Along with falling leaves, cooler temperatures and Friday night football games, September brings with it an interest in men’s health. Typically this interest centers around prostate cancer but the truth is that disease isn’t the biggest health threat affecting American men.
Prostate cancer is dangerous but is almost always slow-growing and unlikely to result in death. Because of this, there has been considerable controversy regarding prostate cancer screenings. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force no longer recommends the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test as a screening tool. The task force urges men to carefully consider both the benefits and the risks of prostate cancer screening including false positive results, unnecessary treatment and complications that can interfere with urinary continence and sexual function.
Today, the recommendation has moved from aggressive screening to more informed conversations with your healthcare providers for the best treatment specific to you.
“There’s no doubt that prostate cancer is an important health topic,” said Andrew Usery, M.D., a primary care physician with Lexington Clinic. “But for the average man, heart disease, lung cancer, injury, chronic lung disease and stroke are far bigger issues.”
Heart disease has been the leading cause of death of men in the U.S. for decades. In 2013, it accounted for one in every four male deaths. Although heart disease may not be entirely preventable, there are steps men can take to reduce risk, Dr. Usery said. These include achieving and maintaining a healthy weight; enjoying a diet rich in whole grains, lean meats and vegetables; and exercise. Moderate intensity exercise, about 30 minutes, five days a week, is the current recommendation.
Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer affecting men, with about 85,000 men expected to die of the disease in 2017, according to American Cancer Society estimates. Eighty percent of lung cancer cases are related to smoking. “Quitting tobacco is hard, and it often takes multiple attempts to succeed,” Dr. Usery said. “However, you can improve your chances by talking with your physician about medications that can help and by seeking support.”
Colorectal cancer is entirely preventable and curable if it is discovered early. Screening colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting the disease, which typically develops from polyps, which are small growths on the inside of the colon. Because these polyps can be completely removed before they develop into cancer, men should have a colonoscopy beginning at the age of 50 – or sooner if there are certain risk factors, of there is a family history of the disease.
Unintentional injury is also a high-risk problem for men here in this country. Men die from unintentional injuries at higher rates than women. Each year, nearly 200,000 people die of injuries, violence and drug overdoses in the U.S., making it the No. 3 cause of death among American men. To reduce your risk, follow workplace safety rules; use seatbelts; practice defensive driving; and observe traffic laws. The National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked poor sleep to motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries as well as chronic medical conditions. Poor sleep should be reported to your physician and treated.
Chronic lower respiratory disease is the fourth-leading cause of death in men. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As with lung cancer, the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of COPD is to stop using tobacco.
Stroke, the No. 5 leading cause of death among American men, is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and stress. The recommendations for reducing stroke risk are nearly identical to those for heart disease: quit smoking; eat a diet low in fat and sugars and high in fiber; and maintain a healthy weight. Because high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, regular checkups are essential. A healthy lifestyle, learning to de-stress and medications can help in managing hypertension.
Andrew R. Usery, M.D., is an internal medicine/pediatrics physician at Lexington Clinic’s Jessamine Medical and Diagnostics Center, 110 Village Parkway, Nicholasville. Dr. Usery earned his medical degree from the University of Kentucky, where he also completed his residency training. Dr. Usery’s medical interests include comprehensive preventive services, general internal medicine and behavior and mental health. New patients are welcome. For more information, please call (859) 887-8400.