The way men approach their overall health may contribute to the fact that certain preventable and treatable health concerns lead to more deaths in men than women. Men are more likely than women to:
Make risky decisions
Make unhealthy choices
Consume alcohol and use tobacco products
Delay or put off getting regular checkups and/or medical care
Below, we discuss some of the most common health concerns among men and how to prevent them or catch them early on to get appropriate treatment.
Cardiovascular disease is the most important health issue affecting men in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among men in the US, and the American Heart Association tells us that more than one in every three men has some form of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease includes a wide range of complications involving the blood vessels (veins and arteries), like atherosclerosis, which can lead to coronary events like a heart attack or stroke.
Being physically active and eating a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits can help reduce one’s risk of developing heart disease.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and is the second deadliest cancer among men. All men are at risk of developing the disease, as the most important risk factor is age. However, men with a family history of prostate cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease.
All men should be regularly examined for signs of prostate cancer, even if they do not have any symptoms. But the age at which annual screenings should begin depends on each individual’s risk. For example, men with a family history (a brother or father who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer) should begin regular screenings at age 40.
A study published in Diabetologia shows that men are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women. The study found that men develop type 2 diabetes at a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to women. BMI is a ratio that compares a person’s weight to their height to get an approximation of their total body fat. A higher than average BMI is a risk factor for many conditions, including diabetes.
Eating a well-rounded diet rich in vegetables and fruits, along with having a consistent exercise program can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Depression and Suicidal Thoughts
Although women are almost twice as likely to develop depression, nearly 3.5 times more men die by suicide. Doctors and researchers think this is because men, in general, are less likely than women to talk about their feelings or seek help for depression. Depressive symptoms can also be different in men—manifesting as anger and irritability instead of feelings of sadness—which can make it more difficult for family and friends to notice signs of depression in men.
Most people respond well to treatments for depression: talk therapy, antidepressant medications, or a combination of the two. People who get treatment for depression early on are more likely to find relief from depressive symptoms and are less likely to relapse.
Two lifestyle behaviors place men at a higher risk of developing liver disease: More men use tobacco products than women, and men are more likely to consume excessive amounts of alcohol compared to women. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing certain conditions of the liver, like liver cancer and cirrhosis. Heavy tobacco use (at least two packs a day for 10 years or more) has also been linked to liver damage.
Limiting or quitting tobacco and alcohol use significantly decreases one’s risk of developing liver disease.
Within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract lives a community of microorganisms called the gut microbiome, also called the gut flora and gut microbiota. The gut microbiome not only plays a crucial role in digestion and metabolism, but forms part of an important relationship between the gut and the rest of the body.
The Gut Microbiome Helps Regulate Mood
The gut microbiota interacts with certain cells and neurons (nerve cells) within the gut to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters (chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells), including serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. Scientists estimate that as much as 90 percent of serotonin is produced in the gut. Serotonin is well-known for its effect on happiness, feelings of well-being, and even regulating anxiety.
The gut microbiota communicates with the gut-brain axis (a communication network between the enteric nervous system found in the GI tract and the central nervous system), forming a relationship between the emotional and cognitive functions of the brain with the intestines. For example, scientists have linked a specific bacteria in the gut, called Campylobacter jejuni, to the onset of symptoms of anxiety.
The Gut Flora Maintains a Healthy Immune System
Researchers have discovered that roughly 70 percent of the body’s immune system and 80 percent of plasma cells (a type of immune cell) lies within the GI tract. The gut microbiota and the gastrointestinal immune system interact and have a beneficial relationship: the gastrointestinal immune system helps promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and maintain a balance among the various microorganisms of the gut flora, while the gut microbiota supports the development of immune cells.
The Gut Microbiota Protects the Brain
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology observed the effects of gut microbiota on memory formation in mice. Researchers conducted memory tests, like object recognition and maze completion. Some mice were bred with gut flora and some mice were bred with no gut flora (germ-free). When none of the mice were placed under stress, results showed that germ-free mice had problems with memory, while mice with gut flora did not. This suggests that the gut microbiome may affect memory formation.
How Can You Maintain or Improve Gut Health?
The key to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is to ensure diversity and balance between beneficial bacteria and potentially harmful bacteria. Some ways in which people can do this include:
Eating foods rich in prebiotics: Prebiotics are plant fibers found in vegetables and whole grains. Beneficial bacteria grow by fermenting prebiotics in the large intestine.
Eating foods rich in probiotics: Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are found inside the gut and also in supplements and certain foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso.
Eliminating processed foods: Processed foods can negatively affect the gut flora, leading to inflammation in the intestines and interrupting the proper interaction between the gut microbiota and the gut-brain axis.
Finding ways to manage and reduce stress: Stress can cause gut flora to become imbalanced and even less diverse.
Loss of bone mass is a common occurrence of aging. Around the age of 40, the body starts to lose bone density and the risk of developing osteoporosis increases. Osteoporosis occurs when enough bone mass has been lost, that the bones become fragile and can be easily fractured from falls or even minor bumps.
Bones are often seen as merely a structural necessity, but they are important for numerous functions in the body, including:
-Protection of vital organs
-Production of blood cells
-Storage of important minerals
-Storage of energy sources
As we age, loss of bone mass not only increases the risk of fractures, it affects the bones’ ability to properly carry out their functions. It is estimated that, worldwide, one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
But osteoporosis does not have to be a burden of aging. There are steps people can take to slow the rate of bone loss, maintain healthy bones, and prevent osteoporosis.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet Rich in Whole Foods
Eating a varied and well-balanced diet is a critical step in the prevention and management of osteoporosis. A diet rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals helps the body perform all of its functions properly, including bone formation.
Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients in maintaining bone health. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in the body is found in the bones, while vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium. Calcium is found in dairy products, leafy greens, legumes, and dried fruit while vitamin D can be found in foods like mushrooms and fish. However, many people choose to get their daily intake of calcium and vitamin D from supplements.
Protein is a nutrient that preserves bone mass. It is found in animal sources like fish and dairy products. Protein can also be consumed from plant sources like lentils, grains, and nuts.
Nutrients found in plants have been shown to support bone density in both men and women. Fruits, vegetables, and grains provide the body with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and
micronutrients that are necessary for bone tissue renewal, including vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin K, magnesium, and zinc.
Do Daily Weight-bearing Exercises
Like muscles, bones also become stronger when exercised correctly. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the best types of activities for strengthening the bones. Exercise also helps to strengthen the muscles and maintain or improve coordination and balance, which can help prevent falls and broken bones.
Examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, climbing stairs, and dancing. Examples of resistance exercises include push-ups, squats, and lifting weights. Exercises like running and jumping are not necessary and may put added stress on already fragile bones.
Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Consumption
Researchers have found that drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and taking certain medications could increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. These lifestyle factors or modifiable factors can interfere with the normal function of mitochondria (a cellular structure that produces energy for the body). When mitochondrial function is compromised, it sends out a stress signal.
When this occurs in cells called macrophages (a type of immune cell that detect, consume, and digest foreign substances in the body, like pathogens), they turn into osteoclasts (a type of cell that absorbs bone tissue). This stress response can lead to an overproduction of osteoclasts and therefore an acceleration of bone loss.
Consider Bone-Forming Medications
In some cases, metabolic conditions can affect the rate at which a person’s body loses bone density. For these individuals, or for people who have advanced bone density loss, doctors may recommend bone-forming medications.
Hormone therapy may also be a viable treatment option for both men and women. As men age, testosterone levels drop and may contribute to osteoporosis. Women are more susceptible to bone loss after menopause due to a sudden drop in estrogen.
Allergy immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment that can provide long-term relief from allergies for both children and adults. Although immunotherapy was first used to treat a pollen allergy in 1911, it is now widely used to treat a variety of allergic complications, such as asthma.
An allergic reaction occurs when the body identifies a substance as harmful and causes an immune response. People can have an allergic reaction to all kinds of things, including food, insect stings, pollen, and certain medications. The substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Allergens can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as sneezing or itchy and watery eyes. In some cases, allergens can cause life-threatening symptoms such as asthma or swelling of the throat, threatening the patient’s ability to breathe.
Who Might Consider Getting Allergy Immunotherapy Treatment?
Traditionally, allergy medications are used to treat symptoms of allergies. But these medications stop working once the individual stops taking them. Allergy immunotherapy can offer long-lasting results, even after the last dose.
Allergy immunotherapy may be a good treatment option for patients who:
-Do not find relief from allergy medications
-Have adverse reactions from taking allergy medications with other necessary medications
-Have a life-threatening allergy such as insect stings
-Wish to stop taking long-term allergy medications
How Does Allergy Immunotherapy Treatment Work?
Allergy immunotherapy works by introducing a small amount of the allergen (the substance that causes an allergic reaction) into the body over a few years to build up a resistance and eliminate symptoms.
How Is Allergy Immunotherapy Administered?
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT)
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), also called injections or shots, are the most common method of administering allergy immunotherapy. Subcutaneous means “under the skin.”
SCIT works by injecting a small amount of the allergen under the patient’s skin. This is done initially once a week for a few months, then once every two weeks, and eventually once every four weeks until the end of treatment. Treatment may last three to five years for the patient to develop long-term immunity to the allergen. An added benefit of SCIT is that it may help prevent the development of new allergies in patients.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)
For individuals who prefer to receive treatment without injections, there is an oral treatment option called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Sublingual means “under the tongue.” SLIT is administered using tablets. The patient places a tablet containing a small amount of the allergen under the tongue and keeps it there for a few minutes before swallowing it. Tablets help patients build resistance to the effects of the allergen, therefore reducing and hopefully eliminating symptoms. SLIT is repeated at least three days a week for three to five years for the patient to develop long-term immunity to the allergen.
Drops can also be used for SLIT. However, in the US, this method is currently considered an off-label treatment, meaning that it is not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an effective treatment for allergies.
Sublingual immunotherapy only helps patients achieve symptom relief from one type of allergen and, unlike injections, does not prevent the development of new allergies.
The Future of Allergy Immunotherapy
Allergy immunotherapy is currently not indicated for use in children with life-threatening food allergies, although researchers are working on developing a safe and effective treatment method. Today, allergy immunotherapy for food-allergies is administered in a research setting, where children are under constant supervision.
A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice assessed the safety of oral immunotherapy administered in a hospital or clinical setting in 270 children aged 9 months to five years old with a peanut allergy. During the study, 68 percent of children experienced an allergic reaction that was mild or moderate. Less than half of a percent of children in the study experienced a severe allergic reaction. Although severe reactions can occur in a small portion of patients, 90 percent of children reached the maintenance stage of treatment, demonstrating that immunotherapy may be a safe treatment option for young children with peanut allergies.
Feeling tired now and again is normal. But feeling tired constantly while also feeling unmotivated and unable to concentrate could indicate fatigue. When someone feels low energy for a prolonged amount of time, or “tired all the time,” they are most likely fatigued. When symptoms of fatigue last for six months or longer, this is referred to as chronic fatigue. It is estimated that one in eight adults aged 18 and older has chronic fatigue.
Fatigue can be caused by certain medical conditions. But what causes fatigue when a medical condition is not to blame?
Perceived stress (the level of stress an individual feels) is associated with fatigue. More specifically, higher stress levels correlate with a greater sense of fatigue. Stress associated with fatigue can be emotional, psychological, or physical. Adrenal fatigue is a common explanation for fatigue caused by chronic stress. However, there is some controversy among the medical field as to whether adrenal fatigue is a legitimate diagnosis.
Managing stress is an important part of managing fatigue. Exercise, relaxation techniques, and participating in fun activities can help relieve stress.
Vitamin and/or Mineral Deficiency
When the body is deficient in vitamins or minerals, it’s unable to properly perform all of its functions. Deficiencies occur when the body is unable to absorb or breakdown certain vitamins or minerals. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies associated with fatigue include:
Long-term vitamin and mineral deficiency can lead to health complications more serious than fatigue, like bone brittleness and neurological disorders, if left untreated. If you’ve been experiencing low energy or fatigue, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Diets high in trans-fat and saturated fat could contribute to low energy. A study published in 2016 in the journal Nutrients shows that a high-fat diet is associated with daytime sleepiness. Moreover, processed foods and foods high in added sugars can lead to a sudden drop in blood sugar and therefore energy levels. This is because, at first these foods provide a boost of energy due to a rapid rise in blood sugar. But they can also lead to a rapid decline in blood sugar just as quickly.
A well-balanced diet that includes protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help maintain consistent energy levels. Avoid trend diets that offer health benefits by cutting out an entire food group. Individuals considering a diet to lose weight should consider working with a registered dietician to avoid vitamin and/or mineral deficiency.
Have You Been Feeling Tired Lately?
Many factors can contribute to fatigue. If you’ve been feeling excessively tired, unmotivated, and have noticed a change in your general mood, make an appointment to see your doctor. It’s important to diagnose the cause of fatigue as soon as possible. Fatigue can be caused by an undiagnosed medical condition. In this case, an early diagnosis can help prevent further health complications from developing.
Normal blood pressure is crucial to maintaining optimal cardiovascular and circulatory health. Blood pressure is responsible for delivering blood throughout the body and returning it to the heart. This happens through a system of blood vessels called veins, arteries, and capillaries.
How Does Blood Pressure Work?
Each time the heart beats, it sends blood to every tissue and organ of the body via arteries. Blood returns to the heart through the veins, when a collaborative effort of the skeletal muscles squeezes the veins and pumps blood back into the heart.
What Are the Functions of Blood Pressure?
The primary function of blood pressure is to move blood around the body through the circulatory system. Our blood is full of oxygen and nutrients that feed the body’s tissues and organs. Blood pressure also transports immune cells, called white blood cells, to areas of the body in need.
In addition to acting as a delivery service, blood pressure also functions as a purifier — when fresh blood is carried away from the heart, it can pick up waste products and toxins from the body’s tissues and organs.
How to Check Blood Pressure and What do Readings Mean
Blood pressure is measured by using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer or a blood pressure monitor. A sphygmomanometer has an inflatable cuff that is placed around the arm.
A blood pressure reading has two numbers: one on top of the other (for example 120/80). The top number is called the systolic pressure reading and is the pressure exerted from the heart when it pumps through the arteries. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure reading and is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting in between beats.
What Happens When Blood Pressure is Too High or Too Low?
For blood pressure to perform its functions properly, it must be within a certain range. Sometimes, blood pressure can be too high or too low. This can place stress on the heart and even the brain.
The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure levels as systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80. Lower blood pressure is typically seen as healthier, but when blood pressure dips too low, one can experience symptoms such as:
-Inability to concentrate
There is no defined range for low blood pressure, but rather blood pressure is said to be too low when these symptoms outlined by the American Heart Association present themselves. When blood pressure is too low, this can deprive your body of much-needed oxygen.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as a systolic read greater than 130 and/or a diastolic reading greater than 80. When blood pressure is too high, it places stress on the arteries and therefore on the circulatory system. Down the road, consistently high blood pressure can lead to heart, brain, and kidney damage.
How to Maintain a Normal Blood Pressure Range
There are many steps you can take to maintaining blood pressure within a normal range, including:
-Eat a well-rounded diet
-Limit consumption of alcohol
-Maintain a healthy weight
-Find healthy ways to manage stress
-In some cases, medications may be necessary
To understand your normal blood pressure range, regularly get your blood pressure checked with your doctor. Regular blood pressure checks allow your doctor to keep a history of blood pressure readings. This makes it easier to identify an upward or a downward trend and possibly prevent any associated health complications.
Summit Health owner, Vince Canzanese, RPh, was recently recognized in the August 2019 issue of Apothagram for writing a petition to ensure that patients with BH4 deficiency continue receiving the compounded medications they need. You can read more about his work here, or keep an eye out for the latest issue of Apothagram.
The thyroid is one of many glands that form the endocrine system. It is found in front of the neck just above the base of the throat. The thyroid produces and regulates specific hormones involved in several functions in the body, including:
-The menstrual cycle
When the thyroid is not functioning properly, it influences all of the aforementioned processes and more. Both people who have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and people looking for ways to prevent or delay thyroid issues can take certain steps to optimize thyroid health.
1. Manage stress
Stress affects everyone at one point or another and can have a significant impact on one’s health and immune system. Although stress may not directly cause thyroid disease, it has been shown to make thyroid conditions worse. When the body is under stress, it produces hormones called glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids lower thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH) levels. Stress can also slow thyroid activity and interfere with the conversion of T4 hormone to T3.
A study published in 2015 in Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences observed the effects of daily exercise on male patients diagnosed with and undergoing treatment for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Participants were split into two groups: group one exercised for one hour, every day, for three months, while group two did no exercise. The levels of certain hormones (T3, T4, and TSH) were measured before the start of the trial and three months later. At the end of three months, researchers observed notable improvements in hormone levels in participants who exercised daily. Researchers concluded that all patients diagnosed with hypothyroidism should exercise regularly in addition to their hormone replacement treatment therapy.
3. Take steps toward maintaining a healthy gut
Certain thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT) and Graves’ disease are associated with specific changes in the gut. Moreover, individuals diagnosed with diseases of the gut, like ulcerative colitis, may be at a higher risk of developing certain thyroid disorders, like thyroid cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disorder, it’s important to follow all treatment instructions as directed by your doctor in order to reduce the risk of or prevent further health complications.
4. Find the root cause of the thyroid issue
There are a number of things that can affect the proper function of the thyroid gland. In order to understand what actions to take to maintain proper thyroid health, It’s important to know the root cause of any thyroid issue. For example, studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D may cause autoimmune thyroid disease. Moreover, a study published in 2015 in the Hellenic Journal of Nuclear Medicine showed that vitamin D supplementation could play a role in treating individuals diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease). If you’ve been working with an endocrinologist to treat a thyroid issue, and are looking to find more answers, consider working with a functional medicine practitioner and a pharmacy that specializes in functional medicine. In addition to testing the levels of certain hormones produced by the thyroid, a functional medicine practitioner will also look at vitamin and mineral deficiencies and food allergies.
Migraines affect more than 39 million people in the US, including children, and are considered the third most common illness worldwide. Some people may only experience a migraine once or twice a month, but those who suffer from chronic migraines can have an attack 15 or more days per month. Migraines are more serious than headaches, as they are part of a neurological disorder that causes debilitating symptoms.
The underlying cause of migraines varies from person to person and can be complex. Directly addressing contributors of migraines can reduce and possibly even eliminate migraine attacks. Some of the most common contributors to the development of migraines are discussed in this article.
It is estimated that roughly 32 million people in the US suffer from food allergies, including children. This has led researchers to wonder whether food sensitivities, such as allergies or intolerances, could possibly trigger migraines. As of now, the relationship between food sensitivities and migraines is not fully understood. However, there are a few studies that suggest that by eliminating possible trigger foods, the incidence of migraine attacks can be reduced.
For example, a study published in 2010 tested for allergen antibodies associated with 108 foods in 56 patients. Subjects were randomly chosen to consume either an elimination diet (that excluded foods to which they showed an allergic response) or a challenge diet (to which they continued eating foods to which they showed an allergic response. Participants were not told whether their diet was an elimination or a challenge diet. Throughout the diet, study participants were asked to record their migraines (number, intensity, and duration). The results of this study showed that subjects who ate an elimination diet significantly reduced the frequency of migraines, without the need for medication, compared to subjects who ate a challenge diet.
Scientists know that stress is a trigger for migraines. They also know that “coming down” from stress can also trigger migraines. Moreover, migraines can cause stress, which can then trigger subsequent headaches. Many types of stress can trigger migraines, including anxiety, tension, and excitement. Moreover, the stressful event can occur two or three days before the migraine occurs.
To determine whether stress is triggering migraines, consider keeping a journal of stress levels, stressful events, and migraine attacks. This will help to identify any correlation between the two.
Vitamin and/or Mineral Deficiencies
There is a strong correlation between vitamin and mineral deficiencies and migraines. A study presented at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society revealed that a significant portion of children, adolescents, and young adults who suffer from migraines are deficient in certain vitamins, including Vitamin D, Riboflavin (vitamin B2), CoEnzyme Q10, and folate. This has led researchers to question whether vitamin supplementation could benefit these patients.
Additionally, it is estimated that up to half of migraine sufferers are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is a thoroughly studied mineral in both its role in the development of and prevention of migraines and researchers suggest that those who suffer from migraines take magnesium to help them ward off migraines.
How to Identify Migraine Triggers
When trying to identify migraine triggers, consider making an appointment to work with a neurologist who specializes in headaches or a functional medicine practitioner. Functional medicine practitioners work with the patient to find the underlying cause of a condition.
CBD oil is the common name given to cannabidiol, a cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, including marijuana and hemp. Cannabis has been used medicinally around the world for centuries — as early as 2900 BC. Today, CBD is extracted from cannabis plants and added to oils, mixed into body creams and cosmetics, and incorporated into candies.
CBD is different from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main active component in marijuana. While THC is known to have psychoactive effects that make people feel high, like increased heart rate and slower reaction time, CBD does not cause a high or have any of these psychoactive effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Drug Enforcement Agency tell us that marijuana is addictive. But according to the World Health Organization, CBD does not elicit effects that indicate abuse or dependence, meaning that it does not show signs of being an addictive substance.
Scientists are conducting numerous research trials to explore and confirm the therapeutic effects of CBD. Currently, many individuals use CBD to treat a number of conditions, some of which are discussed below.
Moreover, scientists have discovered how CBD helps relieve pain. The body contains an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that has cannabinoid receptors that interact with CBD. The ECS is involved in regulating hormones in numerous systems of the body, including:
CBD interacts with the ECS to relieve symptoms associated with numerous conditions, including epilepsy, anxiety, and chronic inflammation.
Anxiety is a worldwide mental health issue — it’s the sixth largest contributor to global disability according to the World Health Organization. Anxiety is typically treated with prescription medications, but these oftentimes come with unwanted side effects, like nausea, weight gain, and reduced sexual desire. Moreover, some medications used to treat anxiety, like benzodiazepines, can be addictive. Multiple studies are showing that CBD reduces anxiety. A recent study published in 2019 in The Permanente Journal showed that CBD reduced anxiety and helped improve sleep in adults while being well tolerated.
Are There Any Side Effects Associated With CBD?
CBD is generally well-tolerated, but some people have experienced some side effects. So far, documented side effects associated with CBD include:
-Drowsiness and/or fatigue
CBD can also Interact with certain medications, including blood thinners. Before taking CBD, it’s important to consult with your doctor about the safety of CBD and to avoid any unwanted interactions with your current medications.