Both men and women are prone to developing certain health conditions. Some of these conditions, of course, depend strictly upon a person’s biological gender – only women can develop ovarian cancer and only men can develop prostate cancer. But there are plenty of other health conditions that afflict both men and women. The difference is certain health conditions are more likely to be diagnosed in one sex over the other, for various reasons.
Here’s a look at 5 health conditions that predominately affect men more than women. The reasons why vary, but knowing this information, can alert men to becoming more aware of these medical conditions and how to reduce their risk.
Gout is a common form of arthritis that can affect anyone causing sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in one or more joints, most often in the big toe. An accumulation of urate crystal in joints is the cause of inflammation and intense pain of gout. The urate crystals form due to high levels of uric acid in the blood caused by the breakdown of purines – substances found naturally in the body. Purines are also found in foods like red meat, liver, anchovies, trout, and beer.
Men are three times more likely to develop gout compared to women. Women have lower uric acid levels than men, however, after menopause, women’s uric acid levels are similar to men’s. Men also develop gout at earlier ages – between 30 and 50 – than women.
The key for men to avoiding gout is to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. This includes eating a healthy diet, avoid or limit high purine foods such as alcohol, and sugary drinks to lower uric acid levels, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and lose weight if needed. To treat a gout attack, see a doctor, ice and elevate the joint, and drink plenty of water (no alcohol or sweet soda). There are medications for acute gout attacks such as anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. For recurring gout attacks, work with a doctor on coming up with a long-term treatment plan to reduce the risk.
Every year, 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). A ruptured AAA is the 15th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 10th leading cause of death in men older than 55. Men are 4-15 times more likely to develop an AAA than women but the reasons why are not well-understood.
An AAA is when the wall of a blood vessel weakens causing a balloon-like aneurysm to develop. This happens most often in the abdominal aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. Normally, the abdominal aorta is about 2 cm in diameter but an AAA is 1.5 times that size – or at least 3 cm. Over time, an AAA can rupture or burst causing life-threatening complications. Unfortunately, the symptoms of an AAA are vague or even symptomless. Some people may notice abdominal pain, back or flank pain, or have unexplained pain or swelling in their legs.
Any man who smokes should quit right away. Eat a healthy diet, maintain healthy body weight, and treat elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Aneurysms run in families; any man with a first-degree relative who’s had an AAA is 12 times more likely to develop an AAA. Screenings are recommended for men between ages 65-75 who have ever smoked or have a family history of an AAA rupture or repair.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is due to the breakdown of neurons in the brain which reduces dopamine levels. These lowered dopamine levels eventually cause abnormal brain activity leading to symptoms such as tremors, slowed movement, limb rigidity, and gait and balance problems, that progress over many years. The cause of this disease is largely unknown. Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, the complications can be serious and there is no cure. However, there are treatment options that do include medications and sometimes surgery.
Some studies have shown that men are 1.5 times more likely to develop PD than women. It is not entirely understood why but its speculated that genetic factors linked to the X chromosome, of which women have two but men have only one, may be protective for women when it comes to PD. Other possible reasons may be that men are exposed to more toxic chemicals or head injuries than women, both of which have been associated with higher risks of the disease.
Since it is unknown what exactly causes PD, there is only basic advice on what to provide men for avoiding a diagnosis of PD. Avoiding toxic chemicals and head injuries may be helpful but probably the best advice is to be aware of early symptoms of the disease and to get tested and diagnosed for PD as early as possible. The earlier treatment can begin, this may help slow the progression of the disease.
Described as one of the most painful conditions anyone can experience, passing a kidney stone is an unfortunate memorable event. Men are at a greater risk for kidney stones than women for various reasons. One contributing factor might be consuming a diet high in protein and salt. Men tend to have greater intakes of both and in addition, dehydration plays a significant role in kidney stone formation. Men who work outdoors such as construction workers or farmers or men working out several hours at the gym may not be well-hydrated, which can be a contributing factor for their development.
The best advice for men to avoid this painful condition is to reduce their intake of salt in their diet, reduce animal protein foods, and drink more water. They can start by choosing more whole foods like fruits and vegetables, avoid high sodium bagged or convenience foods like frozen pizza or TV dinners, reduce intake of animal protein, and avoid sugary beverages.
With over 5 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States each year (this includes melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers), skin cancer is the most common cancer in America. Men are more likely to die of melanoma than women, especially after age 50. By age 65, men are 2 times as likely as women of the same age to get melanoma and by age 80, 3 times more likely. There are several reasons why skin cancer is more common in men. One reason is women apply sunscreen more often than men and use makeup that offers SPF – up to 47% of men never use sunscreen. Men also tend to spend more time outdoors with their jobs, attending sporting events, or doing activities such as boating and consequently, more likely to sunburn. Another is that men’s skin differs from women’s skin. A study in the Netherlands found that men’s skin reacts more intensely to damaging UV rays than women’s skin. Men are also more likely to discover a malignant spot at a later, less treatable stage.
There are several steps men can take to significantly reduce their risk of skin cancer:
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board-certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.