The ‘Top 10’ health concerns of men

By Perry Willette, MD, Scripps Health

Are men less concerned about health than women? According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are 24 percent less likely to have visited a doctor in the past year. And when men get sick, they are more likely to be hospitalized for serious conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and pneumonia. That’s why it’s important to take good care of your health and catch potential problems early. Read on for an overview of ten of the most important health concerns for men.

  1. Heart Disease
This is the number one cause of death for men in the U.S. After age 45, your risk increases significantly. Coronary artery disease, when the arteries in the heart become narrowed or blocked, is the most common type of heart disease and a major cause of heart attacks. Men can lower their risk by avoiding tobacco, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight through daily exercise and a heart-smart diet. If you’re between ages 45 and 79, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends asking your doctor about the benefits of taking aspirin to lower your chances for a heart attack versus the risks of a bleeding ulcer.

  1. Cancer
Lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon/rectal cancer, skin cancer, and testicular cancer are among the types of cancer that most commonly affect men. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men, followed by prostate cancer, then colon/rectal cancer. Risk factors for prostate cancer include age over 50, and having a father, brother or son who had prostate cancer. Many prostate cancers grow very slowly and treatment may not always be recommended. Ask your doctor about screening test (like a colonoscopy), and ways to reduce your risk, like quitting smoking, and avoiding excess sun exposure.

  1. Accidents & Unintentional Injuries
Motor vehicle accidents, poisoning, drowning and falls are among the leading causes of accidental death among men age 25-64. Recent studies show that misuse/abuse of prescription pain or anxiety medication is rapidly become one of the leading causes of accidental death. Prevent accidents from happening by making safety and common sense your top priorities. Always take your medications as prescribed, and never take someone else’s medications, or share your medicines with others.

  1. Chronic Respiratory Diseases
Chronic lung conditions such as bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema are a leading cause of disability and death for men age 55 and older. Often, these develop after years of exposure to irritants such as tobacco smoke, chemicals or pollutants, and bacteria or viruses. If you smoke, quit, and avoid secondhand smoke. If you frequently develop respiratory infections due to viruses or bacteria, talk to your doctor about taking steps to prevent them.

  1. Stroke
Stroke occurs when blood flow to an area in the brain is cut off. Without oxygen and nutrients supplied by the blood, brain cells begin to die within 4 minutes. Strokes can cause permanent brain damage and death. A man’s risk of stroke increases after age 65, and family history of stroke can increase risk. Controllable risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. Seek immediate medical care for any signs of a stroke, like weakness on one side of the body or difficulty speaking or problems with coordination.

  1. Diabetes
More than 13.0 million, or 11.8% of all men aged 20 years or older have diabetes, which increases the risk of serious health problems such as blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, amputation and cardiovascular disease. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. With lifestyle changes and medical treatment, diabetes and its associated risks can be managed.

  1. Depression
More than 6 million men experience depression each year, according to The National Institute of Mental Health. Men who experience symptoms such as persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, loss of energy, or lack interest in activities they normally enjoy, should get a medical exam to rule out other possible causes. Depression can be successfully treated with various types of therapy, including medication, lifestyle changes and psychotherapy.

  1. Obesity
Over the past 25 years, the prevalence of obesity among American men has doubled. Today, almost 74 percent of men are considered to be overweight or obese. Obesity is a contributing factor in a number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis and some types of cancer. Talk to your physician about a sensible weight loss program that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

  1. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
CKD is a condition that causes reduced kidney function over time. If the kidneys fail, harmful waste products build up, and a person may need medical treatment to replace the function of the kidneys (dialysis). An estimated 10 percent of people in the United States have CKD, and men are 50 percent more likely to progress to kidney failure. Diabetes and high blood pressure raise the risk of kidney disease.

  1. Alzheimer’s
In the U.S., Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the highest risk of death from the disease is in people over 65, and the death rate increases as we age. Exercising your mind (reading) and body (walking) has been shown to decrease the risk and severity of this disease.

Dr. Perry Willette is a family medicine specialist with Scripps. “To Your Health” is brought to you by the physicians and staff of Scripps. For more information or for a physician referral, please call 1-800-SCRIPPS or visit