By Alex McCray
When it comes to the longevity of men’s health, there’s no getting around it, the numbers are bleak. According to Harvard Health Publications, women live an average of five years longer than men in the U.S. While there isn’t much that can be done about that Y chromosome, advancements in modern medicine and a slew of health information can empower you to take your lifespan into your own hands as much as possible. Here, we’ve listed the top 10 causes of death among men according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Plus, we provide tips to live longer and we break down symptoms you should never ignore.
Top 10 Causes of Death Among Men
When it comes to heart disease, the most important thing Tara Hrobowski, MD, of Piedmont Heart Institute advises is being an engaged patient and knowing your numbers for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight. Aim for blood pressure less than 140/90, get 30 to 40 minutes of exercise four to five days a week, and limit sweet treats and saturated fats.
Lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer are the leading causes of cancer death in men, according to the CDC. Smokers are the most likely to die from lung cancer, but those who have never smoked are still at risk. Because lung cancer often doesn’t show symptoms until it is advanced, it is of the utmost importance to see a doctor if you begin to cough up blood or experience chest pain that is more intense when breathing, coughing or laughing. Also beware of a new onset of wheezing, hoarseness, or bronchitis or pneumonia that doesn’t go away or recurs.
The American Cancer Society recommends people with average colorectal cancer risk begin screening at age 50. Screenings are the most important way to prevent colon and rectal cancer. You can lower your risk by sustaining a healthy weight, exercising often, understanding your family history, and paying attention to symptoms. Beware of changes in stool, cramping or abdominal pain, and weakness and fatigue, advises Richard C. Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society.
Risky behavior is just that, risky—and men are often more likely to die because of it. “Men 35 to 44 are nearly three times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than women,” says Andrea Stevenson, senior vice president and chief clinical officer of Visiting Nurse Health System/Hospice Atlanta. Men 45 to 64 face a new threat that is on the rise: drug overdose. For older men, declining health and a loss of mobility, flexibility, and independence can lead to serious falls. Make responsible behavior a lifelong habit. Wear your seat belt. Don’t eat, drink, or text while driving. Ask questions about prescription drugs and understand how they work. Pay attention to your surroundings and remove hazards that can cause falls, if possible.
Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
Because the lungs work with so many other organs in the body, deciphering their symptoms can be tricky. Common ones to keep an eye on include shortness of breath that is out of proportion to the level of exertion, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, light-headedness, and leg swelling, says Juan Israel Gaitan, MD, pulmonologist and intensivist with Piedmont Fayette Hospital. Keep your lungs healthy by avoiding cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals, maintaining the health of your teeth, and getting recommended vaccines and regular checkups.
Issues that creep up over time and can lead to strokes include hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and a history of smoking. Immediate signs of a stroke are facial drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulty, explains Gwinnett Medical Center neurologist Rizwan Bashir, MD, and Susan M. Gaunt, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, ANVP, CCRN, CNRN
stroke clinical nurse specialist at Gwinnett Medical Center.
“Research has shown that men are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than women due to differences in insulin sensitivity and regional fat deposition,” says Tasneem Bhatia, MD, of CentreSpringMD. Cut back on high-fat dairy products and fried foods. Take note of unexplained weight loss—it isn’t always a good thing. Susan Chapman, licensed dietitian and clinical nutrition manager at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital reveals that unexplained weight loss, increased thirst, and frequent urination could be ways the body is trying to normalize blood sugar levels due to diabetes.
A combination of these symptoms with blurred vision are signals it’s time to make an appointment with a doctor. Chapman also notes, “The vast majority of people will experience no symptoms at all. That is what is so scary and why there are so many people walking around undiagnosed with the more common form of diabetes, Type 2. For the rarer Type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM), those patients always experience the classic signs.”
According to Andro Giorgadze, MD, of Institute for Behavioral Medicine, “Women attempt [suicide] more often, but men complete suicide more often.” In addition, feeling low, loss of interest in something you once loved, fatigue, insomnia, and a general decrease in activities for more than two weeks are hallmark signs of depression, he says. If you notice these signs, take action and let someone know—don’t suffer in silence.
“Scientists are beginning to identify links to issues that can potentially increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, such as conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and high cholesterol,” explains Bhatia. She goes on to note, “Autopsy studies show that as many as 80 percent of Alzheimer’s patients also had cardiovascular disease.” On the upside, there is evidence that exercise and a Mediterranean diet can decrease risk.
Influenza & Pneumonia
While influenza might make you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, it can usually be resolved on its own or with antiviral medication, says Peter R. Jungblut, MD, MBA of WellStar Medical Group. Take everyday precautions like washing your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose and throat to diminish contact with germs.
Chronic Liver Disease
An estimated three million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis C, one of the main causes of chronic liver disease, otherwise known as cirrhosis. Because of its role in chronic liver disease, the CDC recommends that baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 talk with their doctors about screening for hepatitis C. It’s the ongoing fibrosis (creation of scar tissue) of the liver that eventually affects the liver’s ability to function normally. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms at all. Certain lab abnormalities might be apparent on routine testing, or at least suggestive of the need for further investigation, explains Jungblut.
American Cancer Society, cancer.org
Cancer Treatment Centers of America, cancercenter.com
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Leading Causes of Death (LCOD)
by Race/Ethnicity, All Males-United States, 2014, cdc.gov
Georgia Urology, gaurology.com
Gwinnett Medical Center, gwinnettmedicalcenter.org
Institute for Behavioral Medicine, ifbm.us
Piedmont Healthcare, piedmont.org
Visiting Nurse Health System/Hospice Atlanta, vnhs.org
WellStar Medical Group, wellstar.org