July 1, 2021
Speaking Up About Men’s Urologic Health
Taking control of personal health isn’t an option for men – it’s an imperative.
A recent review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent At-a-Glance Table on men’s health alludes to some health trends that are rising at a rate that should make everyone, including men, take notice. While the life expectancy at birth has been on the rise since 2000, there are some morbidity and other risk factors affecting men’s overall and urologic health that don’t have such a positive trajectory. Heart disease is on the rise for everyone over the age of 18, as is diabetes, cholesterol, and obesity. You may be wondering – what do those conditions have to do with a man’s urologic health? As it turns out, a lot.
Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar (diabetes), especially when unchecked or not adequately treated, can lead to severe urologic problems such as kidney disease, kidney cancer, and erectile dysfunction. Obesity is a factor that can encompass each of the conditions mentioned above and brings with it an additional increase in risks for bladder and prostate cancers, urinary tract infections (UTIs), urinary incontinence, and male infertility.
The health statistics tell us that the trajectory for certain men’s health measures is going in the wrong direction, and the risks for men of developing severe urologic disease are increasing. But we are not powerless to stop this. In fact, for the vast majority of the health indicators mentioned, we know what to do to reverse the trend:
Drink Water – 6 or more cups daily to help prevent kidney stones and keep the urologic organs properly functioning.
Get Exercise – 30 minutes of moderate activity, five or more times per week (consistently) is a good formula. Included in that schedule should be regular strength-training activities.
Eat Healthy – On average, men have a more inadequate quality diet than women, and diets high in red meat and saturated fats can increase kidney stone and certain cancer risks. But you can change that quickly. Opt for more whole foods when they are available. Eat less red meat, whole-milk dairy products, sodium, sweets, sugary drinks, and refined carbohydrates and replace them with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And remember, the more colorful, the better!
Reduce Stress – Men’s health tends to be more negatively impacted by stress. Take time to de-stress by getting adequate and quality sleep, consider mindfulness meditation (even 10 minutes a day can have significant benefits), and build positive social circles that can help you mentally unwind for a bit.
Don’t Smoke – Many urologic conditions are impacted by smoking including: kidney stones, urinary leakage, erectile dysfunction, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, kidney stones, and painful bladder syndrome, to name a few. This tip is easy: avoid tobacco in every form.
I’m saving the final tip for last because it is critical. Seek Regular Medical Care. Generally speaking, men can make poor health patients, especially when it comes to regular checkups. There are various explanations for this, but some conditions in men could have been identified much sooner had they been up to date on their regular health exams. Here’s what that scheduled should generally look like, depending on age:
18-40: Annual physical and routine testicular exam, and understand family health history.
40-50: Pay close attention to conditions that can affect urologic health – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Some men should be screened for prostate cancer during this timeframe. Black men or those with a father, son, or brother who has had prostate cancer should consider prostate screening
50-70, and Beyond: All men at this age should consider whether prostate cancer screening is the right option. Look for changes in bathroom patterns – urgency, frequency, decreased flow, or increased nighttime urge to urinate are indications that something is up and should be evaluated by a urologist.
Beyond age as a sole indicator, some severe urologic symptoms warrant a call to the doctor no matter how old you are. These include pain that doesn’t go away in the pelvic area, genitals, abdomen, back, or when urinating, trouble getting or maintaining an erection, or blood in the urine.
Gentlemen, make THIS your year for taking control of your health. Don’t excuse it or put it off. It matters right now. Right now is the time you have, and you should use it to ensure all the years you have left are of the highest quality, allowing you to live a long, fulfilling life that you can enjoy!