10 Men’s Health Symptoms Your Guy Shouldn’t Ignore
10 Men’s Health Symptoms Your Guy Shouldn’t Ignore
Skin Cancer, Chronic Acid Reflux and 8 Other Medical Issues to Check
By Jennifer Gruenemay, Special to Lifescript
In fact, nearly two-thirds of men say they’ll wait until they have “prolonged, severe pain” before visiting a doctor, according to a 2012 survey of 2,000 men.
But delaying checkups and treatment until he’s seriously ill is a gamble nobody should take, especially because not all ailments have symptoms.
That’s where you come in. Women can help their men spot trouble. Here are 10 danger signs to watch out for:
Danger sign #1: He has a big gut.
If his waist is bigger than his hips, he has an increased risk for disease.
“A man should maintain a measurement under 40 inches,” says Walter Gaman, M.D., of Healthcare Associates in Irving, Texas, and co-author of Executive Medicine: Optimizing Your Chances for a Longer Life. “If the waist size exceeds that, the risk for diabetes and heart disease increase.”
A large belly can also contribute to stroke, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis, he says. Here’s how to check if your man measures up: 1. Measure his waist where the point of his elbow falls when his arms hang at the sides. Have him first breathe out and then take shallow breaths as you measure. 2. Measure his hips at the widest part of his buttocks, as seen from the side. The measuring tape should be snug, but tight. 3. To calculate his waist-to-hip ratio, divide his waist measurement by his hip measurement. Men are considered at risk if the result is 90% or more.
A moderate diet and exercise program can help your guy cut the belly fat and his risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Cutting out sodas and alcoholic beverages can be an effortless way to lose 10 pounds over a year, Dr. Gaman says.
Plus, get him off the couch and into workout gear.
Daily exercise – aerobic exercise and strength training – is best, says integrative physician Isaac Eliaz, M.D., founder and medical director of Amitabha Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa, Calif. Encourage him to slowly increase the length and intensity of the workouts – but by no more than a 5% increase in weights every couple weeks.
Danger sign #2: He’s frequently constipated.
Tell him to save grunting for the weight room. Too much straining from constipation can lead to painful, itchy and uncomfortable hemorrhoids.
After age 50, constipation tends to worsen in men and women, says Cynthia Yoshida, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Charlottesville, Va. Blame diet changes, decrease in exercise, medications, certain diseases or prolonged bed rest after an accident or illness.
Occasional constipation can be relieved with an over-the-counter remedy. Dr. Yoshida recommends MiraLAX, because it doesn’t have side effects that other remedies do, such as bloating, cramps, gas or a sudden urge to go. Most important, don’t let him shrug off chronic constipation as a nuisance. It can signal a tumor in the lower bowel that’s blocking waste from exiting the body. In fact, any change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea) that last two or more weeks should be evaluated. Both cansignal colorectal cancer, which is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death in men, Dr. Yoshida says. Other symptoms to watch for: bloody or narrow stools, unexplained weight loss or fatigue, cramping and bloating, she says. “Colorectal cancer can be present for several years before symptoms develop,” Dr. Yoshida says. “So it’s important to see a doctor if you have any of the above symptoms.”
Danger sign #3: He can’t “get it up” or keep it there.
A bruised ego isn’t the only problem your fellow has to face if he’s having trouble getting or maintaining erections.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a side effect of some medications (for example, high blood pressure drugs and diuretics) or smoking, says sex psychologist and psychiatrist Dennis Lin, M.D., physician-in-charge of psychosexual medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
But it’s also an early warning of heart disease. “Erectile dysfunction usually comes 3 to 5 years before a heart attack,” say researchers from Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles in a 2011 study published in the journal Circulation.
ED is also linked to high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, vascular disease and neurologic disease, Dr. Lin says.
And don’t forget about possible psychological factors: Stress, anxiety, guilt, depression, low self-esteem, and fear of sexual failure can also cause ED. So when is it time to get a doctor’s help?
“When erection problems prevent you from having a healthy sex life,” Dr. Lin says. “There should be a low threshold to see a doctor.”
When it comes to men and cancer, you hear a lot about prostates and colons. But skin cancer is the No. 1 diagnosed cancer in men and women. “Skin cancer rates are skyrocketing – it’s the most rapidly increasing cancer in the U.S.,” Courtenay says. “And the death rate from melanoma – the deadliest form – is twice as high for men as it is for women.” An estimated 6,470 men and 3,240 women in the U.S. will die from melanoma in 2014, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Risk factors include:
- Being older than 40 (but the American Cancer Society points out that melanoma is one of the most common cancers among people under 30)
- Fair skin, red hair or blue eyes
- Skin that burns easily
- Increased UR exposure (outdoor activities or work)
- Sunbathing or use of tanning beds
- A history of radiation therapy
- Personal or family history of skin cancer
- Having many moles
- An impaired immune system
Protect your man – plus yourself and the kids – by applying broad-spectrum sunscreen (which blocks both ultraviolet A and B rays) every 2-3 hours.
Select an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. Here are more helpful tips for choosing the right sunscreen.
Skin cancer can develop any place that’s exposed to UV radiation, so don’t overlook his ears, nose, lips, scalp, forehead, neck and shoulders.
Stash a facial moisturizer with sunscreen in your man’s toiletry bag, and tuck a sunscreen stick in his workout bag and glove box for last-minute applications.
Unfortunately, indigestion, or acid reflux, is a frequent unwanted guest at game-night parties with pepperoni pizza, spicy chili, onion rings and beer. Occasional heartburn is nothing to worry about, but chronic acid reflux – two or more times a week, especially at night – suggests he has gastro-esophogeal reflux disease (GERD), Dr. Eliaz says. Left untreated, GERD can lead to inflammation, bleeding and ulcers of the esophagus and even esophageal cancer. Most cases of heartburn are easily treated. “Changes in eating habits and daily routines can [reduce] the number of future episodes,” Dr. Eliaz says. Start by avoiding these:
- Trans fats
- Processed meats
- Highly processed foods
- Carbonated beverages
- Acidic fruits and juices
- Caffeinated food and beverages
- Oily foods
Raising the head of the bed 4-6 inches – not with pillows but by putting blocks under its legs – also may help ease discomfort, Dr. Eliaz says. Plus, nag him to lose weight, stop smoking and eat smaller meals. For more remedies, check out 15 do’s and don’ts of heartburn.
If those steps don’t help, over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) often can relieve frequent heartburn, says Michael Rahmin, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Ridgewood, N.J. He suggests Zegerid OTC. It offers 24-hour relief with one dose a day as part of a 14-day treatment.
If the burn still persists, your man needs to see a doctor. If the esophageal lining is constantly aggravated by leaking stomach acids, inflammation can occur and develop into a precancerous disease called Barrett’s esophagus, Dr. Eliaz says. One in 50 of those with Barrett’s develops esophageal cancer.
An unquenchable thirst is a symptom of diabetes, an incurable metabolic disease that raises blood sugar levels. So are frequent urination, extreme hunger, fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gain, nausea, blurred vision, sores that are slow to heal, frequent infections, erectile dysfunction and tingling in the hands and feet, Dr. Eliaz says. Diabetes is the sixth-leading cause of death in men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Risk factors, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Being older than 45 years of age
- Having a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Being overweight
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglyceride levels
- Being inactive
- Being black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian
A simple yearly blood test at his doctor’s office can measure glucose levels and diagnose diabetes, Dr. Gaman says.
If he’s having symptoms, he may need a more advanced blood test called a hemoglobin A1C that tracks glucose levels over a longer period.
If a chainsaw or Mack truck can’t compete with your sweetheart’s nightly noises, don’t run for cover in another room. Get help: Chronic snoring can be serious. Severe snoring – the kind that wakes the snorer and disturbs the sleep of his partner – accompanied by breathing lapses are signs of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), according to the Mayo Clinic. If untreated, it increases the risk of high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke and sudden death. A poor night’s sleep can also contribute to daytime drowsiness, which boosts his risk of accidents. If you’re lucky enough to sleep through the snoring, watch for other sleep apnea signs, such as feeling tired during the day, morning headache, dry mouth, or sore throat, mood swings and sometimes depression. Changing sleep positions (try turning him over so he’s sleeping on his side or tummy, rather than on his back), losing weight (as little as 10 pounds) and avoiding alcohol and sedative may help stop the noise. If they don’t, schedule a doctor’s visit and consider other treatments, such as surgery, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) – a device that blows air into the nose while he’s asleep – or a dental appliance to pull the jaw and tongue forward at night.
It could save his life – or at the least your relationship.
Shortness of breath, wheezing and a persistent cough can stem from several health conditions, such as asthma, obesity and heart disease. But it also signals chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which killed 64,000 men in 2010. [Here’s what else you need to know about COPD.] “COPD is almost always caused by smoking,” says Edward T. Bope, M.D., chief of Primary Care at the Columbus VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus, Ohio. Secondhand smoke, chemical fumes, air pollution and dust can also cause the disease. Its symptoms shouldn’t be ignored because COPD gets worse as time goes by, Dr. Bope says. Danger sign #9: He feels pain while peeing.
In women, “it hurts when I pee” usually means an annoying bladder infection. In men, it signals an enlarged prostate gland or prostate cancer. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate, may be caused by hormone changes in aging men, Dr. Eliaz says. “Fifty percent of men in their 60s and as many as 90% in their 70s have it,” he says.
But painful urination is a sign of a more serious problem: prostate cancer, the second-most common cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Your man’s risk increases if he’s over age 60, is African-American, and has one or more first-degree relative (father, brother, son) with a history of prostate cancer.
Men who smoke, avoid veggies, don’t exercise, and are obese are more likely to develop more aggressive prostate cancer.
Common symptoms of prostate cancer and BPH include trouble urinating, a weak urine stream, blood in urine or semen, pelvic pain or discomfort and frequent urinary tract infections. Get your man to a doctor immediately if he has any sign of prostate trouble.
We all deal with work stress, money worries and other anxieties, but not all men can cope well. Suicide ranks seventh among the CDC’s top 10 causes of death in men. Here are some signs that your mate may be suicidal, Dr. Lin says:
- Suddenly visits friends or family (one last time)
- Sudden, significant decline or improvement in mood
- Gets affairs in order, including making a will
- Buys items that could be used to carry out suicide, such as a gun, rope or medications
- Talks about suicide
- Writes a note threatening suicide
“Depression is a serious medical illness like diabetes or asthma,” Dr. Lin says. “If he feels depressed, have him see a doctor right away. Waiting for too long can be deadly.”
Counseling, medication and other therapies could save his life.
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