There are a number of health conditions that affect men — such as prostate cancer and low testosterone — and a few more that affect men more than women. With that in mind, we wanted to find out the health problems that men worry about most.
Anytime you approach questions like: “What do you worry about?” “What do you wish you did differently?” or even “What are you watching on Netflix?” — methodology is important. For example, you’ll get very different answers if you ask a high school classroom that last question than if you ask the House of Representatives.
To compile this list, we used 2 methods:
- A review of articles and surveys online from men’s health journals, websites, and publications about what men report to be their biggest health concerns.
- An informal social media poll reaching approximately 2,000 men.
Between these, we were able to spot trends indicating 5 health issues men report worrying about as they get older, plus 2 other categories that may contribute to these conditions. Here’s what the men involved had to say:
“I would say prostate health.”
“Prostate cancer, even though it’s slow-growing and not that likely to kill you.”
They’re not wrong. Current estimates say 1 in 9 men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime, and many more — about 50 percent of men ages 51 to 60 — will have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous enlargement of that same organ.
Treatment for prostate cancer can vary. Some healthcare providers may recommend a watchful waiting approach, as it tends to grow very slowly. Many men who get prostate cancer survive it.
What you can do
There are a number of screening tests for prostate cancer. Many healthcare providers advise that one of the best things you can do is get regular blood tests for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) annually starting between your 45th and 50th birthdays.
This test may provide the early detection that’s necessary to prevent prostate cancer from becoming life-threatening.
If you have a family history of prostate cancer, or one or more risk factors of the disease, talk to your doctor about screening options.
“Based on what I am dealing with right now, I would have to say limited mobility due to arthritis.”
“For quality of life, I worry about arthritis in the hands, or blown shoulders and knees.”
These issues are concerning for men who want to maintain their mobility and independence — and especially those who are athletes or have very active lifestyles.
Ironically, some of the extreme athletic endeavors some men pursue in their teens and 20s contribute to joint pain in later decades. Men who work with their hands or bodies may also perceive a risk to their livelihood in the decades before they reach retirement age.
What you can do
Although some age-related joint deterioration is unavoidable, you can do a lot to improve joint health through lifestyle and diet.
Go to a doctor about joint pain early and often so you can begin treatment before the condition becomes chronic.
You may also want to consider easing off to moderate, regular exercise as you approach age 40. This is better for your joints than some of the more rigorous activities you might be accustomed to.
“I notice my sex drive isn’t what it used to be.”
“Not something men my age really worry about… but testosterone.”
We spend more money treating erectile dysfunction than any other issue, despite the fact that it isn’t a life-threatening condition.
Many men like sex and want to continue having it for as long as possible. However, age-related testosterone loss is a natural part of getting older, which can reduce not just sex drive, but motivation and general well-being.
What you can do
You can start fighting testosterone loss by boosting it without medication. Changes to your diet — such as eating foods rich in protein and zinc — can help your body make more testosterone by providing the basic building blocks.
Lifestyle changes can also help, especially getting more exercise, spending time outdoors, and making efforts to relieve stress.
If you’re worried about your testosterone levels, see a doctor.
“Alzheimer’s is my big stay-up-at-night fear.”
“Strokes and Alzheimer’s.”
“My greatest fear is dementia and ending up in the memory ward.”
For many men, the idea of losing cognitive function is scary. They often develop this worry by seeing their own elders, or the parents of close friends, living with dementia, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or other issues that cause memory or cognitive loss.
What you can do
The mechanics of these issues aren’t yet well understood — with the exception of stroke — but research suggests that the “use it or lose it” principle applies to brain function.
You can keep your mind active by playing games, working puzzles, and remaining socially connected. It keeps the pathways of your neural system running more smoothly for more years.
“In general, it’s my blood pressure that I’m usually thinking about.”
“Blood pressure. Mine’s naturally very high.”
“I worry about heart attack and blood pressure.”
Circulatory problems encompass 2 of the top 10 causes of death for men in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means most of us have lost a parent or grandparent to these issues. They can start early with blood pressure or high cholesterol, and then develop into more serious issues.
What you can do
Two things can help improve your circulatory health: regular cardiovascular exercise and frequent monitoring.
This means going to the doctor annually to get your cholesterol, blood pressure, and other vital signs checked and compared to your previous readings. It also includes getting 3 to 4 moderate cardio workouts every week, 20 to 40 minutes each.
Beyond those 5 specific health concerns, a lot of men report worrying about 2 things that significantly affect their health but that they can’t do anything about: age and heredity.
“As I’m getting older, I worry about my weight…”
“My dad died at 45 of colon cancer.”
“The older you get as a man, the more your prostate bothers you.”
“My blood pressure is very high because of my heredity.”
“There are heart and blood pressure issues on both sides of my family, so that’s always a concern.”
Age and heredity seem to be on a lot of men’s minds, because there’s nothing they can do about them. Faced with the inexorable approach of the future, and genetic legacies from the unchangeable past, it’s understanding how men could worry about such things.
The bad news is you’re right. You can’t stop aging and you can’t change your genes.
But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless against either one of those forces.
Think about 2 people at the gym. One is 24 years old and the son of a professional linebacker, with the frame to match. The other is pushing 50 and has a considerably smaller frame. If both did the same workout, it’s a near certainty the younger, larger one would be stronger after a year. But if the older, smaller one did much more effective workouts more often, he’d have a good chance of being the strongest.
And that’s just with what happens in the gym. What both do for the other 23 hours of the day affects their results even more.
If you live a healthy lifestyle, especially one aimed at avoiding some of the mistakes your elders made with their health, you can overcome many of the challenges inherent in age and heredity.
You can’t live forever, but you can better enjoy the time you have.