Men’s Health: A Movember to Remember

Perhaps you’ve noticed an increase in mustaches around town this month? Maybe you’re wondering if hipsters suddenly took over the world, or why Reno 911 is having a nationwide casting call? It turns out it’s all for MOVEMBER! In case you missed the me-“mo”, November was recently changed to Movember as a way to bring awareness to Men’s Health issues. You can learn more about Movember at us.movember.com

In honor of Movember, we’re shedding some light on a few topics that every guy should keep up with. It turns out that about 30 percent of men (ages 18-65) have not had a physical exam this year. While some physicians may not recommend annual screenings for all age groups, it’s important to build a relationship with your physician, and even more important to get screening tests to help prevent illness down the road.  While most men may feel healthy, particularly during their 20’s and 30’s, this age group is especially notorious for letting health concerns go unaddressed.

Here are a few common health issues that should not be overlooked by men:

Diabetes: Usually, we think of diabetes as a disease of the elderly and obese. Unfortunately, as we consume more refined sugars and processed foods, even those who are normal weight or slightly overweight are at risk.  Our body needs energy to survive, and often this energy comes in the form of carbohydrates. These carbs are broken down into glucose, the main energy source for cells in our body. As we give the body large glucose loads or simple carbs (cupcakes, brownies, beer, etc), the pancreas pumps out more insulin to help balance our blood sugar levels. The more we do this, the larger the demand on our pancreas, until eventually it doesn’t work as well, or stops working all together. This complicated cycle is largely driven by diet and is often responsible for symptoms like daytime tiredness, headaches, weight gain, and poor memory.

In 2011 it was estimated that about 13 million men over the age of 20 have diabetes.  It was also estimated that about 79 million people (yes- you read that right!) have pre-diabetes (this includes men and women). Pre-diabetes is when the body’s glucose levels are high, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. This means your body is still struggling to adequately process sugar and your clock may be running out. Getting checked for diabetes is extremely important for all men, no matter what age. The disease can be largely prevented with diet and exercise.

Heart disease: What is heart disease anyways? Heart disease causes plaque build up and poor functioning of the blood vessels of the heart (the coronary arteries) that can lead to heart attacks and death. Despite it being well publicized that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, many are still dying. Heart disease is responsible for about 1 in 4 male deaths every year. Although it’s shocking to think you or one of your other three golf buddies may die from heart disease, it is also largely preventable. Risk factors for heart disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Some of these risks may have a genetic component, but can still be improved with lifestyle changes. Your physician will screen you for all of these in a thorough physical exam.

Sexual health: Although the statistics vary, some say every seven seconds, some say three minutes- no one really knows, but the reality is men think about sex often. Very often. Encompassed in these thoughts are also fears, frustrations, and unknowns. Despite having many questions, few men ever speak to a physician about these concerns. As we learned in our last article on infertility, about 30% may be due to a problem in the male’s reproductive system.  Sperm requires an optimal temperature to mature and function properly. Many things that raise the scrotal temperature can make this process less effective. Anything from getting into a hot tub, or putting your laptop near your groin can interfere. Additionally, increased alcohol intake or marijuana use can decrease sperm production and fertility.

Premature ejaculation is another common concern among men. This is actually the number one sexual concern for men under the age of 40. Many men do not address this problem with their physician, and don’t realize that there are several treatment options.

Alcohol: What do Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, and Johnny Depp have in common? If you guessed dark hair- you probably shouldn’t guess anymore. The reality is they all have been arrested for driving under the influence and are a small number of the large litany of male celebrities with alcohol problems. In fact, men are twice as likely to binge drink than women, and approximately 15 percent are considered alcohol dependent at some point during their lives. Many men struggle with alcoholism, and may even be in denial about the effect of alcohol on their life.

Chronic alcohol use can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and even death. Screening for alcoholism is important for men of all ages.

Depression: Although men and women suffer from depression, signs and symptoms vary greatly in men.  When an NFL team loses, we joke about the deep depression many men face, but the truth is depression in men is a serious health risk. Stress, lifestyle, and genetics all play a role in the development of depression in men. Typically, males are unlikely to bring up this topic with their physician, due to fear or embarassment. Although more women attempt suicide, sadly, more men actually complete suicide attempts. Signs of depression may include increased irritability, difficulty concentrating, lack of desire to socialize, apathy, or even increased use of television and/or computer to avoid addressing these concerns. Visit your physician to be screened for depression, help is certainly available and not all treatments require medication.

As we say good-bye to another Movember, let’s help a Mo-Bro out and encourage him to pay attention to his health and speak with his physician today!

 

Infertility: Are Your Eggs Scrambled?

Many of you might remember looking up at the clock in school during exams and watching the long red second hand tick, tick, tick. As you tracked your time and filled in your scantron sheet (remember those!), your only worry was having a number 2 pencil. Unfortunately, sometimes the idea of your “biological” clock ticking is a lot more worrisome. Whether you would like to have children in the future, or you have struggled to get pregnant, infertility is an important topic for many women.

Typically, physicians classify infertility as either primary or secondary.

Primary Infertility: This is when a couple has not been able to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse.

Secondary Infertility: This is the term used when a couple that has been pregnant before has not been able to conceive again.

Women are born with all the eggs they will have during their lifetime (typically this is about 1-2 million). Only about 400 of these eggs will actually mature. In men, on the other hand, new sperm are produced daily. The release of a viable egg and fertilization by sperm can be influenced by many factors.

When couples are faced with infertility, 50% of the time they may be attributed to female reproductive factors such as ovulatory dysfunction, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pelvic infections, or sexually transmitted infections. As women age, fertility also declines. Women are most fertile in their late teens and early twenties. Fertility begins to decline around age 35.

In about 30% of cases, the infertility may be attributed to the male partner. Common causes of decreased fertility in men are low sperm count, retrograde ejaculation, or hormone deficiency.

In about 20% of cases, the cause of infertility is unknown and is not clear even after medical examination.

Despite the multiple physical issues that can influence fertility, stress plays a large role. As the body becomes chronically stressed, the natural cycle of menstruation, ovulation, implantation and pregnancy is disturbed. Have you ever been under a significant amount of stress or pressure and missed a menstrual cycle? Not surprisingly, becoming pregnant under stress is also difficult. 

Worried there’s no “honey-boo-boo” in your future? (Or perhaps that’s what you want to avoid!). Don’t panic. Here are some simple guidelines to improve your fertility and health:

1) Take a Prenatal Vitamin: The modern American diet often lacks important nutrients and minerals that are needed for a healthy pregnancy and immune function. Taking a prenatal vitamin can help you prepare for pregnancy by supplementing nutrients your body may be lacking. Additionally, if you happen to get pregnant, prenatal vitamins include an adequate supply of folic acid, a vitamin that is vital to neonatal brain development. Aim to get 400 mcg-600mcg daily.

2) Track your cycle: Each woman’s menstrual cycle varies in length. Based on this fact, ovulation can also be variable. Generally, women ovulate about 12-14 days before the next period. Predicting this may be more difficult in women with irregular periods. At the time of ovulation, the egg can be fertilized for 12-24 hours. Male sperm remains viable for 2-3 days, so having intercourse 2 days before ovulation and on the day of ovulation may increase your chances of pregnancy.

3) Watch out for Obesity and Diabetes: Diets rich in trans fat, simple carbohydrates, and preservatives can increase your body’s glucose load and create insulin resistance. Problems with glucose metabolism and obesity can affect hormones like estrogen and progesterone, and in turn affect ovulation. Attempt to eliminate refined sugars and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. (Apple pie doesn’t usually count as a fruit!) Visit your physician for further testing for diabetes or hormone imbalance.

4) Dial Down Your Stress: Everyone says, “Duh”, to this one, yet stress is one of the most common symptoms cited by couples struggling with infertility. It turns out that as the body faces increased stress, a hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol may decrease the formation of progesterone and impact ovulation. Consider focusing on another goal for a few weeks or months. This may ease your anxiety about fertility and improve your chances of getting pregnant sooner.

5) Visit your physician: If you have been trying to become pregnant for 6 to 8 months and have not been successful, speak to your doctor. He or she may recommend waiting a few more months without intervention, or check blood tests to evaluate your hormones and other causes of infertility.

Remember: Many couples that are faced with infertility often conceive naturally, or become pregnant after medical intervention. Try your best to have a positive outlook during this difficult time, and express your concerns to your physician. He or she can provide support and resources to help guide you in the right direction.