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!