If you watch any television these days, you can hardly avoid ads promoting lifestyle pharmaceuticals for men. Whatever stands in the way of our vision of gracefully aging as men, be it sexual dysfunction or low testosterone (LowT), there's a prescription for it.
Truth is – there is science behind, and side effects to, the perceived needs of these medications. Erectile dysfunction can be a pre-cursor to heart disease. There's a reason the ads mention the condition could be an issue of decreased blood flow. Not that there isn't a place for this treatment, but with testosterone, replacement therapy, there is an increased risk of heart attack-perhaps double the risk for men with existing cardiovascular issues, according to a study conducted by a research team that included experts from Consolidated Research, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Research dollars into lifestyle medications has increased, while those looking into more mundane "core" issues has not. Research funding of women's health issues tops men's, even though women tend to live longer than their male counterparts.
Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death and are the victims of over 92 percent of workplace deaths. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Why are men at higher risk?
• More men lack healthcare coverage compared with women.
• Men make only half as many preventative medical physician visits as women.
• More men are employed in the most dangerous occupations, such as mining, fire fighting, construction, and fishing.
• Men may have less healthy, more risky lifestyles, particularly at younger ages.
• Society does not emphasize healthy behaviors in men and boys.
What are the core issues? They vary according to age, but from 18 years on, men should keep an eye on:
PSA - (prostate-specific antigen) is a substance produced by the prostate cells. High levels of PSA may be a sign of prostate cancer or a noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia. If your PSA levels are elevated, your doctor will do other tests to find out what is causing the elevated PSA levels.
High Blood Sugar - Having high blood sugar levels means you have too much of a certain sugar in your blood, which may indicate diabetes. Your body uses blood sugar, or glucose, for energy. But when glucose levels are too high, health problems may occur.
Blood Pressure - Temporary elevations in blood pressure caused by fright or exercise are normal and do not harm the body. But sustained high blood pressure can have a long-term effect on important body organs. Over time, high blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. It is important to detect and treat hypertension early.
Cholesterol - Elevated levels are one of the main causes of coronary heart disease, so it is important to have your cholesterol checked at regular intervals. How often you should have your cholesterol levels checked depends on your specific risk factors for heart disease, so ask your doctor what your risk factors are and how often you should be tested.
Finally, a word about LowT - or hypogonadism. It's not just reduced sex drive and sexual dysfunction associated with low testosterone, but also depression and decreased bone strength, muscle mass and strength. Given the research on the side effects, I've prescribed this for some patients, but have taken others off this therapy when risks outweigh the gains.
Clearly, the best decision you can make as a man, is to care for yourself. Despite cultural imagery that would have us believe we are indestructible, the fact is – we're not. Healthy behaviors, such as diet and exercise, along with recommended physician visits and tests centered on your age and lifestyle will help improve your health.
Dr. Klosener is with Advanced Family Care on the St. Mary's Medical Center campus. He can be reached at 816-988-9998.