Want to be a healthier guy? Know your risks.

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Why Is It So Dangerous to Be a Guy?

In the past decade, researchers have devoted more time and resources to understanding the medical differences between the genders – and there are many. Three that play a significant role in longevity are:

  • Males are innately more vulnerable to illness at all ages – starting even before babies leave the womb. 
  • Men’s bodies are more reactive, so factors like stress, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet are more likely to cause health problems, including chronic disease.
  • Overall, men are likelier than women to take risks.

Plus, Men Aren’t Great Patients

There is another reason men have a shorter life expectancy – they don’t pay much attention to their health. Women see doctors far more regularly, in part because they need to pay attention to their reproductive health. Men aren’t socialized to schedule regular doctor visits for health screenings and check-ups in the way women are. New studies show that only about half of men remember when they last visited their doctor for a check-up … and that self-described “tough guy types” are less likely than women or more emotionally-attuned males to discuss their health worries.

What Men Need to Know

Not all heart disease is genetic: lifestyle matters too! Though the specifics haven’t yet been pinned down, it appears that men have greater genetic vulnerability to heart disease – but that’s not the whole picture. There’s much about heart disease that’s related to unhealthy lifestyle, including smoking, a high-fat diet, being sedentary and living with stress. Having a family history of heart disease is no reason to give up and assume your health is out of your control – in fact, just the opposite is true. Having a higher genetic risk for heart disease makes it all the more important to reduce the risk factors you can control.

News on the heart disease front: If you have infertility issues (true for about 7.5% of men), your risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis is about one-third higher.  Your risk of heart disease is elevated too. What to do? Tell your doctor if you have had fertility problems.

Cancer screenings help find cancer at the earliest stages, when it is most treatable. A 2011 study found that men get more cancer than women. The most notable difference is in head and neck cancers, which kill four to five times as many men as women, but more men also die of colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, bile duct cancer and leukemia than do women.

A good-to-know bit of research on your cancer risk: If you went through puberty earlier than your friends, your risk of getting prostate cancer is higher, a new study finds. Why? Researchers don’t have all the information yet but the likely culprit is the growth hormones that trigger puberty. What to do? If you experienced puberty at an earlier than average age, make sure your doctor knows about it.

Sexual health and satisfaction is related to lifestyle too.  Obesity, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise not only affect how attractive you look to your partner, but also contribute to erectile dysfunction. A recent study links eating lots of fruit to lower rates of erectile dysfunction, while another finds that men who share childcare responsibilities equally with their spouses have more satisfying relationships and better sex lives.

An important new research finding: The drug Viagra (also called sildenafil) has been linked with a higher incidence of melanoma, a new study shows. If you use Viagra, see your dermatologist annually and ask your partner to check regularly for any unusual moles on your body.