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7 Health Risks for Middle Aged Men

The most common causes of death for men of middle age and older are all the usual suspects--cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, respiratory disease, injuries, and suicide. Fortunately, some minor changes to bad habits can reduce the chances of dying of one of these perils.

Sun Overexposure

Men are two times more likely than women to develop fatal skin cancer. 60% of the cases of the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma, are found in white males of age 50 and older. Unfortunately, less than half of adult men protect themselves with shade, sunscreen, or protective clothing, as opposed to 65% of adult women.

Nor are men overexposed to sun likely to have their skin tumors found and treated early; a 2001 Academy of American Dermatology study found that men middle aged and above are less likely than other demographics to see a dermatologist or examine their own skin for signs of tumors. Men over 65, however, have a higher chance of having skin tumors found by a physician, possibly because older people have more medical appointments in general.

Excess Time Sitting Down with Electronics

Psychologists have not yet worked out whether Internet addiction is a valid diagnosis, but it is true that time which could be devoted to healthy activities like social interaction, walking, and other forms of exercise is instead being spent staring at computer monitors, laptops, smartphones, televisions, and video games. Physical social isolation has been linked to an increase in the risk for depression and dementia.

A 2011 study in JAMA found that on average, Americans spend five hours watching television each day, and that doesn’t account for time spent seated at computers. Extended sitting over a long period is associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. In fact, a 2012 Australian study found that adults 45 and older who spent 11 hours or more per day seated had a 40% increase in their risk of death.

Depression

In 2009, 79% of all suicides were men. Men over age 65 commit suicide seven times more frequently than do women in the same age group. Social isolation, common in the elderly, is often a key cause.

More than 60% of people who commit suicide have major depression. Men tend to equate depression with ordinary sadness or grief, so they fail to recognize the warning signs such as fatigue, trouble concentrating or thinking clearly, agitation, and changes in sleep patterns.

The National Institute of Mental Health has found that depression can be successfully treated no matter the age of the patient.

Being Single

Many studies have shown that married men, particularly of middle age, are healthier than their unmarried peers. One theory is that marriage tends to increase a man’s overall social circle, which decreases stress and depression which can cause chronic ailments.

Unmarried men may also have less healthy habits than married men, such as poor eating and rare medical checkups.

However, men who marry after age 25 tend to have better health than those who marry at a younger age, and staying in a strained marriage actually causes poorer overall health than does singlehood.

Poor Diet

Men on the younger side of middle age are likely to eat an excess of junk food and red meat, which leads to common ailments like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Older men may fail to prepare adequate meals for themselves and wind up suffering malnutrition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2010 that 35.5% of men are obese, compared to 27.5% in 2000.

Smoking

The negative effects of smoking tend to be worse in older people. They are likely to be heavier smokers and to have smoked for longer, which means their lungs have sustained more damage. 90% of all cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, the fourth leading cause of death in men, are caused by smoking, as are 80 to 90% of lung cancer cases. Men over 65 who smoke double their chances of fatal stroke.

Quitting shows immediate results, no matter the person’s age. The risks of lung disease, stroke, and cancer drop immediately, and the risk of heart disease is cut in half after only one year.

Driving Errors

Males in their 50s and 60s are twice as likely to die in car accidents as their female peers. Injuries, including car accidents, are the leading cause of death for men in the 40 to 44 age group, third most common cause in men aged 45 to 64, and eighth most common in men 65 and older.

The car accident causes tend to be avoidable, such as running red lights and stop signs, driving over the speed limit, and falling asleep at the wheel.

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