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Men's Top 5 Health Concerns

Men die at higher rates than women for all of the top 10 causes of death. Why don't men take better care of their health?
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dry, cracked skin formed a small crater around exposed flesh at the base of my fiancé Noel's pinkie.

"How long have you had that?" I asked him.

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"A few days," he answered, speculating it was probably just an outbreak of eczema.

"That doesn't look good," I replied. "Maybe you should see your doctor."

"OK," he said. I shook my head, knowing it would be a while before he heeded my suggestion. Last year, it took a few months to convince him to go for a physical examination. Before that, it had been five years since he'd been to a doctor.

To Noel's credit, he's just being a guy. According to a 2001 CDC report, women are 33% more likely than men to visit a doctor in general, although the gap narrows with increasing age.

One could accept the statistic as just another difference between men and women, but the stakes are too high to remain complacent.

The Men's Health Network (MHN) reports that men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death - heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, accidents, pneumonia and influenza, diabetes, suicide, kidney disease, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

Men also die younger than women. In 1920, women outlived men only by one year. Today, CDC figures show the life expectancy gap has widened: On average, women survive men by over five years.

"Any human being who is not connected to a physician to screen for major health problems is at greater risk (of disease and death)," says Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, a board member of the MHN.

The biggest problem that men have is not so much a specific disease, says Bonhomme, but the diseases are the result of lack of health care monitoring earlier in life. He cites the progression of heart disease as an example: "If you don't get your cholesterol checked when it's going high when you're 20, and if don't get your blood pressure checked when it's going high when you're 30, maybe your blood sugar's getting a little high when you're 40, what do you think is going to happen when you're 50?"

Bonhomme places part of the blame on society in general, which expects boys to be tough and ignore pain. As people get older, however, the rules change. A little pain can get worse, or signal something more serious going on in the body.

Many of the top 10 causes of death are preventable, and can be treated, if found early. To help men better their health, WebMD examined the risk factors for five of the biggest killers of men: heart disease, stroke, suicide, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. We asked the experts why men were so vulnerable to these ailments and what they could do to reduce their risk of disease and death.

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