Helping men optimize their health to achieve their ultimate life. Optimum Mens Health is an all-inclusive medical clinic just for men. We offer hormone replacement therapy, preventative care and primary care for men.
June is Men’s Health Month. Although, I imagine not many men know it. As a man, I can attest that our physical health can often take a backseat to our families, careers, hobbies, and vices. On average, men seek out far less preventive care than women do. Being that men are less in touch with their health, we are also less aware of the many challenges of modern life that become major men’s health concerns.
Despite the talk of living to 150 years, life expectancy for men has dropped multiple years in a row for the first time since WWI. I hope this acts as a wakeup call for men to take control of their health so they can live happier, healthier, and longer lives doing the things they love and being with the ones they love. So let’s discuss several important health concerns for men with a focus on preventive care.
The Modern Man’s Life
Men face unique challenges in modern times. We live in a strange time where we are exposed to so many new toxins, chemicals, materials, and substances, most of which are synthetic, manmade, and foreign to our bodies. We breathe them, touch them, and eat them. Our bodies simply do not know what to do with it all. Science is now at a place where it proves over and over that these men’s health concerns are very real and will undoubtedly affect every aspect of life to some degree in the future.
However, the modern lifestyle is more than passive exposure to chemicals and toxins. Just as important are the conscious decisions we make to be more sedentary and unhealthy. Most men work from sunrise to sunset sitting in an office. We do not move, we receive little to no sunlight, and eat whatever we can get our hands on. This lifestyle is a far cry from what humans, and men in particular, once were.
We have evolved to adapt to our environment and to work it. We have developed major muscle groups, neurochemical pathways, reflexes, and more in order to survive and thrive. Now, we are “suddenly” living completely different lives than our ancestors did. You only need to go back two or three generations to see a completely different lifestyle – one that is more in line with what our bodies were made to be. It’s not to say men had better lives then. Not at all. We have air conditioning, antibiotics, and comforts beyond their wildest dreams. However, they likely had better functioning physical bodies and more optimally balanced hormones. Now, if only we could combine the best of both worlds.
Most Common Men’s Health Concerns
I mention all of these differences in hopes that we wake up to our own bodies and health and what part we play in damaging our own health. You can find more on hormone imbalance in previous posts. To hear more about environmental factors and lifestyle factors that affect our health, stay tuned to future blog posts. Instead of diving deep into those issues in this post, I’d like to lay out some of the more important downstream men’s health concerns, how to check them, and where to begin to fix them. After all, we men love to fix problems.
More than 1 in 3 men have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Hypertension is most common in males in adults less than 45 years old. In 2010, 74.9% of bypass surgery patients were male. CVD certainly does have a genetic component; however, it is largely due to lifestyle. And even if you are genetically predisposed to CVD, lifestyle can actually prevent the turning on of those genes.
A few of the most common and most important ways to prevent CVD include eating a mostly plant-based diet, doing cardio-focused exercise, and stress reduction. At a routine wellness visit, it is important to monitor your blood pressure and have bloodwork done to check your cholesterol and blood sugar (A1C). A few new developments in medicine show us even more nuanced roles of certain markers in our bodies that directly predict CVD risk. One that we are increasingly paying attention to is homocysteine, which is an amino acid directly linked to CVD. It is usually caused by excessive meat consumption, most likely in the absence of vegetables.
Diabetes obviously affects both men and women. It is evaluated with simple lab tests, such as Hemoglobin A1C, fasting blood glucose levels, and insulin levels. These tests provide us with an accurate average of your blood sugars over the last 3 months. It’s considered one of the major men’s health concerns because diabetes can often lead to a host of other issues, including erectile dysfunction and depression.
Depression and Suicide
Depression and suicide have continued to be major men’s health concerns. Suicide is playing a major role in the decreased life expectancy in men. In 2017, the highest rate of suicide was in men between 45-54 years old and 65+ years old. This topic has been taboo for so long that it has made the quiet desperation of suicide worse.
Fortunately, more and more people are talking about depression and suicide, and more people feel comfortable seeking help. In men, symptoms of depression can be insidious because it shows up as a constellation of symptoms such as irritability, low energy, anxiety, loss of interest in work or hobbies, problems with sexual desire and function, physical aches or pains, withdrawal from loved ones, substance use and abuse, plus many others. Do not be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. We want to know if any of these symptoms are happening for you.
Surprisingly, more men than women die each year from melanoma. Men age 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer. That statistic doesn’t even include pesky superficial skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. These minor skin cancers are very rarely life threatening like melanoma, but they are expensive to treat. And removal usually leave people with large scars on their faces, ears, chests, and arms.
Although limiting sun exposure does not completely prevent melanoma, it is still the best way to prevent skin cancers. Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and hats that cover the entire face. Also, don’t forget the sunscreen. Avoid commercial sunscreens with ingredients avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule, as these chemicals are carcinogens. New studies show very high absorption rates even after one application. Instead, a better choice would be to buy sunscreens that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide like Elta MD products.
Most men think they are alone or at least in a huge minority with this problem. That thought is simply not true. Most men at some point in their life will deal with erectile dysfunction (ED). There are many issues that can cause ED such as anxiety and depression, diabetes, relationship problems, low testosterone, etc. Please discuss your concerns with your provider as there are many ways to treat ED. Your provider should discuss your sexual health with you at your wellness visit. If they do not or you do not feel comfortable talking to them about it, please find another provider.
I believe you can prevent many men’s health concerns with lifestyle changes. Most of the time, when we discuss “lifestyle changes” in the medical field, we mean physical changes such as a better diet, more exercise, and plenty of sleep. However, emotional, mental, and spiritual changes are just as important.
We understand most chronic and some acute diseases result from a buildup of inflammation in the body from all these aspects of life. Atherosclerotic heart disease is driven by inflammation in our blood vessels. Psoriasis is inflammation of the skin. In fact, almost all autoimmune diseases are now understood to be chronic inflammation that has built up over time. As providers, we understand poor diet and lack of exercise cause chronic inflammation. However, our emotions, thoughts, and connection with a higher power are just as important.
The body responds to harmful thoughts and emotions as if it were in physical distress, even if it is not physical. So finally, do not forget the power of your mental and emotional state when battling common men’s health concerns. Adding some sort of mindfulness, breathing exercises, or meditation practices can be incredibly beneficial in quieting the mind and controlling inflammation due to emotional and mental stressors.
The Optimum Mens Health Difference
At Optimum Mens Health, we speak with our patients about the entire picture of their health to help them achieve their best life. We provide a level of healthcare that I would want for myself – the clinic is a comfortable atmosphere where men feel confident to share their health concerns with a provider who will listen and take effective action. Our ultimate goal at Optimum Mens Health is to make you feel like you again.
Everyone loves a sweet treat now and again. We use sweets to celebrate holidays and birthdays or as a reward when someone achieves a goal, good grades, a promotion, and on and on. Many people also reach for sweets when they feel down or stressed. Americans today consume too much sugar and have a serious problem stopping. Sugar addiction is real. Just like a habit-forming drug, our bodies experience a dopamine rush when we eat sugar, and once it’s gone, we crave more.
What is Sugar Addiction?
When we eat sugar, our blood glucose levels spike, and dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is the chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. It is released during pleasurable situations and stimulates one to seek out the pleasurable activity again once it is gone. This is where the addiction part of a sugar addiction comes into play. It becomes a vicious cycle. Mass insulin is released to lower the blood sugar levels in our body, which also results in immediate fat storage. The high insulin causes our sugar level (glucose) to plummet, leaving us feeling tired, sluggish, and craving that high again.
How Does Sugar Addiction Work?
In the below graphic, Dave Smith, of Make Your Body Work, explains how the cycle works within our bodies.
Eat Sugar – Blood Sugar Increases – Dopamine is Released – FEEL GOOD – Insulin is released – Fat gets Stored– Blood Sugar decreases – We crave that FEEL GOOD feeling again and repeat the cycle.
This cycle explains why it is so hard to stop eating sweet foods. There is a real craving within our bodies to get that high, and we have severe increases and decreases in our energy level throughout the day. But the real problem is that as time goes on, we need more and more sugar to reach that same level of satisfaction.
Why is Sugar Addiction Bad?
Sugar addiction is bad for our health. In medicine, addiction is defined as a situation where someone’s brain chemistry has been altered to cause them to repeat an activity or substance despite harmful consequences. Sugar has been proven to cause weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. Sugar can also affect our skin appearance by increased acne, appearance of wrinkles, sagging skin, and slower healing of cuts and scrapes. There have also been studies done that indicate high sugar consumption is correlated with depression.
Sugar can also affect testosterone levels. When you eat a snack or meal that is full of refined flour and sugars, you get a surge in aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, further depleting free testosterone levels. For men on Testosterone Replacement Therapy, increased sugar can actually rob your body of free testosterone because it is converting it to estrogen. If you want to keep your free testosterone levels up, you need to reduce sugar intake.
How Do You Break the Cycle?
Some individuals suffer from sugar addiction more than others. If you are one of those individuals the best method may be cold turkey. Addiction is a powerful thing and most individuals are not able to have self-control because the cravings are so intense. The good news is that the longer you go without sugar, the easier it becomes. The physical desire decreases, but you will still have emotional triggers that may tempt you to get that sugar high again. You may have a particular food that is your biggest problem – a particular candy, soda, cake, donut, or sugary cereal. You should make an effort to avoid that particular food, so you don’t fall off the wagon. If you want something sweet on occasion, choose something you know you won’t overindulge in.
Sugar is a tricky thing because it also hides in foods we may not typically think are high in sugar. Foods like ketchup, barbecue sauce, cereals, flavored yogurt, protein bars, and cereal bars all contain sugars. Many drinks, like iced tea, fruit juice, sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks, are loaded with sugar as well. According to the American Heart Association, the max amount of sugar a male should consume in one day is 36 grams. One 16 oz cola contains 52 grams of sugar. You can see how easy it is to get off track.
Are There Good Sweets?
While diet and exercise are good for your health, they don’t give you a pass to go overboard with sugar. You are still doing harm to your body and putting yourself in a vicious cycle of highs and lows. Find healthier alternatives with lower sugar and higher fiber amounts to satisfy a sweet craving. Stay away from refined flours and sugars.
Omitting sugary foods for an extended period, typically 2 weeks, allows you to reprogram your brain to know what “sweet” really is. If you eat a bag of skittles and then have an orange, the orange isn’t going to give you much pleasure. But if you haven’t consumed processed sugar in a week and then eat an orange, you would be surprised how sweet and satisfying it can be. Fresh fruit is a great healthy sweet treat, and it contains fiber. Using a little raw local honey and chopped nuts can make for a healthy dessert.
Stopping sugar addiction is hard but achievable. Make a plan to significantly decrease your favorite sweet food addiction or cut it out completely. Find healthy alternatives to turn to when you are craving something sweet. Your energy levels will be more stable, you will lose weight, and you will feel great. If you are working out at the gym, you will really see the results of your hard work.
Affecting 40% of men in their 40s and increasing by 10% per decade, erectile dysfunction, or ED, isn’t very widely discussed amongst men. Often viewed as a weakness or deficiency, ED affects a man at his most intimate and vulnerable times, leaving him feeling as though he has failed his partner. He may feel inadequate, and his significant other may feel undesirable or unwanted. The truth is that ED is typically caused by something beyond a man’s control, and there are treatment options available to help men suffering from ED take back that control and start feeling like themselves again.
What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?Signs and Symptoms
Typical signs of ED can include the following experiences:
Lack of arousal
Inability to get erections
Loss of firmness
Loss of an erection during position changes or distraction
Not waking with an erection
Causes and Diagnosis
Several factors can lead to ED, including other diseases, medications, trauma, neurological disorders, excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, and/or hormonal imbalances. These factors can result in issues with arterial blood flow to the penis, venous leakage from the balloons in the penis, nerve-related issues, or hypogonadism, which is commonly known as low testosterone.
Your doctor can diagnose ED from your answers to several simple questions. Men who experience mild-to-moderate ED should see their healthcare provider as soon as it becomes an issue. Once erectile dysfunction starts, regardless of cause, it affects men psychologically as well, so early diagnosis and treatment is the best plan of action.
NOTE: If you are unable to get an erection at all, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible to rule out other serious health conditions, such as those relating to the heart.
One of the first treatment plans is to decrease alcohol consumption. Increasing cardiovascular exercise, which increases blood flow to the heart and penis, and eating a diet that is leaner are also great first steps to treating ED.
If simple measures don’t work, over-the-counter medications are available, but patients tend to see mixed results. Prescription medications – PDE5 inhibitors such as Viagra and Cialis – typically improve ED with very minimal side effects, such as nasal congestion, head pressure, and heartburn. Be forewarned that a patient already taking nitroglycerin cannot take these medications. If these medications do not work, or if you are unable to take PDE5 inhibitors, an injectable solution called Tri-Mix can help attain erections. Typically, insurance does not cover these medications.
Additionally, electromagnetic therapy, or acoustic wave therapy, is a newer method being used to treat ED. A magnet creates sound waves, which improve blood flow to and leak from the penis. This treatment typically does not hurt, require no medication, and there is no downtime. One session usually takes 5-10 minutes. Patients typically need two sessions each week for 3 weeks, repeated 3 months later, then repeated as needed. Insurance does not cover sound wave treatments.
Another treatment is the Priapus Shot®. This injection involves drawing the patient’s blood and spinning it down to separate the cells. The platelets are injected into the penis shaft and head, restoring size lost to age and repairing blood flow. Many patients show an improvement in sensitivity as well. Results typically last 15 months, and combining this treatment with acoustic wave therapy lends the best results. Insurance does not cover this treatment.
For some men, none of these treatments will work. If you’ve tried these options and are still experiencing ED, contact a urologist to discuss next steps, including a penile implant.
The Optimum Mens Health Approach
At Optimum Mens Health, we provide an environment that feels safe and comfortable. Patients and their partners can discuss intimate issues without feeling judged. As a man, I relate personally to how difficult it is to come forward with an ailment I can’t fix myself.
I strive to help my patients find the ED treatment that is right for them, whether they are just starting this journey or have already tried treatments with mixed results. Considering each individual patient and his concerns, we decide the next course of action as a team.
At Optimum Mens Health, we offer all of the above-mentioned services, with the exception of penile implants.
Erectile dysfunction is a disease that can lead to anxiety and depression if left untreated. However mild it may be in the beginning, it usually progresses over time and with age. Taking action sooner rather than later can result in an easier and less costly treatment.
Do you have an ideal body weight for yourself in mind? You’re not alone! Many men strive to achieve weight goals that relate back to a time when they were younger and felt better physically. But setting an ideal healthy weight for a man is harder to do than just pulling a number out of the past.
There’s a common idea that men do not focus as much on their overall health and wellness as women do. While that may be true generally, weight is often a different story. Most men actually do care a lot about their weight and are just as conscious of weight issues as women appear to be. Weight is a very personal matter, and there’s no magic number that works for everyone, but keeping your weight in check is a key component to your overall health and wellness.
Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight
While you may feel tired, out of breath, and under the weather when living with extra weight, these minor side effects are just the tip of the iceberg. The following side effects are the most notable and most damaging side effects of maintaining an unhealthy weight:
High blood pressure
Sexual health issues
No one wants to experience negative health effects in the prime of life, so maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to general wellbeing and to warding off some pretty serious health conditions down the road.
So how do you find your healthy weight? Knowing your body mass index, or BMI, is a great starting point for determining a healthy weight because BMI consists of factors you likely already know about yourself. BMI is a calculation based on height and weight. While BMI is a great starting point, it’s not a universal indicator of healthy weight. For instance, BMI is not as accurate for individuals with more muscle mass or for people who workout with weights often.
Waist measurement is another excellent indicator of healthy weight. A man who is 6 feet tall should maintain a waistline of less than 36 inches. In addition to expanding waistbands, other potential indicators of being overweight include:
Several factors can play into your ability to quickly gain or lose weight. Genetics, your metabolism, your diet, and the amount of exercise you achieve all play a major role in how your body copes with weight.
We know genes have a role in obesity. However, outside of a few disorders, genes need behavior to be exhibited or expressed. In other words, our tendency to overeat and to be lethargic creates an environment that allows these genes to be activated.
Metabolism, our body’s process of converting what we eat and drink into energy, can be a very complex process. Most people think that starvation diets are great because you lose weight fast, but some scientists are saying that these methods can actually permanently decrease your metabolism. This theory may explain why lost weight comes back so quickly, and sometimes in excess, after dieting.
Exercise, diet, hormones, disease, caffeine, and muscle mass all affect our metabolism. A key to a healthy metabolism is to be active, to practice cardiovascular exercise and weight resistance training, and by eating more frequently and making more nutritious food choices.
The biggest factor in determining weight gain and loss is how much and exactly what you eat. If you do not burn the calories you consume, those calories will be stored as fat, and you will gain weight.
Many people would be surprised at the amount of calories they consume on a daily basis. If you eat out frequently, it is easy to consume a surplus of calories. I’m always surprised when I look at the nutritional value of a restaurant meal and it’s over 1,000 calories. Restaurant salads can even have more than 1,000 calories, which is unbelievable because it takes nearly 35 cups of broccoli to equal 1,000 calories!
Many different diet plans gain popularity, but the simplest approach is to avoid breads, pastas, sugar, all sodas, and processed foods. In order to lose weight, you have to decrease your calorie consumption. An online calorie calculator is a great tool—based on your age, height, weight, gender, and amount of exercise, the calculator will tell you how many calories you need to maintain, lose, or gain weight.
NOTE: If your caloric intake is primarily from whole foods, you will feel satiated longer and have more energy.
In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume in a day. You burn calories by doing pretty much anything in your life from breathing to drinking water, but exercise is crucial to burning off the excess.
Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, is a great fat burning tool for starters, but both cardio and weight training are crucial for fat and weight loss.
The key to exercise is finding an activity you enjoy—even better, find a friend who likes to do the same thing, and you will have an accountability partner. If you are currently not exercising, a good plan is to walk from your house for 10 minutes then turn around and walk home. As that task becomes easier, add 5 minutes until you are walking for 45-60 minutes 3-5 days each week. This is a great way to start increasing your metabolism and get your blood moving.
NOTE: For heart health, always consult your primary care provider before beginning any new exercises.
FUN FACT: How many calories do you burn if you WALK versus RUN three miles on level ground? It is the same—300 calories! One is just done much faster, so slow and steady really can win the weight loss race.
Weight Resistance Training
Weight training should come after you are able to walk three miles 3-5 times each week. The easiest way to start weight training is with crunches and push-ups. You don’t have to perform these exercises quickly; it’s more about technique and form. The first time you do it, see how many crunches or push-ups you can do without resting. After that, add two reps per week.
NOTE: When beginning weight training, remember that muscle weighs more than fat. The fit of your clothes will be a good indicator of how your weight is being redistributed. Your waist should get smaller as arms and shoulders get bigger.
Being overweight can be a very complex issue that can make even the most confident person self-conscious. Getting started can be overwhelming with all the temptations and advertisements for unhealthy foods surrounding us every day. The Internet is a great resource for tools and information to empower us and give us the motivation we need. Remember to keep it simple, find an enjoyable way to be active, and be mindful of what you are putting in your body.
With Father’s Day being celebrated every June, the month is certainly a great one to honor men. But Father’s Day is not the only June event specifically for men. The entire month is actually Men’s Health Month, and it’s a great time to take a moment to assess your overall health and get an annual checkup.
Why do men typically wait until they feel bad or something is wrong before they go to their provider for a medical evaluation? If men looked at caring for their health the way they take care of a car or boat, they would realize the importance of preventative maintenance. We take vehicles in for oil changes, tire rotation/balance, and 30k, 60k, and 90k services whether we need to or not. We know this preventative maintenance can maximize vehicle performance, saving time and money in the long run. If men took a similar approach to their bodies, it could help prevent medical issues that arise over time from neglect.
An annual physical is always a great starting point. Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and pulse oximetry, or the amount of oxygen measurable through your fingertips, will all be monitored. Your provider should also order blood work to check for cholesterol levels, kidney and liver function, diabetes, anemia, thyroid function, prostate health, and your testosterone level. Additional labs may be run based on medical history. At Optimum Mens Health, we also offer a complete physical exam from head-to-toe and a full skin exam.
WHY DEDICATE AN ENTIRE MONTH TO MEN’S HEALTH?
While most men put their health last on the priority list, dedicating a month to reminding men to get annual checkups is a great way to bring attention back to the true importance of men’s health. Often, men are the main providers for their families, and declining health can have a negative effect on everyone in the family.
Women tend to be more proactive about their own physical health, seeing women’s healthcare specialists at least annually. Men generally wait until they have symptoms before calling their healthcare provider for an exam. We highly recommend all men have a general health assessment every year, especially since most insurance companies cover an annual physical with your primary care physician. At Optimum Mens Health, we focus only on men’s health, enabling our clinic to provide thorough and specific care tailored to our patients’ preventative needs.
BENEFITS OF PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE
Annual physical exams lead to early detections of many common health issues, possibly preventing or even reversing negative effects, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
At Optimum Mens Health, we help you stay ahead of any ailments by detecting problems early, possibly preventing issues before they begin, teaching lifestyle changes, and by prescribing necessary medications to help control and prevent further symptoms. The sooner you detect an issue, the easier it is to manage and potentially reverse any ill side effects.
THE OPTIMUM MENS HEALTH DIFFERENCE
In addition to your usual annual checkup, Optimum Mens Health includes a testosterone check with every physical. Low testosterone levels can contribute to elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and even prostate cancer risks. Knowing these levels is an important part of our regular exams. We also discuss other lifestyle changes our patients can implement to benefit their health, such as eating more plant-based foods.
Men are grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins, friends, and coworkers. They take on many responsibilities within their families and at work, and their health is extremely important to everyone in their lives.