A closer look
Testosterone is a sex hormone that makes men men. It is responsible for their sex drive, sperm production, body hair, muscle mass and bone density. Men gradually lose testosterone over time especially after the age of 40. Other causes of loss are injuries, infections and hormonal disorders. Some men have no symptoms or fail to recognize them. When symptoms impair quality of life, low testosterone can be evaluated and treated, often by an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in disorders of hormones.
Decrease in sex drive
Decreased bone density
Be a man
Get a checkup!
|It’s true, isn’t it? Men are raised to be fearless in scary situations. Run into a burning building to rescue a child? Check. Join the armed forces to defend the country? Check. Race down the Southeast Expressway straddling a motorcycle as dark clouds prepare to dump six inches of rain? Check.
Call the doctor to schedule an exam? Hang on, wait, nope, not happening this year. Or next year. And maybe not even the year after that.
According to a 2009 U.S. health report, men are 80 percent less likely than women to have a go-to source for medical care. Not surprisingly, men ages 18 to 44 are 70 percent less likely to visit a doctor. Now there’s a scary situation considering the fact that the death rate from heart disease is 50 percent higher in males and men die of chronic liver disease at twice the rate of women.
What makes guys shy off when it comes to scheduling health appointments? One hurdle can be access to care, notes a national report on quality and disparities in health care. African American and Hispanic men are roughly 10 percent less likely than white men to have a primary care provider.
Yet that’s not the full story. Waiting rooms that look more feminine than masculine are a turn-off. Soft-focus wall colors and magazine selections make plenty of men feel out of place. Familiarity matters, too. While women are encouraged to come in for regular health checks during child bearing years for Pap smears, birth control and prenatal care, men often get a pass unless health problems crop up.
On top of all this comes the warrior syndrome. “Men often downplay pain or worrisome symptoms and actively avoid potentially embarrassing tests or questions,” says Dr. Jan Cook, medical director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “Nothing short of an all-out emergency will persuade many men to have a much-belated checkup. However, seeing a doctor regularly and having appropriate tests can actually head off a serious illness before it becomes an emergency.”
5 Health Tips for Stronger, Healthier Men
A visit to the doctor needn’t be the first — or only — step you take toward better health. Prove to yourself and your loved ones you’re a strong man of action by following the five stay-healthy tips below.
1. Lift weights.
Eye-popping muscles aren’t the only reason to lift weights. While it’s nice to show off a summertime six-pack — the kind that ripples below your ribs, that is — strong bones are an equally important gain. Osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones increasingly fragile, affects more than two million men. In fact, after men reach 50, one in four suffers an osteoporosis-related bone fracture. Annually, 80,000 men break a hip bone and one-third die within a year of ensuing health complications from the disease. Weight lifting, resistance training and other exercises like stair-climbing, walking and running that push the body to work against gravity help keep bones strong if you aim for at least two strengthening bouts per week engaging all the major muscles — arms, legs, chest, back and abs. So, too, does getting enough calcium and vitamin D, not smoking, drinking only in moderation and taking bone-strengthening medications if prescribed.
2. Go low on your stats.
We know, we know. The players currently slugging it out at Fenway Park are all about pushing statistics into the stratosphere. But when it comes to blood pressure, keeping that vital stat low helps protect you against heart disease, kidney disease and stroke among other ailments. Other numbers that should stay low to boost your health are your blood glucose (diabetes), total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. One exception is HDL (good) cholesterol, where higher numbers are better. When you do see a doctor— and you certainly should! — ask if your blood pressure and cholesterol stats fall within a normal range (below 120/80 mm Hg for blood pressure and less than 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol). Exercising regularly, eating right, losing weight if necessary, not smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation and taking medication if prescribed, all help bring down blood pressure and keep your cholesterol stats in balance.
3. Walk it off. Real men don’t walk?
Then pick another way to get regular exercise. Set your sights on accumulating two and a half hours of moderate activity a week. This strengthens heart, lungs and bones while helping you stay trimmer and happier. Playing football, basketball, soccer and other sports counts toward your daily or weekly total. Lifting weights at least twice a week should be added to your aerobic exercises. Still not convinced? In a long-term study of nearly 32,000 men, those who engaged in exercise three to five hours a week beat sedentary men in sexual well-being because they were 30 percent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction. If you’re looking for additional ideas, browse free online workouts posted by the American Council on Exercise (http://www.acefit ness.org/exerciselibrary/default.aspx).
4. Quit it.
The American Cancer Society reports that smoking is responsible for almost one in five deaths. If you smoke or use tobacco products, it’s the right time to quit. Cancer is the second leading cause of death, topped only by heart disease — in men, as well as women. Overall, smoking cigarettes prompts roughly one in three cancer deaths and contributes to heart disease, emphysema and other lung diseases, stroke, and, according to some studies, impotence. It harms practically every organ in the body, interfering with breathing, everyday activities, tasks and enjoyment. Second-hand smoke can make children and others around you sick, too. If you’re ready to quit — even if you’re just starting to wonder about it — the Blue Cross Blue Shield program Living Healthy, Smoke Free can help. Or try the four-step plan described on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Web site.
5. Pick up the phone.
Then call your primary care doctor to find out if you’re due for a physical exam or screening tests that may help you avoid serious health problems further down the road. If you don’t have a doctor, you can find one on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Web site (see “Find a doctor, dentist, or hospital” at www.bcbsma.com), or through another health insurance plan or a local clinic.