When writing about the most common men's health issues, we realised that these are also the most commonly ignored problems. Many of these conditions are asymptomatic (having no symptoms), or have inconsistent symptoms that may prove hard to monitor. The only way, in this case, to be on top of things is to get specific check-ups done regularly to rule out these 5 leading causes of death for men.
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The content for this guide has been contributed by Dr. Roshan Oommen, General Practitioner at Aster Clinic, DMMC.
1. Cardiovascular diseases
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a class of conditions involving the heart and affecting arteries, blood vessels, veins etc. that could cause heart attacks or strokes. Cerebrovascular heart diseases, affecting the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain, congenital heart disease causing malformation of the structure of the heart since birth, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism causing blood clots in the leg veins are common CVD.
While conditions of the heart are among leading causes of deaths in the world, they are generally ignored because heart diseases can even occur with symptoms that do not involve the heart at all. Something that seem as simple as snoring, gum bleeding or fatigue could be a symptom of heart problems.
Symptoms causing heart diseases can manifest itself in any part of the body. These include sweating, inflammation and shortness of breath. Discomfort in the chest for a few hours, severe pain in the neck, jaw, heartbeat that is slower or faster than usual, fainting, changes in vision and loss of coordination include important signs that show up.
Blood tests and chest x-rays are helpful in diagnosing heart conditions; however an Electrocardiogram (ECG) will be done for further investigation as it helps detect any irregularities in the heart. Echocardiography, stress test, catheterisation are also tests performed to determine heart diseases
Not all forms of heart diseases can be cured; some can be treated and managed to reduce the symptoms and any further risk. While lifestyle and dietary changes can help to a large extent, surgery is only used for extremely severe conditions.
Quit smoking, passive or active, all together. Maintain healthy body weight as obesity is a major reason for heart conditions. Stress, hypertension and cholesterol are other factors. Regular check-up, once every six months, is a must.
2. Lung Cancer
Reports state that the life expectancy in men with lung cancer is lesser than in women and is considered the leading reason for deaths caused by cancer in men. Lung cancer is the abnormal growth in the cells that line the air passages, causing interference in the lungs’ ability to provide oxygen to the body.
This cancer is most commonly ignored because the symptoms it manifests are very unlikely. Moreover, the symptoms only start showing up at a later stage, although symptoms of lung cancer are much evident in men than in women.
This kind of cancer has very unspecific and inconsistent symptoms. which is why it is often never diagnosed until it’s too late or during unrelated chest x-rays. While initial symptoms include hoarseness of voice and shortness of breath, chronic cough, coughing blood, bronchitis and other infections caused by the blocked airways are common symptoms of lung cancer.
A chest x-ray is along with CT scans and chest examinations can help find any evidence and/or location of lung cancer. If you are a smoker or live in close proximity to someone who smokes, like your spouse, get a chest x-ray done every year as part of your annual body checkup. For non-smokers, do it atleast once in two years after the age of 40.
Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, medication and ultimately surgery depending on the kind/stage of lung cancer.
Lung cancer can manifest in people who have never smoked in their life, but a smoker is 30 times more prone to developing the condition than a non-smoker. Therefore, quitting smoking as early as possible is extremely important to reduce the risk of developing cancer. A healthy diet and active lifestyle can also help.
3. Prostate Cancer
The prostate is a male reproductive gland located under the bladder and Prostate cancer is when the cells in the gland begin to grow uncontrollably.
While cancer of the prostate is not often ignored, being the most common cancer in men, it can go undiagnosed for long periods of time. Often seen in elderly men, this is a rather slow growing cancer and asymptomatic. Many men with prostate cancer do not have any symptoms at all, until the cancer spreads to the bladder or other body parts.
Symptoms of prostate cancer include frequent urination, inability to urinate, difficulty in starting or stopping urination, difficulty in urination, pain during urinating or during sexual intercourse, blood in the urine or semen. If the cancer is in its advanced stages, a person may experience symptoms like fecal and urinary incontinence, pelvic pain etc.
On observing any obvious symptoms, a doctor may conduct a Digital Rectal Exam or a Prostate specific antigen test (PSA). These are the two prostate cancer screening tests. Any abnormalities in the diagnostic tests will call for further investigation like an ultrasound or a biopsy. Go to the doctor in case of the slightest unexplained pain in the bladder or frequent urination.
Prostate cancer is curable if diagnosed and treated in the early stages. Immediate treatment may not be required for prostate cancer, however if the condition worsens, and depending on the overall health of a man, the doctor may suggest surgery.
While there’s no sure shot way of preventing prostate cancer, a healthy lifestyle can go a long way along with regular checkups for stress, hypertension and cholesterol will help reduce the risk of developing the condition. Stop smoking and alcohol consumption to further reduce the risk of this cancer.
Though infertility is more commonly associated with women;this is a major health concern in men as well. Infertility is diagnosed only after years of trying to conceive and failing to do so. Most couples prefer to avoid such diagnosis due to the social stigma and emotional problems attached therewith.
In today’s time and age, couples generally delay pregnancy as the importance given to their respective careers increases. Male infertility, in specific, is ignored because of the common belief that infertility is most likely to occur in women.
Couples should not wait for years before consulting a specialist. Just 4 to 6 months into trying to conceive, consult a doctor to help with your efforts and to also ensure that both parties are fertile. Conduct tests for both men and women simultaneously in the early months of trying. A male is considered fertile when he is able to produce healthy sperm. There are specific tests to examine the reproductive organs. Semen analysis, physical examination and evaluation of testosterone are performed to understand the cause of infertility.
Treatment options for infertility depends on its causes. Male infertility can be treated with surgery, medication and Assisted reproductive techniques like ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) or IUI (Intrauterine insemination). Surgical treatment will include corrections needed for treating abnormalities, varicocele, and blockage in the tube carrying sperm or damage to reproductive organs.
Infertility cannot be prevented as it may be caused by genetic factors or other such uncontrollable factors. However, certain measures can be undertaken to avoid or reduce the possibility. Avoid smoking, maintain a healthy lifestyle and restrain from anything that could cause excess heat to the genitals to help reduce the risk.
In this condition a person’s body is unable to maintain healthy levels of glucose, a sugar that is the body’s main energy source. The blood sugar levels of a diabetic will be extremely high because of the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin.
Type 1 diabetes, in which there is absolute insulin deficiency, the patient is insulin dependant. Type 2 diabetes is when the body produces insulin, but the amount of insulin produced is insufficient – this is the more ignored out of the two for men, and both are asymptomatic.
At times, the complications of diabetes like neurological or nephrological conditions could be the reason for discovery of the condition. Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes include increased thirst and frequent urination, increased hunger, weight loss, blurred vision and delayed healing of cuts and wounds.
A person on observing any of the aforementioned symptoms should get tested for diabetes. However, diabetes is also a genetic condition, so anyone with an overwhelming family history of diabetes should take tests, eat healthy and monitor symptoms closely. Obese people in particular have high chances of being diabetic.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed with medications. Weight loss and change in dietary practices are other important aspects of treatment for both types.
For someone who doesn’t have diabetes, it can be prevented by knowing their risks of developing the condition, managing their body weight, eating healthy and working out to stay healthy, quitting smoking and keeping a regular check on one’s blood pressure.