As we age, certain medical conditions become more prevalent. In some cases, the conditions that elderly men encounter are different from those in women but in other cases are the same. I In honor of Men’s Health Week, here’s a look at the five most common health concerns that aging men may have.
Cardiovascular disease is not just a men’s condition. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide in men and women. It is known as “atherosclerosis” which means “hardening of the arteries.” It’s caused by cholesterol plaques or deposits that form inside of the arteries.
These plaques can eventually grow large enough to close off blood supply to the heart, brain and in some cases, parts of the legs. Blocked arteries are treated with an angioplasty procedure in which a balloon is inserted through a tiny tube into the blood vessel and expanded to reopen the artery. In some cases a “stent” may be placed to hold the vessel open.
Sluggish blood flow around the plaque may clot or the plaque may become unstable or brittle and pieces may break off to travel to the heart, brain or lungs resulting in heart attack, stroke or pulmonary infarction. Any of these conditions may be fatal which is why atherosclerosis is best prevented if possible through healthy diet and exercise.
Diabetes is one of the biggest health threats to American adults of any age. Diabetes results in high blood sugar and is caused by dysfunction in the insulin system. Over time, high blood sugar may damage blood vessels and nerves and may result in blindness, kidney failure and amputations.
Obesity and poor eating habits may contribute to diabetes and the condition may increase the severity and risk of other disease including cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Treatment usually involves dietary modifications and medication.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, also affecting the prostate gland and occurring in 200,000 men each year. Prostate cancer is not caused by BPH but the condition may occur at the same time. Prostate cancer is diagnosed with a blood test. Some medical experts have advised against routine treatment as it is slow growing and not usually aggressive but in some cases it may be treated with surgery or chemotherapy.
Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy
The prostate is a small walnut-sized gland behind the penis. It is responsible for producing most of the fluid in semen. As men begin to age, the prostate may become enlarged in a condition known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or enlarged prostate. BPH has symptoms such as difficulty urinating, slow urine stream and frequent need to urinate, particularly at night. It may also cause erectile dysfunction (ED). BPH is often treated with medication or natural remedies such as Saw Palmetto.
Erectile dysfunction may be caused by prostate enlargement in some men. In other cases, erectile dysfunction may be caused by certain medications or it may be caused by vascular issues such as high blood pressure. Erectile dysfunction is not a health threat but may be a major psychological concern. Medications are available for ED but a full evaluation will be needed to determine the cause.
Elderly men may have other health conditions common in aging. These may include high blood pressure, arthritis, obstructive lung disease, depression and others. Any health concern should be reported to a healthcare practitioner so a treatment plan can be established as soon as possible.