Top 10 Health Issues for Men

What are the biggest threats to men’s health? Physicians from The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City weigh in.

The top 10 threats to men's healthThe attitude that men should “tough it out” may be contributing to the deterioration of men’s health. According to one study, men who believe in more traditional models of masculinity – such as being brave and self-reliant – were less likely to seek help for health issues than those who didn’t hold those beliefs. This could explain why men are less likely to go to the doctor when sick and die about 5 years earlier than women.

OK men, repeat after us: You are not invincible. Learn what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified as the top 10 threats to men’s health and what you can do about them.

No. 1 Heart disease

Heart disease is the top cause of death in the United States for both men and women. It accounted for 24.5% of all male deaths in 2014. This includes heart attack, heart failure and problems with arteries. The American Heart Association® (AHA) says 1 in 3 adult men already has some type of heart disease.

While your genes and age can put you at risk, there are risk factors you can control.

“All men age 45 and older are at a higher risk for heart disease,” says Eyad Al-hihi, MD, internal medicine physician at The University of Kansas Health System. “You can’t change your age. But you can manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight. And you can stop smoking or smoke less.”

To learn your risk of developing heart disease, talk to your doctor. You can also take our online heart health assessment.

No. 2 Cancer

Cancer is close behind heart disease, causing 23.4% of all U.S. male deaths. The most common male cancers – and the most fatal – are prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. These, too, can have genetic connections. But family history is not a guarantee of diagnosis, and there are many things you can do to lower your risk.

“Men should stop smoking no matter their age,” says Dr. Al-hihi. “Some will say they have smoked so long that it won’t make a difference. But cutting down or quitting at any age shows major benefits.”

Men also should get regular prostate and colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 50 (at the latest). Depending on your health history, you may need to start sooner. Ask your doctor about the right times for each. Our colorectal cancer risk assessment can help you learn your risk.

No. 3 Accidents

Men are more likely to die of accident or injury than women, and accidents accounted for 6.3% of all male deaths in 2014. Drug overdose is the leader, taking 60 U.S. lives each day.

Car crashes also are causing more deaths. The National Safety Council says 2016 may have been the most deadly year on the roads since 2007. To manage this risk, it boils down to basics.

“I ask all my patients if they’re wearing their seatbelts 100% of the time,” says Rita Hyde, MD, internal medicine physician at The University of Kansas Health System. “If you’re interested in improving your health, this is the single, easiest thing I’m going to ask you to do.”

No. 4 Chronic lower respiratory diseases

Lung cancer, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are responsible for around 5% of male deaths. Smoking is the most controllable risk factor. And new screening methods are available.

Low-dose CT scanning can help detect lung cancer before it spreads,” says Dr. Hyde. “If you’ve been smoking for 30 ‘pack years’ or longer, ask your doctor about getting screened. It can pick up tiny malignancies that we can manage before they spread. It really can affect your quality and quantity of life.”

No. 5 Stroke

Stroke – a condition that occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off – is the 5th leading cause of death among men. Stroke is a form of cardiovascular disease, and therefore shares similar risk factors. You can control your odds of having a stroke by managing your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, and by quitting smoking. Get additional tips for lowering your risk of stoke.

No. 6 Diabetes

“Type 2 diabetes causes about 3% of male deaths each year. It’s one of the most preventable conditions on this list,” says Dr. Al-hihi. “You can prevent it if you eat right and get moving for 30 minutes 5 days a week.”

For men who already have diabetes, make sure you keep it under control.

“The biggest barrier to men getting optimal diabetes care is failing to see the doctor on a regular basis,” says Dr. Hyde. “Be sure to visit every quarter or twice a year, monitor your blood sugar and get the labs your doctor suggests. You also can talk with a dietitian at The University of Kansas Physicians for no extra cost.”

No. 7 Suicide

Each year, more than 44,000 Americans take their own lives. And men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women do.

“Stress and depression are common,” says Dr. Al-hihi, noting that men should not hesitate to ask for assistance. “If you feel helpless, hopeless or anxious all the time, talk to your doctor. Counseling and medication can help a lot.”

Visit the National Suicide Prevention Hotline website for resources. Or call the hotline: 800-273-8255.

No. 8 Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills. The National Institute on Aging says it’s the 6th leading cause of all deaths in the country.

Genetics play a large part. But research shows lifestyle factors also may have a role. Doctors are looking at the connection between Alzheimer’s and heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“What’s good for the heart may also be good for the brain,” says Dr. Hyde. “We see evidence that exercise can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and slow its course.”

The University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center offers Lifestyle Enrichment for Alzheimer’s Prevention (LEAP!). The educational program is based on the latest research and offers practical recommendations for everyday life to help you boost your brain health and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

No. 9 Influenza and pneumonia

The best way to prevent these conditions is vaccination. Dr. Al-hihi recommends a yearly flu vaccine for all men and the pneumonia vaccine for anyone over age 65, as well as smokers and those with asthma.

No. 10 Chronic liver disease

The No. 1 cause of liver disease is drinking alcohol. Dr. Hyde suggests men stick to no more than 3 drinks in any day and never have more than 14 in a week. (Women shouldn’t drink more than 2 drinks a day or 9 in a week.) One drink is equal to:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor

Liver disease can also accompany obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“We don’t get to choose where our fat goes, and for some people, it goes to the liver,” says Dr. Hyde.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is important. If you’re obese, aim for losing 7-10% of your body weight. Studies also show drinking 2-3 cups of black coffee a day may reduce signs of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.