About The Author
Erin O’Tool, MD
Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group, part of Ascension
Our society often expects men to be tough and ignore pain. But pain is often the body’s way of saying something’s not quite right. Being a tough guy can lead to health issues later in life.
More men than women die from top health concerns such as heart disease and cancer. There may be biological and genetic reasons men are at a higher risk for certain conditions. But it may also be behavioral – in general, men are more likely to engage in risky behavior such as smoking, drinking, speeding while driving, not wearing a seatbelt and more. They also tend to have a higher perceived level of stress at work.
But perhaps the most important factor is men are less likely to see a doctor or have a long-term relationship with a care provider. This can lead to them missing out on important screenings and preventive care.
Some of the top men’s health issues include:
- Heart disease – This is the number one killer of men and women. For men, it’s often behavioral factors that increase their risk – poorly controlled blood pressure, high stress levels at work and smoking and drinking. Fortunately, risk can be lowered by engaging with a care provider, managing your blood pressure and getting regular diabetes and cholesterol screenings.
- Cancer – Prostate, colon and lung cancers are most common in men. All three are treatable when caught early. The key is getting regular screenings – for example, colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to check for prostate cancer.
- Auto accidents – Men are twice as likely as women to get in a car accident. To stay safe on the roads, prioritize wearing a seat belt and avoid distracted driving – i.e. texting while driving.
To improve overall health, I recommend men eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, stop smoking and reduce the amount of alcohol they drink. And it’s especially important to establish a relationship with a primary care physician. Get those annual exams and make sure you’re getting the screenings and preventive care you need to stay healthy. And don’t be afraid to bring up any health concerns – if you don’t ask questions, you may not get the interventions you need.
To find a primary care physician near you, contact your health insurance provider.