During the month of June, healthcare advocates across the nation will unite to raise awareness of preventable health problems among men. Men’s Health Month is an opportunity to encourage men of all ages to seek regular medical advice and take steps for early treatment of disease and injury. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, men currently outpace women for nine out of 10 for the top causes of death and their risk significantly rises as they age. Part of the underlying cause for this is the fact that women are more likely than men to seek regular preventative medical attention such as annual examinations. Therefore, keeping a vigilant eye on their health status is vital to supporting older men’s longevity and quality of life. Senior men should be aware of their susceptibility to common age-related conditions that impact older people like atherosclerosis, arthritis, and dementia. However, there are several medical conditions that mainly affect senior men that they may not know about.
- Prostate Cancer is one of the most common cancers among men. There are usually no symptoms of prostate cancer until the disease becomes advanced. The American Cancer Society recommends men with an average risk of prostate cancer should begin talking to their health provider about screening at about age 50. However, men with higher risk of prostate cancer, such as African-Americans, should begin screening much earlier. Screening for prostate cancer requires a digital rectal exam and a blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA).
- Testosterone Deficiency or low testosterone can cause several problems for men that could lead to chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Common symptoms of low levels of this hormone are decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, mood changes and memory problems. A blood test is used to determine the level of testosterone, after all other possible explanations for symptoms are eliminated.
- Incontinence can be caused by a condition known as “benign prostate enlargement.” After the age of 40, it is common for men’s prostates to not be cancerous, yet increase in size. This growth can cause urinary problems such as slow urine flow and increased urgency and frequency during bathroom visits. These symptoms can lead to mild to severe bladder control issues. Incontinence could also be due to prostate cancer treatment obesity, physical inactivity, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia; weak bladder muscles, and stroke. After an examination and testing to diagnose incontinence, a healthcare provider can treat incontinence with several options, including medication, exercises, bladder training, electrical nerve stimulation and surgery.
- Depression can be an emotionally debilitating condition that can negatively impact a person’s physical health. Symptoms of depression include persistent sadness, grumpiness, feelings of hopelessness, tiredness and decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression in men often goes undiagnosed. The CDC also reports that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. For men 65 and older, the suicide rate is 31.5 percent compared to 5 percent for senior women. If you are experiencing signs of depression, seek help as early possible. Consult with your healthcare provider or contact the free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.
- Skin Cancer is an often overlooked danger for older men because they are less likely to do self-exams or undergo skin screenings. Men also are exposed to high levels of dangerous UV rays due to working outside, participating in outdoor recreation activities and having shorter hair. Men are twice as likely to develop skin cancer and die from it as women. The most deadly of skin cancers are found in Caucasian men 50 and older. Men can reduce their risk of skin cancer by limiting their exposure to UV rays by wearing protective clothing, eyewear and hats and using a sun block with a high SPF. Regular self-examinations or asking your health care provider for a skin examination can also help with early detection of melanomas.