Old man

It’s a guy thing: health risks and wellness for men

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Saturday, 28 June 2014 - Last Updated on July 1, 2014
Old man

Old manThey say “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” This is indeed true in many different ways. This is largely reflected in the physiology of the two sexes, where different physiques have also different ailments and diseases.

Though men and women share the unfortunate fate of having certain diseases as they age, men are “luckier” to have fewer illnesses because unlike women, they do not have a complex reproductive system designed for child-bearing. With that said, men’s health can be generalized in these two facts (1) diseases that affect, or cause mortality in men are fewer, and (2) these diseases can be prevented or the degree of its damage can be lessened with proper diet and healthy lifestyle.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the ten leading causes of death for men are:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Unintentional injuries
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  5. Stroke
  6. Diabetes
  7. Suicide
  8. Alzheimer’s disease
  9. Kidney disease
  10. Influenza and pneumonia

In the Philippines, men have a shorter life span compared to women. Data from the national census state that the median age for men is 59.6 years while women reach 67.8 years. This can be attributed to their nature of work and lifestyle. The good news is, however, men can easily change their fate through proper nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle.

The old man’s problem: Prostate diseases and prostate cancer

Prostate problem is a gender-specific health risk for males. The prostate is a small walnut-sized gland which lies underneath the male bladder. As males age, the gland enlarges. Age factor is among the major risks of prostate issues. For some, the prostate enlarges too much which causes pressure in the bladder making it difficult for older males to pass urine.

According to Health Secretary Enrique Ona, at least 50% of the male population in the country aged 50 and above “will develop urinary and prostate problems that progress as they age.”

According to the U.S. National Institute of Aging, some of the prostate problems males may encounter include Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), Acute bacterial prostatitis, Chronic bacterial prostatitis and chronic prostatitis – also called Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS).

Acute bacterial prostatitis usually starts suddenly from a bacterial infection. Symptoms include fever, chills, or painful urination, or blood in urine. Chronic bacterial prostatitis is a rare recurrent infection which can be hard to treat.

Chronic prostatitis, also called Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS), is a common prostate problem. Symptoms are pain in the lower back, pain in the groin area, or at the tip of the penis, painful ejaculation and frequent urination but only in small amounts. These diseases, however can be treated through medication, surgery and change in lifestyle.

Next to lung cancer, prostate cancer is now the second most common cancer leading to death in Filipino males. But apparently, men are not well-informed about the disease and its risks. More often, they get the disease and are diagnosed when it has already developed and has spread to other parts of the body.

Because it does not manifest symptoms in the early stages, prostate cancer is dubbed as the “silent killer of men.” In 2010, Department of Health figures showed that there are about 2,712 new cases of prostate cancer being diagnosed annually in the Philippines with an estimated 1, 410 deaths.

pants in the park

Signs of prostate cancer are frequent, painful urinating, and blood in the urine, to more advanced signs like bone pain, leg weakness, and urinary and fecal incontinence.

Initial stages of prostate cancer rarely manifest symptoms, so doctors recommend regular screening to diagnose the disease. The screening involves digital rectal examination (DRE) where a gloved finger is inserted in the rectum to determine if the prostate gland is enlarged. A blood test will also be done to check for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). If the results show that one might have cancer, a biopsy will be required to (getting samples from the prostate) test for cancer cells.

To prevent the development of prostate cancer, the US NIA recommend that males 40 years old and above, especially those who have a history of prostate cancer, undergo annual screening.  Screening for cancer can also be done through thermal imaging which can show if the prostate area is warm.

Anti-cancer advocate and widow of a cancer patient, Danny Meneses strongly believes that prevention is better than cure. To fight cancer and other diseases before its onset, is important to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce the environmental factors that adversely affects our bodies. Here are a few tips on how to achieve holistic health:

Change your lifestyle

As with other diseases, prostate cancer risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise.

Work your body, or simply, get moving.

Sedentary lifestyle can lead to or aggravate heart problems. Keep in mind that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Filipinos. However, studies show that increased physical activities reduce the risk for certain types of cancer and heart disease.

For men who work in the office for eight or more hours, getting enough physical activity is a challenge. But one does not need to go to the gym to work out. A simple change in habit is all you need — start with walking more when going to work or on the way home. If you work near where you live, you can walk or bike instead of taking the car or public transport. Instead of taking the elevator, you can walk a few floors to get some good cardiovascular exercise.

Limit alcohol.

Most men cannot live without alcohol. In order to be spared from heart and liver diseases, as well as various types of cancer, men should limit their alcohol intake. The recommended limit is only two drinks a day for those aged 65 years old and below and only one drink per day for older people.

Change your diet and eat healthy

You are what you eat. These days, what we eat are what usually causes several illnesses. The top causes of death among Filipinos usually arise from high-fat, high-cholesterol diet and low-fiber diet.

The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) explains that consuming meat and other animal products increases hormone production, thus increasing the risk of hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. It said that meat is devoid of fiber and protective nutrients and that cooking and processing meat produces carcinogenic compounds. For non-animal protein sources, there are a number of  choices including beans, nuts, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, quinoa, lentils, hemp seeds and spirulina.

Along with meat, dairy products (milk, butter, cheese from animal source) should also be avoided. Studies showed relationship of certain cancers, including prostate cancer to high consumption of meat and dairy from animals and cows injected with genetically modified hormones.

UK-based scientist and cancer survivor, Jane Plant encourages people to go vegetarian to prevent and fight all types of cancer. Plant says that “a vegan diet is lower in cancer-promoting molecules and higher in binding proteins that reduce the action of said molecules.”

Avoid harmful chemicals

Avoid processed food and products which may contain harmful chemicals. According to a United Nations study, some processed food (and even fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides), personal care products, cosmetics and electronics contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which are found to increase the risk of developing cancers such as prostate cancer.


Images from Flickr.com. “Pants in the Park” and “Old Man” Used under CC license. Some rights reserved. 

Amihan Euza Mabalay (24 Posts)

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