Picture, for a moment, a typical Saturday afternoon. A man is in his driveway carefully washing and waxing his car. Or perhaps he's meticulously trimming weeds from the landscaped areas of his yard. Maybe he's even putting in a few extra hours at the office -- earning some overtime money for his kids' college fund. Regardless of the scenario, one thing is clear: Men can be great caretakers. Whether its attention to a classic vehicle or devotion to family, they tend to cover all the bases. There seems to be one exception, though: their health.
Men, in general, focus less on preventive care than their female counterparts. Take, for instance, the fact that women are 33 percent more likely to visit a physician for any reason [source CDC]. And then consider that men often wait until a condition is serious before making a medical appointment [source: Hoffman]. Perhaps it's a grin-and-bear-it attitude; maybe it's a matter of priorities. Either way, men have quite a way to go in improving their own health care. When they do, they'll find that many of the conditions that plague their gender are easily preventable. In this article, we'll look at some classic men's health problems and the simple measures to avoid them.
It's the type of scenario that's custom-made for a sitcom episode: A man lies soundly asleep while his frustrated partner is awake with a pillow over her head trying to block out the sound of his snores. In reality, loud snoring isn't funny at all; it's a symptom of sleep apnea. This disorder causes you to repeatedly stop and start breathing throughout the night. And while it may not sound like the most intimidating of health conditions, it can increase your risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease. The death of NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White in 2004 highlighted the impact sleep apnea can have on cardiac health [source: Hiestand, Mihoces].
As a man, your chances of having sleep apnea are higher. Fortunately, there are other risk factors of the disorder that you can control. One of the main preventive measures for sleep apnea is weight loss. Being overweight greatly increases your odds of having the condition, so improving your diet and exercise regimen can go a long way toward reducing the number of logs you saw each night. Other preventive measures include avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, sleeping pills and sleeping on your back [source: WebMD].
Keep reading to learn about another preventable health condition -- one that can be a real pain.
Lower back pain can be distracting or it can be debilitating. Either way, it decreases the activities you're able to do, while increasing your misery. However, unless you have congenital or genetic spine problems, or have spinal degeneration due to disease or an accident, there's a great chance you can prevent lower back pain [source: WebMD]. The steps are simple:
- Lose weight: The pain in your lower back may be from the spare tire you're carrying around. Lose it, and the pressure on your back will lighten.
- Work on your posture: Doctors agree with your mom: Good posture is important. When standing, make sure your ears, shoulders, hips and knees are all in alignment with one another.
- Lift safely: Men are more likely to have occupations where they do a lot of heavy lifting. If this is you -- or even if you only have to carry a large load when you're helping your buddies move -- you can benefit from learning proper lifting procedures such as rising slowly, bending the knees and not twisting the back.
- Strengthen your back: A workout that improves your core stability can make your lower back stronger and less prone to injury. Seek out a routine that includes aerobic conditioning as well as strengthening.
- Support your back while sleeping: Lying down for long periods of time can put a strain on your back. To take the pressure off, place a pillow or rolled up towel under your knees as you sleep. If you usually sleep on your side, the pillow or towel can go between your knees.
You'll find the condition on the next page just as easy to prevent.
There are some foods that just seem to be "guy" foods -- like wings, steaks and ribs, for example. And, of course, these tasty items are usually washed down, in manly fashion, with a nice cold beer. Unfortunately, the foods and beverages on a man's menu of favorites are usually the ones that can also lead to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which is a disorder that causes acid reflux and heartburn. So cutting back on spicy and fatty foods, as well as alcohol, can decrease your odds of having to battle the uncomfortable sensations they can produce in your chest and throat later that night.
Of course, you'll probably still want to indulge in these delicious no-nos from time to time. If you're willing to take that risk, it might pay to already have some preventive measures in place. A big step you can take toward reducing your occurrences of GERD is to lose weight. Being obese or overweight makes it much more likely that you'll suffer from the gastroesophageal condition.
Like overeating, smoking is another bad habit that can worsen GERD. Smoking keeps the lower esophageal sphincter from doing its job properly, so quitting can help you increase your comfort level after eating [source: Mayo Clinic]. Also avoid tight-fitting clothes, try to not lie down shortly after a meal, and raise the head of your bed.
Keep reading for the next preventable condition.
Some readers might be surprised to find this condition on our list. After all, it's generally women who sunbathe. While women are also susceptible to skin cancer, it is actually the No. 1 cancer in men over age 50 [source: Skin Cancer Foundation]. This is, in part, because men spend the most time outdoors -- either through vocation or recreation. And it may also be that men's skin is more sensitive to ultraviolet light than women's [source: DeNoon].
There are a number of skin cancer risks you can't control -- for example, being fair skinned, having a lot of moles or a family history of skin cancer. You are also unable to correct how much sun exposure you may have had in the past, which can influence risk level. However, there are many preventive measures you can take right now to reduce your risk [source: Mayo Clinic]. These include:
- Wear sunscreen every day: You may be tempted to only wear your SPF in the summer, but UVA and UVB rays can still damage your skin during other months as well. Don't forget to wear it on overcast days, too.
- Cut back on outdoor time during peak hours: For those of us in North America, the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Cover up: Broad-brimmed hats and tightly knit clothing are more likely to protect your skin than other types of apparel. So when you're out on the golf course, you're better off wearing a classic Sam Snead-style hat than the baseball caps Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson favor.
Our final preventable condition is the top killer of men. Keep reading to learn more.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men in the United States [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. And while this may make it seem inevitable, you can actually reduce your chances of being targeted by this killer.
You may have noticed that most of the health conditions on our list have suggested weight loss or smoking cessation as preventive measures. That is because both obesity and smoking increase your body's risks of developing many diseases -- and heart disease is no different. So if you want to avoid being part of heart disease's daunting statistic, stop smoking, eat a diet low in fat and sodium, and exercise. You'll also need to manage any related conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, which would also include weight management and a healthy lifestyle regimen.
Eating the right foods and making time for a workout can take commitment and self-discipline, but when you consider they may prevent one of the deadliest diseases, you'll see that they really are simple measures after all.
See the next page for lots more information on men's health.
HowStuffWorks looks at a study linking time spent with childhood friends with improved outcomes in men's health.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "New Study Profiles Women's Use of Health Care." July 26, 2001. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/01news/newstudy.htm
- DeNoon, Daniel J. "Men's Skin More Sun-Sensitive." WebMD. April 2, 2007. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/melanoma-skin-cancer/news/20070402/mens-skin-more-sun-sensitive
- Hiestand, Michael and Mihoces, Gary. "NFL Linemen Awaken to Sleep Apnea Dangers." USA Today. Dec. 29, 2004. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2004-12-29-sleep-apnea_x.htm
- Hoffman MD, Matthew. "6 Top Health Threats to Men." WebMD. Sept. 10, 2008. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://men.webmd.com/mens-health-concerns-7/6-top-health-threats-men
- Magee, Elaine. "Heartburn: Foods to Avoid." WebMD. Aug. 4, 2008. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/heartburn-foods-to-avoid
- Mayo Clinic. "GERD -- Lifestyle and Home Remedies." May 23, 2009. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gerd/DS00967/DSECTION=lifestyle%2Dand%2Dhome%2Dremedies
- Mayo Clinic. "Heart Disease -- Complications." Jan. 12, 2011. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120/DSECTION=complications
- Mayo Clinic. "Heart Disease -- Definition." Jan. 12, 2011. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120
- Mayo Clinic. "Heart Disease -- Prevention." Jan. 12, 2011. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120/DSECTION=prevention
- Mayo Clinic. "Men's Health: Preventing the Top 7 Threats." Feb. 5, 2011. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mens-health/MC00013
- Mayo Clinic. "Skin Cancer -- Prevention." Aug. 18, 2010. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/skin-cancer/DS00190/DSECTION=prevention
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Low Back Pain Fact Sheet." Jan. 13, 2011. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm
- Skin Cancer Foundation. "Skin Cancer Stats for Men." (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-stats-for-men.html
- WebMD. "Low Back Pain -- Prevention." Feb. 3, 2010. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tc/low-back-pain-prevention
- WebMD. "Sleep Apnea." March 2, 2010. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea
- WebMD. "Sleep Apnea Symptoms." March 02, 2010. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/symptoms-of-sleep-apnea
- WebMD. "Sleep Apnea Treatments." Oct. 5, 2010. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/sleep_apnea_treatments
- Zamora, Dulce. "Men's Top 5 Health Concerns." WebMD. April 30, 2007. (Feb. 5, 2011)http://men.webmd.com/features/mens-top-5-health-concerns