Top 5 Boring Threats to Men’s HealthDec 11, 2013
They’re not cool, macho or really all that exciting. Fact is, some of the biggest threats to men’s health are really boring. Seriously boring. The good news is they are very preventable and depend largely on small day-to-day decisions that men make. Dr. Troy Madsen tells you the top 5 boring threats to men's heath and some of the simple changes men can make to significantly improve their health and overall quality of life.
Scot: It's the top five boring threats to men's health coming up next on The Scope.
Announcer: Interesting, informative, and all in the name of better health. This is The Scope Health Sciences Radio.
Scot: Some of the biggest threats to men's health aren't necessarily glamorous, or cool, or neat; it's actually the day-to-day decisions that men make. We're here with Dr. Troy Madsen, an emergency physician at University of Utah Hospital. Can you talk about some of that?
Dr. Madsen: You're exactly right. I mean, this is not really exciting stuff. It's just not groundbreaking. It's not like we're talking about men's health here and talking about crocodile injuries, or rattlesnake bites, or falling off cliffs while repelling. That's not what we see in the E.R.. When I think about the reason that men come to the E.R. I think to myself maybe 25 to 30% of those things could be preventable with some simple sort of daily things.
One of the biggest things that comes to mind is the very, very boring topic of diet and exercise. I mean, it's such a simple thing and it is boring because we hear it again and again, but it's remarkable what a difference that can make. The big issues that come down the road being heart disease, diabetes, obesity, a lot of these issues that are very much preventable just with trying to improve a diet. We're just talking about maybe taking some of the red meat out of the diet.
Scot: So, not big changes.
Dr. Madsen: Yeah, exactly.
Scot: Not like big huge lifestyle changes.
Dr. Madsen: Yeah. It doesn't have to be a big change, and I think a big part of it is just looking where you are now and saying, "Hey, how can I improve this? It doesn't have to be perfect, but let's try and go the right direction."
Scot: So, some red meat out of the diet. What else would you recommends?
Dr. Madsen: Well, one of the things I recommend there was a, just a great study on diet that came out in the New England Journal of Medicine within the last six months that looked at just olive oil, just trying to incorporate a little more olive oil into your diet maybe in cooking, or salads, things like that. Try and get more green vegetables into your diet. Simple things like that where it's not ground breaking change. Try and avoid some of these fried foods, but these small changes are going to make a difference.
Scot: What about the exercise front, do I have to go workout at the gym six hours a day?
Dr. Madsen: Yeah, absolutely not, and that's what really worries me, I think it's almost like in our society we just see kind of these two extremes. We see the hardcore exercise people and just a lot of us are like, "I can't do that. You know I just I don't have that time to invest," and so you just kind of give up. Now we're just talking about 30 minutes three times a week. If you're at work try to walk during your lunch break, take the stairs, just simple things that can fit into your routine. Look at honestly where you are right now and just say, "Can I just increase this? Can I just get out and walk 10 minutes a day?" Anything you do is going to make a difference.
Scot: What are some of the other boring threats to men's health?
Dr. Madsen: So, the other boring threat to men's health is alcohol. We see, number one, the long-term consequences of very heavy alcohol use, which can be liver disease, cirrhosis, problems like that, and then we also see the short-term consequences. We see, unfortunately very often, and often times Saturday nights in the E.R., very young healthy men who are in the E.R. with very severe life threatening injuries, or may even die from those injuries as a consequence of alcohol. Either they were drinking too much they were injured because of that, trauma, or fights, or whatever the situation may have been.
But just trying to kind of take again an honest look there and say, "Am I drinking too much? Is this an issue? Have any family members ever expressed concerns to me? Do I feel guilty about it?" Some of these kind of common questions to screen if there may be alcohol problems, that can go a long way toward preventing future health problems, and immediately help immediate health problems.
Scot: So, liver cirrhosis, does that have some bad side effects, bad . . . is that a big deal?
Dr. Madsen: Yeah it does. It's awful.
Scot: Like what?
Dr. Madsen: The biggest thing: once your liver fails, you need a new liver. That's the biggest problem. You need a liver transplant. If your liver doesn't work, the liver just really filters all the bad stuff out of your blood, and so we see patients who have liver failure who their liver just is not functioning. They get ascites, which means tons of fluid in the abdomen. They'll often come to the E.R. to have to have that fluid removed, they're on all kinds of medications to try and keep those toxic levels in their body down to where it's not affecting them. Like I said, often times the only real treatment at that point is a liver transplant.
Scot: So, all very preventable if you just kind of look at your alcohol consumption.
Dr. Madsen: Exactly. All very preventable.
Scot: Pretty boring. What else?
Dr. Madsen: It is boring.
Scot: What other boring things are affecting men's health?
Dr. Madsen: So, the next boring thing, but again and again one of the biggest things we see is trauma, and maybe it's men not wearing seat belts while they're driving, maybe it's not wearing a helmet while on a motorcycle, sometimes on a bicycle. Trauma around the house, just trying to work on things around the house, not practicing safety with ladders, or maybe overestimating some of their skills with power tools, things like that. These are all things we see. It's often said that trauma is a disease, just meaning that people who are likely to have trauma are likely to have it again and again.
Dr. Madsen: It is, yeah, and that's a common statement among our trauma surgeons here. I definitely agree that it just kind of runs in families too; they say it's an inherited disease.
Dr. Madsen: So, you'll find that kids of people that are injured a lot their kids get injured a lot. The people who suffer from this "disease" are men, and so look at your habits; look at your safety practices.
Scot: What's the next boring thing that affects or threatens men's health?
Dr. Madsen: The next boring thing that threatens men's health is mental illness, and I think men are much less likely to get help with mental illness. There's a certain stigma attached people think, "I'm strong, I'm a man, I can handle this." They may oftentimes not get the help they need. The big concerning thing: if you actually look at the documented studied risk factors for completed suicide, being a man is an independent risk for actually completing suicide.
Dr. Madsen: Not attempting suicide, women are more often to attempt, but men are more often to actually go through with it, and are much more likely to use violent means like guns, and stabbings, hangings, those things. And when they do it, they finish the job. So again, being a man put's you at risk there, especially a single male. We find single males often who have gone through a divorce recently, or personal issues. It's one of those things where I think it is preventable if you recognize it and get help early.
Scot: Finally, the fifth boring thing that affects men's health?
Dr. Madsen: The fifth boring thing is a lot of men just don't want to see their doctor. It's not at all uncommon. We'll see men probably more likely than women come in the E.R. with an advanced appendicitis, maybe where things have gotten to the point where their appendix has actually burst, or advanced gall bladder disease, things that they put off, again, just not wanting maybe to see someone for it or just assuming it will go away. I think our mentality is often times we really don't want to get help. I'm as guilty of that as anyone. I'm a doctor and I hate seeing doctors. So, I think a lot of us kind of have that feeling.
And then there's the preventive care too. Certainly, if you're over 50 getting a colonoscopy, a lot of men don't want to do that, and it's just awful when we see cases in the E.R. where someone comes in with some vague symptoms. We get a CT scan, we see metastatic cancer all over the place, stage four cancer, just a horrible thing to see and to diagnose. That is something that, depending where that cancer started, could have been prevented with say a colonoscopy.
So, these things all might be boring, they're not groundbreaking, they're not Earth shattering, but in my experience in the E.R. these are the big things I find in men that could potentially prevent an E.R. visit and keep men healthy.
Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation and medicine. This is The Scope University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.