Know Your Risk and Protect Your Health
Some health issues affect men and women differently, such as heart disease. Some are also more common in men, such as skin cancer. Knowing that you have a greater risk of developing certain diseases can help protect your health—today and in the future.
For decades, more men than women died of heart disease. Today, that’s not the case. Still, men are more likely to die of heart disease than from anything else. And, heart disease causes a larger percentage of men’s deaths (about 25%) than women’s (23%). Men tend to have more heart disease risk factors than women. For instance, more men than women smoke and drink too much alcohol. Until age 45, men are more likely to have high blood pressure. More than half of all Americans with untreated diabetes are men. Over time, the negative effects of these risk factors add up and take a toll on your heart. Fortunately, you can change your lifestyle to reduce some of these risk factors and seek treatment for others.
More men than women get lung cancer each year. More men also die from it. The fact that more smokers in the United States are men could play a role in this. That’s because smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. It’s linked to about 90% of all cases in the United States. Smokers are up to 30 times more likely than nonsmokers to get lung cancer or die from it. Using cigars and pipes also increases your risk of lung cancer. If you smoke or use tobacco products, the benefits of stopping are far-reaching.
Parkinson’s disease develops when cells in the brain that help control movement do not work right or die. This causes problems with the body’s motor system. It can cause tremors, or shaking, in the hands, arms, legs and face. Limbs may become stiff. People with Parkinson’s often have trouble talking, walking and keeping their balance. The disorder is progressive, which means symptoms usually get worse over time. Parkinson’s affects about 50% more men than women, though doctors aren’t sure why. Genetics, hormones and environmental factors could all play a role.
Men have the greater risk for skin cancer. After age 50, men are more than twice as likely as women to develop skin cancer or die from it. One big reason is that men often spend more time in the sun than women—about 10 more hours each week. But men are also less likely than women to use sunscreen. Most men have short hair, which leaves more of the scalp and ears exposed. Those are two places where men develop skin cancer more often than women. Protect yourself with sunscreen. Also get regular screenings for skin cancer.
ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects the nervous system. It causes nerve cells to break down and die. Over time, people with ALS lose control of their arms, legs and body. In time, they also lose strength in the muscles in their chest and need the help of machines to breathe. Some people may live for 10 or more years, but most people die within five years. As many as 30,000 people in the United States have ALS, and about 60% of them are men. A small percentage of people with ALS inherit it from their parents, but it’s not clear why most people get this disease. Doctors do know that military veterans, especially those deployed during the Gulf War, are about twice as likely as others to develop ALS.
HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS. Right now there’s no cure, but new treatments can prolong life. In the United States, more than 1.1 million people have HIV. About three-quarters of them are men. Most are homosexual, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men. Injection drug users are also at risk. About half of young men who have sex with men and have HIV know they have HIV, but three-fourths of those 40 and older who have HIV are not aware of their HIV status. These men aren’t getting the medicine they need. They also can infect others with the virus. Using condoms helps prevent the spread of the virus.