Men, Maintain your Engines

Men, you are powerful. You have built our world into what it is today. You continue to set athletic records and construct new realities while working to conserve the natural world.

Yet most of you don’t spend enough time protecting your physical health, and it shows. Male life expectancy in the U.S. is now 5.4 years lower than for women, with the gender gap gradually expanding after it dropped to a record low of 4.8 years in 2010.

There are many contributing factors, including your tendency to develop heart disease and cancer at earlier ages than women. This may be linked to higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use. You’re also more likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as speeding and taking chances while taking sports and hobbies to their extremes, and to be employed at hazardous workplaces.

A survey conducted in April 2021 by the insurance company Aflac found that men continue to seek out health care advice at lower rates than women, with 45% responding they had not had an annual physical or checkup during the previous 12 months.

The figure goes up to 60% for men seeking additional preventive care such as vaccines or health screenings and 74% for men seeking care for a specific ailment or illness, such as heart disease or prostate concerns.

Health care cost concerns deterred 46% of respondents from seeking some form of treatment or medication, and 22% say they find it easier to go to an urgent care clinic or emergency room than their primary care physician’s office. Two-thirds said they didn’t feel like they’re well-informed about men’s health issues.

Here are some facts you should be aware of when considering your own health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website:

  • The three leading causes of death for men are heart disease, cancer and unintentional injuries.
  • 51.9 % of men aged 18 and older have untreated or treated hypertension.
  • 40.5% of men aged 20 and older are obese.
  • 30.5% of men aged 18 and older have consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a day within the past year.

To begin educating yourself about your own health see a primary care provider at least once a year for a physical. Your blood pressure and current physical condition can be assessed, and you can also discuss lifestyle practices and family history that might put you at higher risk for future illnesses. Insurance covers most preventive care expenses, and discounts and other aids are often available for the underinsured.

Your primary care provider likely will recommend health screenings appropriate for your age and lifestyle concerns. These can include:

  • Every year, get a flu vaccine and follow current recommendations regarding COVID vaccines.
  • Around age 60, get vaccinated for conditions including shingles and pneumonia.
  • Every one to two years, get your blood pressure checked. Talk to your doctor about how often you should have your cholesterol levels tested.
  • Starting at age 50, get regular tests for colon cancer. Your first test for prostate screening should be between 40 and 50, depending on your family history.