3 health problems men are more prone to



Men's Health Advisor
@AVogelUK
Ask Dr. Jen Tan


20 April 2020

What are some common health concerns for men?

Three health problems that men are more likely to experience than women are:

  1. Obesity
  2. Diabetes
  3. Heart disease

Obesity

Here in the UK, 35 million adults are overweight or obese, with higher rates amongst men than women.1 Men aged 55-64 currently have the highest rates of all age groups.

Why are men more affected?

Physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight but, according to figures published on Men's Health Forum, men were more likely than women to cite work commitments as a barrier to their participation in physical activity.2 This lack of exercise amongst men could go some way towards explaining why they have higher rates of obesity.

There's also evidence to show that men are less aware of how poor diet, such as eating lots of processed meats like bacon and ham, can increase the risk of health problems. They eat twice as much of these foods as women.3

What are the risks?

Excess weight can affect people on a day-to-day basis, as it becomes harder to carry out regular tasks. It can also predispose people to various health conditions including back pain, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, gout, sleep apnoea and more.

What can we do?

  • Avoid consuming more calories than you are able to burn. The best way to do this is to eat nutrient-dense foods and to opt for lower-calorie foods like fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Nutrient-dense foods are more satisfying, helping to keep us fuller for longer, plus they switch off appetite faster.
  • Reduce your consumption of foods containing processed fats and high quantities of sugar, as these tend to be high in calories.
  • Aim to lose weight gradually and avoid overly restrictive diets.
  • Maintain regular exercise. Activities like swimming and aerobics help to get the heart rate up, whilst resistance training helps to tone and build muscle.

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Diabetes

According to Diabetes UK, rates of type 2 diabetes are higher amongst men than women, with figures greatest amongst those aged 64 and above.

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by insulin resistance meaning the body doesn't respond appropriately to insulin in the bloodstream. It differs to type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas cannot produce insulin.4

Why are men more affected?

High rates of obesity amongst men could explain high figures for type 2 diabetes, as obesity is a significant precursor to the problem.

Interestingly, some research has also shown that rates of type 2 diabetes are higher amongst men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) who are treated with drugs known as 5α-reductase inhibitors compared with men given another drug called tamsulosin. However, rates did not differ between men receiving dutasteride and those receiving finasteride (different types of 5α-reductase inhibitors).5

Other factors that can put you more at risk of diabetes include inactivity, increased age and family history.

What are the risks?

Type 2 diabetes can cause symptoms like excessive thirst and tiredness; plus, you may find you have to go to the toilet more often. Longer-term it can lead to problems with the eyes, nerves and heart.

What can we do?

  • A healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This means ensuring you are getting plenty of nutrients through fresh, home-cooked foods rather than pre-packed options.
  • Exercise is important too. Try to aim for 30 minutes of activity a day - this should get you sweating and breathing heavily.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight is also crucial. This can be achieved with a mix of healthy eating and exercise.

Heart disease

Figures from the British Heart Foundation show that men are more likely to die from coronary heart disease than women.6

This problem develops when fatty plaques form in the arteries. These build up and may eventually obstruct the flow of blood through the artery, or cause blood clots. This is a problem known as atherosclerosis.

When blood flow through arteries in the heart is restricted, cardiac muscle may die, leading to a heart attack.

Why are men more affected?

The higher prevalence of heart disease amongst men could come down to a few factors.

Men may be less likely to visit their doctor than women; plus, they are less likely to acknowledge health problems when they develop. The Men's Health Forum also states than there are lower levels of health literacy amongst men.7

Again, heart disease is connected to obesity, so the high rates of obesity amongst men may indicate why they are more likely to go on to develop heart problems.

What are the risks?

Symptoms of coronary heart disease include chest pain, heart palpitations and breathlessness. This can be fatal, so a doctor should be consulted immediately.

As well as inactivity and poor diet, some things that can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease include smoking, high alcohol consumption, stress, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, older age, diabetes and a family history of the problem.

What can we do?

  • Control body weight with a healthy diet and regular exercise. As well as opting for lots of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, insoluble fibre could help protect the heart. This is found in oatmeal, brown rice, root vegetables, nuts, seeds and other cereals.
  • Reduce stress – you can take a look at our pages on dealing with stress for advice here.
  • Avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils that contain high levels of trans fatty acids.
  • Eat more polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, whilst also cutting down your intake of saturated fats. In other words, reduce your intake of fats from animal sources and increase the amount you consume from plant sources, such as nuts or avocadoes.
  • Consume more omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, seeds and beans. Having fish twice a week may decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Reduce the amount of refined sugar you eat and replace refined carbohydrates with foods high in wholegrains and fibre.
  • Keep up regular aerobic exercise – activities like walking, running, gym machines (exercise bikes, rowing machines etc.), aerobics classes, cycling, swimming and hiking are all good options.
  • Make active choices in your day-to-day routine. Our blog 'Easy exercises to do at home' has some suggestions.
  • Give up smoking. Check out the NHS website for some helpful resources.

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References

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Did you know?

BPH is a very common problem that increases the older men get, and around half of all men have an enlarged prostate by the age of 50. At the age of 80, this has risen to 80%

What you need to know about BPH

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