Taking Care of Men’s Health

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September is National Cholesterol Education Month, but any month is a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. It’s also good to learn about food, lifestyle, and medication choices that may help you reach your cholesterol goals.

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 98.6 million adults in the United States have total blood cholesterol values of 200 mg/dL and higher.  It is a serious condition that increases your risk for heart disease. The higher your cholesterol level, the greater your risk. You can have high cholesterol and not know it. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens your risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease.

In 2005, 45 million adult men had total blood cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or higher and of these, 14.6 million had levels of 240 mg/dL or higher. In adults, total cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher are considered high risk. Levels from 200 to 239 mg/dL are considered borderline-high risk. (NHANES [2005-2006], NCHS and NHLBI).

It’s critical for men and their families to work with their healthcare provider to set a cholesterol level goal and develop a strategy for achieving it.  While generic medications are good financially, you need to consult your healthcare provider to make the most informed treatment decision to reach your target cholesterol number. If your current medication isn’t helping you reach your goal, you might need to talk to your doctor about other medications that may help you achieve your intended cholesterol level.  It is not just about lowering your cholesterol; it should be about getting to your target number which you and your healthcare provider have established.  Work with your doctor to attain your optimal health life.

It is important to note that men over past decades have shown poorer health outcomes than women across all racial and ethnic groups as well as socioeconomic status.   This can be contributed to cultural attitudes that have been engrained in American boys and men for decades.  Men are taught at an early age to suck it up and that big boys don’t cry.  When a boy is 5 years old and falls down and skins his knee, his mother tells him to shake it off – when he is 50 years old and having chest pain, he believes it is just indigestion but really it may be the first sign of a cardiovascular event.

The situation for men’s health in the United States is dire:

  • Men are leading in 9 out of the top 10 causes of death (heart disease, etc.)
  • The life expectancy gap between men and women has increased from one year in 1920 to 5.1 years in 2007.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies show that women are 100 percent more likely than men to visit a doctor for prevention.

While this health crisis is of particular concern to men, it is also a concern for women regarding their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers.  According to the United States Census Bureau, the ratio of men to women in the early retirement years (age group 65-69) reduces to 85 men per 100 women. The growing disparity in this statistic suggests that among other factors, the declining health of men increases the risk of women entering retirement age as widows.  According to the Administration on Aging, more than half of elderly widows now living in poverty were not poor before the death of their husbands.

All men and their families should take ownership of their health.  Get in to see your healthcare provider and get to your goal.  To learn more about living a healthy lifestyle, Men’s Health Network is making available for free download its “Blueprint for Men’s Health” booklet which can be found at: www.blueprintformenshealth.com.

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