated PSA does not necessarily indicate prostate cancer but could be due to benign enlargement of the prostate, (BPH), prostate infections or inflammation. Approximately, 1 in 6 men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime and the majority will not die from it.
- Diabetes: Nearly 79 million Americans suffer from prediabetes (elevated blood sugar levels) – a precursor for Type 2 Diabetes which can cause heart disease, kidney failure, vision loss and loss of a limb. Studies have shown that increasing exercise (3-4 times/week of 45 min of cardiovascular exercise) and eating a healthier diet controls blood sugar levels and improves blood pressure.
- Dementia: Although men are less likely to develop dementia than woman, it is a very important health concern. According to the Aging, Demographics and Memory Study, approximately 14% of Americans 71 years and older suffer from some form of dementia, with 16% of women 71 and older having dementia compared to 11 % of men aged 71 and older.
- Low Testosterone Levels: As Karen was describing her husband’s health to me, I realized that many of his symptoms may be due to low testosterone. As a man ages, he loses 10% of testosterone production per decade from age 30 onward. Although not as sharp a decline as estrogen levels in women during menopause, this drop of testosterone can take its toll on a man’s health.
Most common symptoms of “low T”:
- Low sex drive
- Difficulty with erection
- Problems with orgasm
- Hair loss
- Loss of muscle mass
- Increased body fat
- Decreased bone mass
- Mood changes/Depression
In an upcoming article, we will look more closely at “low T”. What it is, what causes it and what can be done to help with symptoms – as well as how you can help him with natural ways to increase his testosterone levels. Stay tuned!
In health and happiness,