Mental health issues, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, dementia, bowel cancers, diabetes; which of these common disorders are seen more in men than women? If you guessed all of them, then sadly you would be correct. In fact, in most parts of the world, health outcomes among boys and men continue to be substantially worse than among girls and women.

Men are more likely to die before women in every decade of their lives despite the fact that in many societies, men generally enjoy more opportunities, privileges, and power than women. So, why is it that these multiple life advantages do not translate into better health outcomes? Some possible reasons for this gender disparity are that men are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of physical danger and chemical hazards, and are more likely to display behaviours associated with ‘maleness’ such as risk-taking and adventure. It is also observable that compared to women men generally neglect their health and lifestyle until they are actually sick. Furthermore, it is a fact that men are less likely to visit a doctor when they are ill and, when they do see their GP, they are much less likely to report symptoms of common disorders, disease, or illness.

Gender Health

The gender health gap generally begins during the late teens and early twenties. Young men are much more likely to suffer from depressive disorders, behave recklessly, or commit suicide than their female counterparts. The Office of National Statistics reports that three-quarters of registered deaths due to suicide in 2018 were among men, which has been the case since the mid-1990s. The UK male suicide rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 represents a significant increase from the rate in 2017; for females, the UK rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000.

The first episodes of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder tend to appear in the late teens and early 20s. The difference between the genders, in this case, is how they are handled. Girls are more likely to seek help and discuss their issues whereas, due to a plethora of societal pressures and peer influence, males are more likely to ignore their symptoms, which then often exhibits in nihilistic or reckless behaviour.

Once through the difficult teens and twenties, men hit their 30’s, a decade which is often considered to be the prime of their lives. However, this is when some common disorders and more serious health ailments come into play. You may think you’re too young to be worrying about health problems having survived the angst of your teens and twenties, having finally moved out of the family home and carved out a life for yourself, the last thing you want to think about is your prostate health and wondering if you should be eating more salad! Unfortunately, the 30’s are not a chance to rest on one’s laurels, as according to recent research LDL cholesterol is more likely to increase at this time. High cholesterol puts men at greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.

For many men, the risk from high cholesterol starts in their 20’s and increases with age. The only way to find out how high your cholesterol level is would be to have a very simple blood test. This test is now recommended from the age of 25 to establish a cholesterol base level and therefore prevent and treat issues before they occur. Another disorder common in the 30’s are infertility issues; sperm quality can begin to decrease as early as the mid-30s, so be aware of this if trying to conceive with your partner. Muscle mass, as well as bone mass, decreases in your 30’s, so it is more important than ever to exercise as well as getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet to keep your bones healthy.

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Life begins at 40 – everyone knows that, right? Aside from having achieved many of your personal and professional goals, your fourth decade brings a certain level of wisdom that you didn’t have in your 20’s and 30’s. That’s all the more reason why, as you age, you should know better than you did a decade ago about how to take care of yourself. In spite of this accrued wisdom, men are twice as likely to develop diabetes during their middle age than women. They are also more likely to smoke, drink, and be overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of developing arthritis, coronary heart disease, and other common and related conditions including back pain, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and many cancers. Heart disease is the biggest killer of men aged 45-54 so now is the time to really take coronary care seriously. Doctors recommend regular screening starting between 40-50, including cholesterol, diabetes, weight, and blood pressure. Based on these results, your GP can offer you lifestyle advice which can help you to maintain good health.

Staying mentally and physically active can help feel younger, particularly in your 50’s, which is when you may notice the first subtle changes in your metabolism. Your heart’s walls are getting thicker and its valves are stiffer. Also, many people in their 50s will start to develop the first signs of heart disease. If you have noticed a skipped beat or racing heart, it could be atrial fibrillation (AF), which is a type of heart arrhythmia that becomes more common as you age. Since AF can increase the risk of having a stroke, you should always mention it to your GP. You should also tell your doctor if you are experiencing unusual fatigue, weakness or dizziness when exercising. In better news, your sex life after 50 can be more enjoyable than it was during the child-raising years. You have got more time and fewer distractions, and you are not exhausted from the day-to-day child-care issues. However, testosterone levels are steadily declining in your 50s, though these decreases are less likely to diminish your sex life than bad habits like smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, which can be a catalyst for other common disorders.

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The next two decades, the 60’s and the 70’s, are the so-called golden years. They should be a time when men can expect to sit back and enjoy the hard work of the previous decades. Becoming a grandparent and revelling in the secret pleasure that you can enjoy spending time with your grandkids and hand them back full of E-numbers after an hour or two. But it is important not to get too complacent as statistically women are expected to live longer than men. In fact, 57% of all those aged 65 and older are female.

By age 85, 67% are women. The average lifespan of women compared to men is about 7 years longer worldwide. The usual suspects at this age are common disorders like coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a disease of the lungs that makes breathing difficult). The build-up of plaques in artery walls by fats, cholesterol, and other substances (atherosclerosis) can happen from a younger age. However, the hardening of these plaques and narrowing of arteries, which greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, is most likely to occur from age 65 and above. Lung cancer is more common for people in their 60’s, and osteoporosis is often observed at this age, usually diagnosed after a broken bone has occurred. Prostate cancer, bowel cancer, and dementia are also more common in this age group.

But, happily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Most of the common disorders mentioned above are preventable and perfectly treatable if caught early. The gender difference primarily exists because men tend not to ask for help until there is a serious problem or it is too late. The action required here is based on lifestyle choices that promote your mental and physical health, having regular check-ups with your doctor, and vitally, not waiting until you are 40 or older to do so. This is why men’s health experts like Dr Jeff Foster offer a unique service which covers every area of men’s health specifically. The Male MOT, for instance, offers such a comprehensive but understandable guide to health that there is no need to fear the onset of age and associated disorders if you follow the simple guidelines and have a yearly MOT.

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About Dr Jeff Foster

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A Men’s Health specialist and Medical Director and founder of H3 Health.  I’m passionate about raising awareness of all aspects of Men’s Health, and heavily involved in both teaching and health promotion.   I’m a committee member of the British Society of Sexual Medicine, and have been involved in writing the most recent national guidelines for testosterone deficiency in men.

Get in touch with Dr Jeff

If you are a prospective patient and wish to see Dr Jeff privately, then you can book an appointment via H3 Health (03309 120769 – National Rate).  Alternatively if you are a member of the Media, then please use our contact form for media enquiries.