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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Do you know all you should about men's health?

Checkup on Health

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Besides prolonging life, paying attention to your health can also help to prolong and enhance quality of life — factors such as mobility, intimacy and managing stress.  

Posted Aug. 24, 2011

Do you know all you should about men’s health?

Many men spend more time and effort maintaining their cars than their own bodies. Gents are more likely than women to put off routine preventive checkups and ignore health symptoms when they occur, including major ones. Men are also less likely to have a primary-care doctor.

That’s a problem.

“Although the life-expectancy gap between men and women is narrowing, men are still living shorter lives — and many of the causes of shorter lifespan in men are preventable,” says James Kiley, an internal medicine physician with UC Davis Health System and a member of its Men’s Health Program.

Consider:

  • Death rates from cardiovascular disease are 42 percent higher for men than women.
  • One in six men will develop prostate cancer.
  • At least a third of men report at a problem with their sexual function.
  • Men are 32 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes, and are more than twice as likely to have a leg or foot amputated due to diabetic complications.
  • Although we often hear about osteoporosis in relation to women’s health, one in four men age 50 and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
  • Only 37 percent of men engage in regular leisure-time physical activity.

Men's Health Program

The UC Davis Men’s Health Program is designed to help men take charge of their health by addressing their unique medical needs and concerns, proactively and confidentially.

Targeted conditions include cardiovascular disease, cancer (including prostate cancer), sexual health and fertility, urinary comfort, stress management and other subjects common or unique to men.

If you are interested in seeing a UC Davis Health System Men’s Health Program doctor, please call 800-2-UCDAVIS or visit us online.

Preventable risks

The good news is that many of the major health risks that men face, including heart disease and colon cancer, can be prevented. For example, the three leading causes of male cancer deaths can be detected and successfully treated early with proper screening and behaviors.

A physician can help review your family history and other risk factors, set up screenings and recognize problems early. Many insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, will cover the cost of recommended screenings and other preventive services. 

Besides prolonging your life, paying attention to your health can also help to prolong and enhance the quality of your life. A physician can assist you in making personal decisions for yourself about:

  • Remaining active and staying mobile for your favorite activities
  • Safeguarding your sexual function and fertility
  • Reducing the negative effects of stress

Here are some of the health topics all men should consider:

Cardiovascular health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in America. Stroke is also a major killer, and life-shortening diabetes is now a national epidemic. It’s no surprise: Roughly a third of American men are obese, and roughly a third have high blood pressure. Nearly 12 percent of men 20 and older have diabetes, millions are undiagnosed and tens of millions more are prediabetic.

Cardiovascular disease may do more than just shorten your life; men with these conditions typically have reduced exercise tolerance. Cardiovascular problems can also affect sexual life.

“We know that men with cardiovascular problems are at greater risk of many sexual problems,” says Alan Shindel, a UC Davis Health System urologist and a member of its Men’s Health Program. “Getting treatment early can prevent changes and loss of function down the road.”

Testing and analysis of your family history are important to determine your level of cardiovascular risk, Kiley says, so you can take proper measures to address them. At the very least, periodic checks are recommended for blood pressure (two years ), cholesterol (every five years over age 34) and, depending on your risk profile, your blood sugar. Depending on your age and health status, your physician may recommend more frequent screenings or additional tests.

By knowing the facts about your cardiovascular health, you can tailor-fit exercise and diet to your status and level of risk. Major changes may not be necessary and, if they are, a physician can provide customized, credible advice about how to make them as easily and sustainably as possible. 

“There is no bliss in ignorance,” Kiley says.

Reproductive and urinary health

Don’t be afraid to have a confidential discussion with a doctor about sexual changes or problems, which are more common with increasing age.

“There are a variety of options to maintain and improve sexual drive and function,” Shindel says. “For example, erectile dysfunction can often be managed and even reversed.” 

Addressing these issues can also help identify signs of other serious health problems such as vascular disease, low testosterone or cancer, he says. A physician or specialist can help to interpret sexual and urinary issues. 

About 5 million American men have low testosterone, which can affect sex drive, muscle and bone health, energy and mood. Like women, men experience hormone changes during the aging process, Shindel says, but the reduction tends to be more gradual over time in a process sometimes called “andropause.” By retirement age, your testosterone levels may be reduced by half. Other medical conditions can also affect testosterone.

As men age, the prostate may get bigger and block the urethra or bladder. This may cause difficulty in urination or can interfere with sexual function. The condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and affects up to 50 percent of men. BPH is very treatable, Shindel says; there are a number of medications and surgical options.

As uncomfortable as these discussions might seem, it’s definitely worth your while to tough them out as you would any other challenge. Discussions with your physician are confidential and your privacy is highly protected by law.

Monthly testicular self-exams are recommended to screen for cancer in men younger than 40. Young men are at greater risk of testicular tumors but treatment outcomes are generally excellent if it is detected early, Shindel says.

Cancer

Chances are, you know someone with prostate cancer — it’s the most common cancer in men and our second-leading cause of cancer deaths. Your risk of contracting it rises after age 50 and increases fast as you get older. At age 50, risk of diagnosis is generally estimated at 1 in 476 men — but ten years later it is 1 in 21.  Family history and ethnicity can affect risk. 

Prostate cancer is also highly treatable, especially when caught early. According to the most recent data, for all men with prostate cancer, the relative 5-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent, and the relative 10-year survival rate is 91 percent . Modern diagnostic and treatment methods can boost these rates.

It’s important to discuss the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening with a physician. There are different types of screenings, each with its own pros and cons.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. — and about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men are due to smoking, Kiley noted. Occupational exposures from some manufacturing or construction jobs can also increase risks and are a good topic for discussion with your health provider.

If you are over age 50, it is important to be tested for colorectal cancer — earlier if you have a family history. Ask your doctor what type of screening test is right for you. Bladder cancer is also a common cancer in older men, Shindel says, and may present with blood in the urine.

Check your status

For a PDF questionnaire about men’s health potential risk factors and concerns, click here.

Privacy

As uncomfortable as these discussions might seem, it’s definitely worth your while to tough them out as you would any other challenge. Discussions with your physician are confidential and your privacy is highly protected by law.

“Frankly, you have absolutely nothing to lose and much to gain by taking charge of your own health,” Kiley says. “It really is worth your time and attention.”