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June 29, 2018 | by Shane G. S. Jhooty MD

Men’s Health Month is the perfect time to increase awareness of health issues that are significant in men such as prostate, testicular, skin and colorectal cancers, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Learn ways you can better manage your health and avoid more serious health issues as you age.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men – almost 200,000 men are diagnosed each year in the U.S. alone. As men age, their prostate increases in size and becomes more prone to problems. Risk increases significantly after the age of 50 in white men who have no family history of the disease, and after age 40 in black men, and men who have a family history of prostate cancer.

There are usually no symptoms, but can include:

  • Frequent urges to urinate
  • Difficulty commencing and maintaining urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Painful urination, and less commonly, ejaculation
  • Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection

Because prostate cancer usually grows slowly, it is less likely to spread when detected early on – making regular screening important. Diet and lifestyle modifications have also been shown to reduce prostate cancer development and progression.

Testicular Cancer

Compared to other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. However, it is the most common cancer in 15- to 35-year-old American males. The cause of testicular cancer is unclear, but abnormal testicle development increases the risk. It is also more common in white men than in black men.

Symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • Lump or enlargement in either testicle
  • Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • Dull ache in the abdomen or groin
  • Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in the testicle or scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
  • Back pain

Because there is no way to prevent testicular cancer, you should discuss self-examination with your primary care provider and schedule an annual physical for early detection.

Skin Cancer

By age 50, men are more likely than women to develop melanoma. By age 65, men are twice as likely as women to develop melanoma, and by age 80, men are three times more likely.

Ways to protect yourself from the sun

  • Apply sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater is recommended)
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
  • Wear long sleeves and pants
  • Seek shade
  • Stay out of the sun from 10 am to 2 pm

Melanoma is treatable when found early on, making self-examinations highly effective between dermatology appointments. In order to check hard-to-see areas, ask a partner for help.

In honor of Men’s Health Month, make sure to see your primary care doctor at least once a year, regardless of your age, and schedule any preventive care screenings that are due. Try to increase awareness of your body and notice any changes that are unusual for you and be sure to report them to your primary care provider without delay. Prevention and early detection are keys to maintaining good health and reducing your risk of chronic conditions.

Colorectal Cancer

Approximately 5% of men in the U.S. develop colorectal cancer and most cases occur over age 50. Most adults begin screening at age 50; talk with your doctor about earlier screening tests if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation)
  • A feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
  • Blood in stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

There are multiple screening methods to reduce colorectal cancer:

  • Colonoscopy (typically recommended every 10 years)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Fecal occult blood test

To lower your risk of colorectal cancer:

  • Eat less red meat
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption

Even after colorectal cancer has been removed, you are at higher risk to developing it again. Because treatments can become more aggressive and invasive as colorectal cancer spreads, you should get screened regularly.

Hypertension

There are two different types of high blood pressure, primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension has no identifiable cause. Secondary hypertension is related to another underlying medical condition and can cause higher blood pressure than primary.

High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Family history
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • Tobacco use
  • High-sodium diet
  • Low dietary potassium
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Certain chronic conditions (such as kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea)

You can have hypertension for months or even years without symptoms, even when blood pressure becomes dangerously high. When high blood pressure is uncontrolled, your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious health problems increases. In addition to an annual blood pressure check with your primary care provider, many pharmacies have free monitors available to check your own blood pressure.

To control high blood pressure:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet with less salt
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Limit alcohol consumption

Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease

In the U.S., one in every four deaths is caused by cardiovascular disease. A recent study showed that adults who are overweight or obese between ages 40 and 59 have up to an 85% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain, or stroke.

Medical conditions and lifestyle factors that put you at risk of heart disease include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

Obesity is generally assessed using body mass index, or BMI. There are online tools that allow you to determine if you are at a healthy weight. Obesity is associated with internal inflammation and can compromise your heart’s functionality. It also increases your chances of developing sleep apnea.

To improve heart health, engage in physical activity, eat healthy foods, manage your body weight, and practice ways to manage stressors in your life. If you need help, consider a weight management program such as Primal Pathway or Menu for Change.

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