We all have a good deal of control over our long-term health. However, certain biological and behavioral factors unique to men put them at greater risk for certain health problems.
Let’s take a look at three of the common health concerns many men face today—and how they can minimize their risk.
1. Declining Testosterone
Men’s testosterone production peaks during their late teen years and remains high throughout their 20s and early 30s. From there, though, changes in production can vary.
Many men experience a slow, gradual decline in testosterone levels starting in their late 30s or 40s. (On average, men produce about one percent less testosterone each year in their 40s and beyond.) The decline can be so slight and gradual that men don’t notice it for a decade or two—or sometimes even longer.
According to Harvard Medical School, “testosterone levels remain within the normal range in at least 75 percent of older men.” However, certain lifestyle factors (like alcohol consumption and diet) can speed up the process.
For many men, declining testosterone levels can contribute to fatigue, low mood, lack of sex drive, and muscle loss.
In many cases, though, men can largely avoid plummeting hormone levels.
Supporting Healthy Testosterone
So what can men do hold onto as much testosterone as possible throughout the years? Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and staying on top of underlying health problems (like cardiovascular disease, depression, opioid use, and liver issues) are all essential.
Strength training, in particular, can also help to preserve muscle mass and strength—and support testosterone production. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important for minimizing declines in testosterone levels.
Just note that certain uncontrollable factors, like genetics and trauma to the testes, can also impact testosterone function.
2. Mental Health Issues
Research published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience suggests that women suffer from depression and anxiety more often than men. However, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, more men than women die from suicide each year.
Why the discrepancy? Men report that, because of social stigma, they’re less likely to seek professional mental help when severely depressed.
Unsurprisingly, delaying treatment for mental health issues further contributes to depression, which potentially increases men’s risk of suicide.
Changing The Conversation About Mental Health
Some evidence suggests testosterone may be partially responsible for some men’s behaviors—and their effect on mental health. However, this certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.
Men’s social environment and conditioning play major roles in their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. I believe that it’s these factors that make men less likely to seek help for mental health concerns. Ultimately, fostering more open conversation about mental health—and eliminating the stigmas surrounding it (especially amongst men) is crucial.
3. Chronic Disease
A good deal of research shows that men tend to live shorter lives than women. (About five years shorter, specifically.) While about 43 percent of adults over age 65 are men, only 33 percent of adults over age 85 are men.
A number of factors help explain why men tend to live shorter lives than their female counterparts:
- As mentioned above, men may be less likely to seek medical treatment.
- Men are less likely to reach out and rely on social support from family and friends during times of stress and despair. This can lead to social isolation and loneliness—especially in their later years.
- Men are more likely to have physically-demanding jobs and hobbies that may lead to injury (like motorcycle riding and biking).
- Men tend to have larger bodies than women, especially when overweight. As a result, they experience more oxidative stress, which has been linked to accelerated aging and earlier death.
Another major factor: chronic disease. In fact, men tend to die of heart disease more often—and at a younger age—than women.
Fighting Chronic Disease
The good news here: Individual lifestyle choices play a huge role in longevity and chronic disease risk. Men (and women) have control over whether they smoke, exercise regularly, drink alcohol in excess, and eat a healthy diet. All of these factors impact health and longevity.
References & Further Reading
- Harvard Medical School: “Testosterone, Aging, and the Mind”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Low Testosterone (Male Hypogonadism)”
- Urology Care Foundation: “What Is Low Testosterone?”
- World Journal of Clinical Cases: “Review of Health Risks of Low Testosterone And Testosterone Administration”
- Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience: “Why Is Depressions More Prevalent In Women?”
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Suicide Statistics
- Psychology Today: “Men’s Mental Health: A Silent Crisis”
- Psychology Today: “Male Aggression”
- Harvard Medical School: “Why Men Often Die Earlier Than Women”
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Oxidative Stress in Obesity: A Critical Component in Human Disease”
- CDC: Heart Disease Facts and Statistics
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.