Articles & Experts

Men’s Health: Preventing a Health Crisis

Monday, May 20, 2024

by Michael Baker, Staff Writer Physicians Office Resource 

I have a host of scars that I’ve acquired over the years. Truth be told, I don’t mind my scars. Each one comes with a different, sometimes funny, stupid, adventurous, or scary story. Not only do these scars carry memories, but they also represent triumph. To me is amazing to think each scar represents a time when my body failed but also shows how it was able to overcome that failure.

As a male, sometimes we’re a little more reckless with our bodies than our female counterparts. The average U.S. male lives to 76 years old compared to the average female life expectancy of 81 years old. Not only do men fall 5 years short in life expectancy, but one in every 5 U.S. men will die before the age of 65. The reasons being, males typically have poorer health habits, are less likely to seek medical attention and regular checkups, and face greater levels of stress. Despite these shortfalls, the good thing is many of these obstacles that men are facing are very preventable. While there are many things men can do to improve their overall health, in this article we’ll look at the following: improving their metabolic issues such has high cholesterol, being aware of their prostate cancer risks, and being attentive to hormone levels. 

Cholesterol Levels

Poor cholesterol levels, especially high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, can significantly impact health in several ways: 

  1. Increased risk of heart disease and stroke: High LDL cholesterol can lead to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis), narrowing them and restricting blood flow to the heart and brain, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  2. Hypertension (high blood pressure): High LDL cholesterol can contribute to the development of hypertension, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications.
  3. Peripheral artery disease (PAD): Atherosclerosis caused by high LDL cholesterol can also affect arteries supplying blood to the legs and arms, leading to PAD. PAD can cause pain, numbness, and tissue damage in the affected limbs.
  4. Increased risk of heart attack: High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to the formation of blood clots, which can block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack.
  5. Increased risk of stroke: Atherosclerosis caused by high LDL cholesterol can also affect arteries supplying blood to the brain, increasing the risk of stroke.
  6. Decreased kidney function: High cholesterol can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries supplying blood to the kidneys, reducing kidney function over time.
  7. Increased risk of other health problems: High cholesterol levels have also been linked to other health problems, such as gallstones and certain types of cancer. 

To improve overall cholesterol levels

There are several lifestyle changes men can make to improve their cholesterol levels: 

  1. Healthy diet:
    1. Reduce saturated fats: Replace foods high in saturated fats with healthier options. For example, choose lean meats, such as chicken and fish, over red meat.
    2. Increase fiber intake: Foods high in soluble fiber, such as oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables, can help lower cholesterol.
    3. Limit dietary cholesterol: Reduce your intake of foods high in cholesterol, such as organ meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy products.
  2. Regular exercise:
    1. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Activities like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling can help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight:
    1. Losing excess weight can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.
  4. Quit smoking:
    1. Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol levels and damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them more prone to accumulating fatty deposits.
  5. Limit alcohol intake:
    1. Drinking alcohol in moderation can raise HDL cholesterol. However, too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure and heart failure.
  6. Medication:
    1. In some cases, medication may be necessary to help lower cholesterol levels, especially if lifestyle changes alone are not enough. 

Prostate Screenings

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men worldwide, with an estimated 1.4 million new cases diagnosed each year. While the thought of prostate cancer screening may seem daunting, understanding the purpose, process, and potential benefits can empower men to take charge of their health. Here’s what men need to know about prostate screenings. 

The prostate is a small gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It plays a crucial role in the male reproductive system by producing seminal fluid. Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland mutate and multiply uncontrollably. 

Prostate cancer screenings are recommended for men 50 and older. The two primary screening tests for prostate cancer are the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and the digital rectal examination (DRE). 

PSA Test: The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood. Elevated PSA levels may indicate the presence of prostate cancer, although other factors, such as age and prostate size, can also affect PSA levels. While an elevated PSA level does not necessarily mean cancer is present, it may prompt further testing, such as a biopsy. 

Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): During a DRE, a healthcare provider inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities in the prostate gland.

While a DRE can detect some prostate cancers, it is less effective than the PSA test at detecting early-stage cancers. 

While screening may detect prostate cancer at an early, more treatable stage, it is not without risks. By understanding the purpose, process, and potential benefits and risks of prostate screenings, men can make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Remember, early detection can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and survival. 

Male Menopause and Hormone Testing

Male menopause and andropause are terms used to describe decreasing levels of the testosterone in males that comes because of aging. In males, about 45-65% of testosterone is bound to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHGB) a protein produced mainly in the liver. The remaining 35-55% of the testosterone in the blood that is not bound is known as free testosterone. Risk factors for low SHGB include obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Testosterone and SHBG levels should be tested with the aging male population that are experiencing signs and symptoms of low testosterone. 

Thinking back on my scars and the memories they carry, many of those scars were preventable. Most of us men need to remember we’re not as young as we used to be and most actions that lead to scars carry more negative consequences than they once did when we were young. Facing a health crisis is one thing, but for many men this health crisis is preventable.