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Countdown to male meltdown

Top five health concerns men should take seriously.

By Top five health concerns men should take seriously.

JUNE 2013

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men die at higher rates and at a younger age compared to women, because they’re less likely to consult a doctor. Here are the five top reasons to defy this fact.

Matters of the heart

The CDC reports that almost twice as many males die of heart conditions, and one in every four men have some form of cardiovascular disease, making it the leading cause of deaths in men worldwide.

Fat or cholesterol deposits in arterial walls reduce the area for blood to pass through. Undetected, these deposits accumulate over time, causing atherosclerosis or narrowing and increasing pressure within these vessels, ultimately leading to heart disease.

A healthy diet and lifestyle prevent most risk factors for heart disease, which the American Heart Association (AHA) enumerates:

• age

• male gender

• family history

• alcohol abuse

• elevated cholesterol levels

• obesity and overweight

• diabetes

• hypertension

• physical inactivity

According to the journal Diabetologia, a man’s predisposition for heart disease is due to his body fat distribution, elevated harmful cholesterol levels in the blood, and the glucose-insulin levels that have been associated with myocardial infarction or heart attack.

Physicians often recommend basic yet effective dietary and lifestyle modification. Otherwise, oral medications may be indicated. In advanced stages of heart disease, surgery may be warranted.

Derailed brain signals

According to the AHA, a stroke or cerebrovascular disease is the third leading cause of death worldwide. With age, the risk for having a stroke increases. In men, however, the prevalence of stroke is higher at younger ages—before 40 years old.

The Mayo Clinic describes a stroke as a result of reduction or interruption in the blood supply to the brain, caused by a blocked or damaged artery leading to a deprivation of oxygen and nutrients. This deprivation may be temporary or permanent; 25 percent of stroke cases are fatal.

Although men are eight percent more likely to die from a stroke episode than women, and 90 percent more likely to experience complications, AHA studies show that men were more resilient after a stroke.

A stroke always requires emergency treatment to return blood flow to the brain, either by removing a clot or controlling a bleed. Surgery may be warranted in some instances.


The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in the U.S. alone, more than 6 million men experience depression yearly. Men often don’t show the usual signs of depression, and sometimes downplay emotions that may lead to this mental condition. Men’s Health Network reports men to be four times more likely to commit suicide as a result of depression—and psychiatrists attribute this statistic to men being less likely to openly show depression, making it difficult to recognize and treat. Some men may mask depression with aggression, reckless behavior and even alcohol or substance abuse. Some immerse themselves completely in a particular task, such as work, to avoid talking about the problem.

NIMH ascribes this condition to genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. Brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine have been implicated, and research shows that MRI brain images of those with depression look different from those without it—and further studies are being done to determine what causes this.

Although family history of certain types of depressive disorders like bipolar disorder directly increases the risk of having depression, not all the members of the family with this condition will get it, and a person with no family history can still be diagnosed with it. Researchers identify other risk factors:

• history of traumatic experiences as a child

• stressful events like loss of a loved one or a breakup

• alcohol and substance abuse

• poor interpersonal relationships

• poor self-confidence or low self-esteem

Since several factors cause this condition, psychiatrists often recommend combined medication and psychotherapy. It’s important to ensure the appropriate diagnosis by a doctor before starting any treatment.

Injuries and pulmonary problems round up the top 5 health risks men face. Learn more about them in the June issue of HealthToday.

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