With Movember firmly under way, we thought it would be interesting this week to focus on men’s health.
While we're all aware of the gender-specific health risks men may face in their later years, not everyone may know that there are several other conditions, although not specific to either gender, that may occur sooner or with more regularity in men than in women.
To the man in his twenties or thirties, these conditions may seem like a distant and perhaps unlikely prospect. But in truth, how a man lives his life during his younger decades can have a profound effect on his health in the years that follow.
To demonstrate this, we’ve put together a timeline which explores the health issues men are prone to throughout their lives, and are typically more susceptible to experiencing at an earlier stage in life than women.
Although the majority of them tend to occur in later life, some of them may have an earlier average age of onset than you might think:
Age 29 - Appendicitis
Those in the 15-30 age bracket are most susceptible, but a Canadian study which looked at 65,000 appendicitis patients found the mean age of instance to be 29.
Treatment most typically involves surgical removal of the appendix, followed by bed rest. It’s vital to act quickly however when initial symptoms occur, as left untreated, the condition can cause serious harm.
If you notice a sharp or severe pain in the abdomen, accompanied by diarrhoea and feelings of sickness, go to your nearest doctor’s surgery or hospital as soon as possible.
Age 20-29 - Syphilis
Nowhere near as common as it once was, reported cases of this sexually transmitted infection have nonetheless risen steadily again in recent years. It’s most common among men who have sex with men, and is characterised by three stages of symptoms which can occur months, or in some cases years apart.
The condition is easily treatable in its earlier phases with antibiotics, so it is crucial if you’re sexually active to get tested regularly.
Age 40 - Emphysema
This condition is a type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which affects the lungs and bronchial pathways. In addition to making breathing more difficult, it also restricts the body’s capacity to transfer oxygen to the blood.
The condition is a progressive one, and treatments such as bronchodilators will usually be issued to limit the severity and frequency of symptoms.
COPD is primarily caused by smoking; so the best way to prevent it is to give up smoking or not start in the first place.
Age 53 - Type 2 diabetes
The risk of type 2 diabetes, which is thought to account for nine in ten of all UK diabetes cases, increases with age; those who are 40 or above are more at risk, but the average age of onset for men is 53 according to the CDC.
Diabetes can in some instances be managed through a healthy and balanced diet, but will often need to be managed with medication. In any event, it is vital to get a diagnosis early on, as diabetes can lead to other serious health problems, such as kidney failure.
Age 58 - Liver disease
A study published in 2012 reported that 58 was the average age of death for men with liver disease, compared to 60 for women.
The leading causes of poor liver health? Alcohol misuse and obesity.
Readers may have begun to notice the development of a pattern here; that being the inextricable link between lifestyle habits and health in later life.
Granted, hepatitis can occur virally, and vaccinations are available which can protect against certain strains.
The risk of non-viral liver disease however, can be offset by drinking alcohol in responsible amounts, and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.
Age 66 - Heart attack
Men have been found to be more at risk of sudden heart attacks than women (roughly three times more likely), but are also more prone to them earlier. The average age at which a first heart attack will occur in men is 66.
Prevention once again is all about lifestyle. Those who have a family history of heart disease may be more susceptible, but even in such cases, keeping a balanced diet, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake and getting plenty of regular exercise are all key to a healthy heart.
Whether you’re inherently predisposed to heart disease or not, it’s always a good idea to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly.
Age 66 - Prostate cancer
This form of cancer is one which occurs in around one in seven men, and has an average age of onset of 66, according to the American Cancer Society.
It’s a condition which is more likely to develop with age, and research is still being undertaken to determine why it occurs in some and not in others. Ethnicity has been identified as one potential factor, but there is a developing belief that poor eating habits can bring about the condition sooner.
The symptoms of prostate cancer are similar to those of BPH, and may include bladder discomfort and difficulty urinating, so it is important if you notice these to notify your GP.
Age 70 - Lung cancer
This form of cancer is the most prominent, and is the most common preventable cause of death in the UK. Around 90 per cent of cases are thought to be caused by smoking, but thousands who don’t smoke develop the condition too.
Treatment has a better chance at success the earlier the condition is diagnosed. See your doctor immediately if you experience severe coughing, begin to cough up blood or get persistent or recurring chest infections.
Age 71 - Stroke
Once again, the average age of onset is younger in men, at 71, than it is in women, at 77. This is thought to be due to the higher prevalence in men of contributory conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Narrowing of the arteries is something which occurs naturally as we get older, but those with less healthy lifestyles are more likely to experience a stroke sooner. Limiting alcohol intake, getting regular exercise and eating a balanced diet are all measures which can help to offset the risk of stroke.
Get into good habits early
Serious illness is something which most men associate with later life, and may not necessarily pay much heed to in their earlier years.
But while most of the above conditions are more likely to occur with increasing age, that doesn’t mean younger men shouldn’t be mindful of them.
Statistically, a man’s thirties may be his safest decade health-wise, but how he lives his life during this time will play a crucial role in determining his lifestyle habits, and his well being, as he gets older.
With this in mind, it's never too early to start living healthily.