Every year, June marks Men’s Health Month, a reminder of the importance of prevention and healthy lifestyle habits. U.S. men have a shorter life expectancy than women and are less likely to go to the doctor. Many leading men’s health issues are preventable, and even small actions can have a big impact.
This June, take a minute to recommit to your health — or encourage the men in your life to do so! To help you start, we’ve rounded up several of the top health risks for men, along with key preventative steps.
And if you haven’t been to the doctor in a while, you’re far from alone, so try not to feel discouraged. The important thing is to move forward on healthier footing — there’s no time like the present to make some positive changes.
Heart disease is one of the most prevalent health issues in the country and a leading preventable cause of death for U.S. men. The condition develops gradually as plaque accumulates in the arteries, hardening these important blood vessels and impairing blood flow to the heart.
The good news? Many common heart disease risk factors are manageable, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, and smoking. The first step to better heart health is to understand your personal risk factors. And that starts with — you guessed it — making that doctor’s appointment and staying up to date with screenings.
Your provider can advise you on the recommended frequency of key screenings based on your health history. In general, without accounting for other health factors, blood pressure screening is typically recommended at least once every 3 to 5 years for those under 39 and at least once a year for those 40 and older. Similarly, the CDC recommends cholesterol screenings at least once every 4 to 6 years as a baseline, but more frequent screenings may be necessary for those with additional heart health risks, like diabetes or obesity.
For more on heart-healthy living and heart disease prevention, read How to Prevent Heart Disease at Any Age.
While cancer mortality rates continue to decline among U.S. men, it remains a leading cause of death. Below are some of the most common cancers in men. In nearly all cases, early detection can allow for the most effective treatment approach and vastly improve prognosis, which is another reason to prioritize your health and build a relationship with a trusted provider.
Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. men. Your chances of developing it increase with age, and the majority of men with prostate cancer are over the age of 65. Other key risk factors include:
Family history: Having an immediate relative who has had prostate cancer more than doubles your risk of developing it. The risk is higher if your relatives had it at a younger age.
With early detection, the survival rate of prostate cancer is high, so learn your risk and make informed decisions about screening. The American Cancer Society recommends discussing prostate cancer screening options with your provider at age 50 if you have an average risk and at age 45 if you have a high risk.
Colorectal cancer, which starts in the colon or rectum, is a common cancer in both men and women and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Screening is recommended for all adults from ages 45 to 75. There are a variety of screening options, including stool tests and several types of colonoscopies. Speak with your provider about your options and the recommended frequency of screenings based on your personal and family health history.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in U.S. men and the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. Delayed diagnoses factor heavily into the high mortality rate — the five-year survival rate is about 60% when the disease is confined to one lung, but the majority of cases are diagnosed after it has spread to both lungs or other organs.
Lung cancer screening is recommended for anyone with a high risk, including individuals with a history of heavy smoking who are between the ages of 50-80.
While smoking contributes to the majority of lung cancer cases, there are additional risk factors to be mindful of, such as exposure to secondhand smoke, radon, asbestos, or other carcinogens.
Men are both more likely to develop melanoma — the most serious type of skin cancer — and more likely to die from it than women. Fortunately, there are many ways to limit your exposure to UV rays and lower your risk of skin cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 every day you spend outside. If you plan to be in the sun for long stretches of time, opt for an SPF of 30 or higher. Make sure you’re using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Additionally, check your skin regularly for potential issues. If you see anything new, changing, or unusual, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible. Here are common signs of skin cancer to watch for:
A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, transparent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
A mole, birthmark, or brown spot that increases in size or thickness, changes color or texture, or is bigger than a pencil eraser
A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, or bleed
An open sore that does not heal within three weeks
Even if you don’t see any new or unusual skin growths, be sure to visit the dermatologist at least once a year as part of your preventative care.
As you prioritize your overall wellness, remember to account for your mental health, too. It’s estimated that more than 6 million men in the U.S. experience depression. While the condition affects all genders, men are less likely than women to acknowledge symptoms and seek treatment.
Mental health disorders like depression are medical conditions. Not only is there no shame in getting the support you need to feel your best, it takes strength to speak openly with a provider about your mental health.
Here are some common symptoms of depression to watch for:
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
Changes in appetite or weight
Feelings of low self-worth, guilt, or hopelessness
If you are having thoughts of suicide, need emotional support, or are concerned for a loved one, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Take charge of your health and wellness all year round
To live your healthiest life, take an active role in your well-being year round, not just during Men’s Health Month. That means learning more about your risk for men’s top health issues, staying up to date with recommended screenings, and prioritizing healthy lifestyle choices. Most men’s health issues are preventable or treatable, but staying proactive is key.
At Alto, a pharmacist is your partner in health. Our team of patient care pharmacists is available to chat whenever questions come up. Reach out any time via in-app messaging.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.