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The average life expectancy  for men in the United States is 76 years old, five years less than for women. Why is this?

There is a joke about a man who goes to the doctor because of problems with his vision. “I see spots,” he tells the receptionist. She queries, “Have you ever seen a doctor?” “No,” he responds, just the spots.” While this may evoke a chuckle, it also hits close to home. According to the CDC, women are 100% more likely to engage in annual physicals and health screenings. Additional reasons for the mortality discrepancies include: men, in general, tend to take bigger risks, are more likely to have dangerous jobs, are less socially connected (loneliness is as hazardous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day), die of heart disease more frequently and at younger ages and die by suicide more often than women.

·       Read Mental Health Awareness Month: Confronting Suicide in the Military

What is taking men’s lives? The Center for Disease Control reports that the top eight leading causes of death for males in the United States are:

1)    Heart disease

2)    Cancer

3)    Unintentional injuries

4)    Chronic lower respiratory diseases

5)    Stroke

6)    Diabetes

7)    Alzheimer’s disease

8)    Suicide

According to the Cleveland Clinic, spouses and significant others are often in charge of getting men to take their health seriously[1]. In fact, 83% of women who live with a male partner encouraged their partner to get their health checked once a year. However, 30% of men believe they don’t need to go to the doctor because they are healthy.

The survey also found that:

-        61% of men have neglected visiting a doctor even when they need care

-        47% of men under the age of 35 do not regularly do testicular self-exams

-        56% of men prefer to keep health concerns to themselves

-        41% of men would not discuss painful erections or erectile dysfunction with their partner

As men get older, being involved in their health becomes even more of a priority. Regularly paying attention to healthy living can pay off for men by staying healthier for longer.

Fortunately, there are many actions men can take to enhance their health and live longer. And, because it is Men’s Health Month, we wanted to explore the top eight causes of death among men, as well as what can be done to stop or limit early mortality.

 

#1 Heart disease

When it comes to heart disease, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that it is the number one killer of men (and women) in the United States. The good news is that a significant proportion of cardiovascular illness can be prevented or lessened.

What’s going on

Coronary artery disease develops when the arteries supplying blood to the heart become hardened or narrowed, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the heart. This can result in a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack can include chest pain as well as lesser- known physical manifestations such as shortness of breath, jaw or neck pain, unexplained fatigue and nausea or cold sweats.

What to do

According to the CDC, men usually develop heart disease 7-10 years earlier than women[2]. It is vital that males of all ages take steps to cultivate a healthier heart. The top three ways to prevent heart disease are:

·       Keep your cholesterol in check: As previously discussed, men are much less likely to visit their doctor. And yet, maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol is imperative. Getting regularly tested for cholesterol and determining a treatment plan with your healthcare provider can help stop preventable health problems.

·       Control your blood pressure by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Stress management, such as meditation, is also a great way to lower blood pressure.

·       Quit smoking and keep alcohol consumption to a moderate level, as both can contribute to high blood pressure.

o   Read Critical Care Insurance: What you Need to Know.

 

#2 Cancer

Cancer accounts for almost 22% of all deaths for men[3].

What’s going on

The top three cancers in men are:

1)    Prostate

2)    Lung

3)    Colorectal

However, lung cancer is the most fatal, causing 22% of all cancer deaths in men.

What to do

When it comes to lung cancer, the majority of those who develop this malignancy smoke. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke or quit smoking. In fact, a New England Journal of Medicine study found those who quit before age 40 reduced their risk of death from smoking by 90 percent.

When it comes to prostate and colorectal cancer, early detection is key. That means it is vital that you have regular checkups with your primary care provider to get screened and tested.

·       Read Cancer Insurance-What you Need to Know to find out if cancer insurance might be right for you.

 

#3 Unintentional injuries

Accidents are the leading cause of death in men until they are 45 years old.

What’s going on

When it comes to death by unintentional injuries, the biggest culprits are motor vehicle accidents and drug overdoses. What’s more, men are almost 50% more likely to die from a fall as compared to women.

What to do

The easiest way to prevent death by car accident is to be alert while driving. That means not drinking and driving (use ride sharing services liberally), as well as making sure you are well-rested and staying off your phone. According to AAA, “research shows that getting less than five hours sleep is the same as driving drunk.” Distracted driving caused by texting or being on the phone can also be deadly.

Drug overdoses can be prevented by not abusing drugs. Drug abuse tends to be related to depression, anxiety and stress, so take steps to address your mental well-being. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.

·       Read Our Accident Insurance blog to learn more about how this voluntary benefit may be a good choice for you or your employees.

 

#4 Chronic lower respiratory diseases

Chronic lower respiratory disease includes lung conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (often called COPD).

What’s going on

These disease processes result in reduced airflow, impairing breathing and preventing a healthy amount of oxygen from being delivered throughout the body. The major culprits causing lung issues are smoke, air pollution and chemicals.

What to do

If you smoke, stop immediately. And stay away from second-hand smoke, which can also contribute to lung diseases.

Living in an environment without air pollution is ideal, but if you cannot, consider using an air purifier to help your lungs. Chemicals that can cause problems with your lungs include those with volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). VOC’s can be found in many substances associated with industrial labor, such as exhaust from vehicles, paint and construction materials. Increase ventilation or wear a mask if you are exposed to VOC’s.

 

#5 Stroke

A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident, occurs when there is an interruption to the blood flow in the brain.

What’s going on

A stroke is caused by a blood clot or rupturing of a blood vessel. The symptoms depend on where the stoke takes place in the brain and can include slurred speech, numbness or paralysis on one side and severe headaches. Risk factors include genetics, excessive body fat, diabetes, and smoking.

What to do

The best thing you can do to prevent stroke is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, refrain from smoking and eat a healthy diet. Also, because early intervention is vital, know the symptoms of a stroke. Facial droop, difficulties moving an arm or leg and problems with speech can be indicators that something is wrong. If you or a loved one experiences any of these, call 911 immediately.

 

#6 Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition where the body has problems with insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose (or blood sugar).

What’s going on

When blood sugars are not properly regulated, organs can be damaged and ultimately fail to function. Symptoms can include excessive urination and thirst.

There are two types of diabetes.

1)    Type 1 is believed to be caused by auto-immune factors. The body has a deficiency of insulin.

2)    Type 2 the body has an inability to use insulin. Over 95% of people with diabetes have type 2. The biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes are obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure.

What to do

If you have diabetes, be fastidious about checking your blood sugar levels. Given the high-risk factors, the best way to prevent type 2 diabetes is to exercise, eat a healthful diet, maintain a healthy weight, and address any elevation in blood pressure. Because high blood sugars can often go undetected, if you have any of the risk factors, it is important that you get a blood screening from your healthcare provider.

 

#7 Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease of the brain that results in decreased cognitive functioning.

What’s going on

Alzheimer’s disease destroys the connections among nerve cells in the brain, causing problems in thinking (such as dementia) and eventually moving (such as the ability to feed oneself and swallow). Symptoms can include memory loss, problems planning and solving problems and confusion.

The disease itself does not cause death but the complications from declines in brain functioning (such as infections) can be lethal. Risk factors for developing this disorder include age, genetics and ailments that can cause cardiovascular damage such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

What to do

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, early diagnosis can allow for prompt use of approved medications to help with cognitive decline. What’s more, addressing modifiable risk factors may help. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, exercise, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help stop Alzheimer’s before it starts.  Engaging in mental exercises, such as doing puzzles, crosswords or playing chess, can also help combat early stages of dementia. 

 

#8 Suicide

Men die from suicide 3.5 times more than women because of their increased likelihood to use more fatal means, such as firearms.

What’s going on

Depression is a significant risk factor for suicide. And, for many men, depression often goes undiagnosed. They may deny or suppress classic symptoms of depression, such as intense sadness or not enjoying activities they used to enjoy. Common symptoms of depression for men (that often go undiagnosed) include: physical pain (especially in the back and/or headaches), sexual problems, problems sleeping, anger, substance abuse and reckless behavior.

More than depression, the biggest predictor of suicide is hopelessness or the belief that things will never get better.

What to do

If you are having any thoughts at all about hurting yourself or ending your life, please seek help immediately. You do not have to go through this alone. Reaching out for assistance can take a lot of strength and courage. In addition to 911, there are numerous resources including the 24/7 Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.

Stress

Regardless of the ailment, it is important to remember that stress plays an integral role in illness. In fact, research demonstrates that stress causes or worsens over 90% of all illness.

Financial stress

Part of men taking care of themselves is investing in their financial health. According to Men’s Health, financial stress can predispose a person to heart disease due to the chronic 24/7 anxiety it can cause[4].

Being constantly stressed about money means the heart is trying to pump against the elevated pressure, which can lead to heart attacks, angina, and congestive heart failure.

Credit Sesame found that 82% of men who experience credit card debit feel stress, 40% feel shame, and 25% have cried about their financial stressors[5].

Combating money stress

Short of winning the lottery, it is unlikely money stress is going to go away overnight, but there are steps men can take to help get financial stress under control. One of the most important is insurance, which should be part of any financial plan. Being prepared for the unexpected is not only smart financially but helps lower stress levels.

Having the right insurance means men can protect their loved ones if they are injured, become sick, disabled, or die.

At Combined Insurance, we offer several supplemental insurances that are designed to protect finances, including:

-        Supplemental Health Insurance which helps fill any financial gaps that may exist in major medical coverage.

-        Accident Insurance which pays cash benefits when you are injured and require medical care.

-        Disability Insurance which pays directly to you when you are disabled and can’t work.

-        Life Insurance which provides financial benefits when your family needs it the most.

Having any of these supplemental insurance policies allows you to be prepared for the unexpected and confident that you can weather any storm.

Go to CombinedInsurance.com to learn more about the insurance policies we offer.

Take control of your health so you can live a longer and healthier life. You -- and your loved ones -- deserve it! 

Policies contain exclusions and limitations. See policy for complete details for policy features, benefits, options, rates, definitions, & limitations and exclusions.

Policies underwritten by Combined Insurance Company of America (Chicago, IL) in all states, except New York. In New York, Critical Illness policies underwritten by Combined Life Insurance Company of New York (Latham, NY). Combined Insurance Company of America is not licensed and does not solicit business in New York.

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo is a Licensed Practicing Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Master's degree in Physical Therapy, and the authority on how to crush your inner critic so that you can live a life of purpose, fulfillment and True Success™. She’s America’s most trusted celebrity psychologist with over 100 national media interviews. She writes for Combined Insurance in an effort to help educate readers, but her medical opinions and advice are for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for visiting your doctor.

References

[1] https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2018/09/05/cleveland-clinic-survey-spouses-significant-others-play-an-influential-role-in-getting-men-to-take-their-health-seriously/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018605/

[3] https://www.verywellhealth.com/top-cancers-causing-death-in-men-2248874

[4] https://www.menshealth.com/health/a36489551/money-stress-heart-health/

[5] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/money-stress-body-brain-effects_l_5dc4948fe4b0fcfb7f637083