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6 Top Health Threats to Men

What puts a man’s health at risk as he gets older?
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Depression and Suicide: Men Are at Risk continued...

In effect, depression proves the mind-body connection. Brain chemicals and stress hormones are out of balance. Sleep, appetite, and energy level are disturbed. Research even suggests men with depression are more likely to develop heart disease.

Experts previously thought depression affected far more women than men. But that may just be men's tendency to hide depressed feelings, or express them in ways different than women's.

"Instead of showing sadness or crying, men get angry or aggressive," says Porche. "They feel it's not OK for them to say, 'I'm depressed,' so they cope in other ways, like drinking too much." Men are also less likely to seek help for depression.

The results can be tragic. Women attempt suicide more often, but men are more successful at completing it. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among all men; for young men it's higher.

Most men and women respond well to depression treatment with medications, therapy, or both. If you think you might be depressed, reach out to your doctor or someone close to you, and seek help.

Diabetes: The Silent Health Threat for Men

Diabetes usually begins silently, without symptoms. Over years, blood sugar levels creep higher, eventually spilling into the urine. The resulting frequent urination and thirst are what finally bring many men to the doctor.

The high sugar of diabetes is anything but sweet. Excess glucose acts like a slow poison on blood vessels and nerves everywhere in the body. Heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations are the fallout for thousands of men.

Boys born in 2000 have an alarming one-in-three chance of developing diabetes in their lifetimes. Overweight and obesity are likely feeding the diabetes epidemic. "The combination of diabetes and obesity may be erasing some of the reductions in heart disease risk we've had over the last few decades," warns Labarthe.

Exercise, combined with a healthy diet, can prevent type 2 diabetes. Moderate weight loss -- for those who are overweight -- and 30 minutes a day of physical activity reduced the chance of diabetes by more than 50% in men at high risk in one major study.

Erectile Dysfunction: A Common Health Problem in Men

Erectile dysfunction may not be life threatening, but it's still signals an important health problem. Two-thirds of men older than 70 and up to 39% of 40-year-old men have problems with erectile dysfunction. Men with ED report less enjoyment in life and are more likely to be depressed.

Erectile dysfunction is most often caused by atherosclerosis -- the same process that causes heart attacks and strokes. In fact, having ED frequently means that blood vessels throughout the body are in less-than-perfect health. Doctors consider erectile dysfunction an early warning sign for cardiovascular disease.

You've probably heard more about the numerous effective treatments for ED than you ever cared to just by watching the evening news. Treatments make a fulfilling sex life possible despite ED, but they don't cure the condition. If you have erectile dysfunction, see your doctor, and ask if more than your sex life is at risk.

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Reviewed on September 10, 2008
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