Men and women both face serious health issues such as heart disease, cancer and stress no matter what their age.
But there are some health problems that are gender-specific, said Candice Fagan, a health educator and physician liaison with Inter Valley Health Plan.
“Typically, with men, they have different health concerns than women,” said Fagan, during a talk at Inter Valley Health Plan’s Banning office.
The June 12 talk addressed men’s health issues. It was part of the “Vitality Series – Men after 50.”
Fagan said that her talk included general information only and that men need to contact their physicians for overall health issues.
Fagan said that good health means taking care of the body and the mind. Practice healthy habits, understand your body and recognize warning signs of illness.
While heart disease, cancer, stress and depression affect both genders, men also face prostate problems, injuries (due to home or car repairs or sports) and illness.
Screenings are available that can help diagnose problems early, including depression and stress, heart, diabetes, abdominal aortic aneurysm, bone density, prostate and colonscopy/sigmoidoscopy.
Fagan said that men only need an EKG once every five years. Causes of diabetes can be family history or medication.
Smoking can cause an aortic aneurysm and men often develop osteoporosis around age 70.
Fagan said that osteoporosis – a disease which causes decreased bone strength and normally affects women – can be very debilitating.
“We’re living another 20 to 30 years,” Fagan said. “You don’t want osteoporosis to limit the way you move.”
Factors leading to osteoporosis include family history and chronic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid, low hormone levels, and Parkinson’s disease.
There are bone density screenings available.
As far as medications, the best person to ask for help is the pharmacist.
Stress also affects men more than we might think. Men need to learn to relax through deep breathing exercises and visualization.
Fagan said they also need to learn how to communicate their feelings by talking with their spouses, family and friends.
“They really don’t like to communicate,” she said. “They like to be the strong, silent type.”
Men also can learn to manage their time and set realistic goals. And it’s important for them to do something they enjoy every day, whether it’s walking the dog or participating in sports.
Blood pressure needs to be checked every two years. A normal heart rate is 120/80. Fagan said that men need to eat less salt and saturated fat and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Cholesterol intake needs to be no more than 300 miligrams daily and can be checked every five years.
Body mass index needs to be in the 19 to 25 range.
Fagan said that exercise will help lower blood pressure along with weight loss. Start slowly and increase to 30 minutes a day. That can mean playing sports, parking your car farther away, taking the stairs or playing with your grandchildren.
Men also sustain more injuries because they play sports. Fagan said they need to warm up, cool down and use the correct equipment.
They also need to use proper first aid, said Fagan. A physical therapist is the best person to make recommendations about their health, she said.
Aortic aneurysm occur when the aorta, which is the main blood vessel that travels down the abdomen, supplies blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
The aneurysm is the weakened part of the vessel wall.
Risk factors include heredity, age, smoking and high cholesterol.
Unfortunately, with an aortic aneurysm, there are no symptoms until it bursts, said Fagan.
That’s why it is important to get an ultrasound, which is available for those over 65.
The surgery is very invasive for an aortic aneurysm and Fagan said people can die from the surgery. The aneurysms are slow growing, she said.
One of the major problems affecting men around age 50 is the prostate. Hormonal levels change at that age and men may experience weak or interrupted urine flow and a frequent need to urinate. There also may be blood in the urine and pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.
Testicular cancer also can occur in men.
Fagan said that there are digital exam screenings, along with a PSA blood test and a biopsy that can determine if there is cancer.
Prostate cancer can develop for 10 to 20 years, Fagan said.
Early diagnosis is the key for men, said Fagan, along with weighing their options and considering their age and overall health.
One of the most difficult topics for people to discuss is erectile dysfunction. Fagan said that this is not a normal process of again, no matter what has been said in the past.
Factors that can cause erectile dysfunction include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, overeating, lack of exercise and stress/anxiety.
Medical reasons can include spinal cord injury and diseases such as cancer that can cause nerve damage. Fagan said that low testosterone is rare and that testosterone does not affect the mechanics of sex.
Fagan said she understands how the topic can be difficult for men.
The best person for men to talk to about erectile dysfunction is with a urologist.
“Sometimes, men like to bring their wives because the wives are a little more forthcoming when it comes to talking about their sex lives,” said Fagan.
Men need to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight and cutting back on alcohol.
Counseling also should be made available to men and there are oral medications, but Fagan said the medication doesn’t cause automatic erections.
There also are surgeries that can be performed, she said.
Larry Parash, 70, and his wife, Judy Parash, 66, of Beaumont, attended the talk.
Larry Parash said he had heard pretty much everything that Fagan had said so the information wasn’t new to him.
Judy Parash said the topic hit close to home.
“I was interested in seeing what they had to say about the health problems men incur when they get this age,” she said.
Dale Andrus, 61, of Cherry Valley, was happy to learn something new.
“I never really thought about osteoporosis,” he said.