There are a variety of ailments unique to men, foremost diseases of the prostate. But understanding risk factors like age and family history can offer a guide to making healthy choices.
The idea is to push back the effects of aging with greater knowledge and awareness of some of the principle diseases impacting men as they age. For instance, arthritis comes in many forms, including degenerative osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease), and psoriatic arthritis. A number of medications are available to treat arthritis pain and inflammation.
Colon cancer primarily affects people over age 50. This type of cancer forms growths called polyps, which can be identified on a screening colonoscopy. Colon cancer symptoms include blood in the stool, stomach cramps, diarrhea or constipation, and unintended weight loss.
Lung cancer is not the most common cancer, but it’s the leading cause of cancer-related death. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD, for short) is a lung condition that makes it harder to breathe. COPD is not one, but two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Typical COPD signs and symptoms are a cough that produces a lot of phlegm, shortness of breath, chest pain and tightness, and wheezing.
Depression symptoms include: feeling sad, anxious, hopeless, guilty, or anxious; fatigue or decreased energy; loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed; trouble concentrating or remembering; trouble sleeping or sleeping too much; loss of appetite, or eating too much; irritability; vague physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache; and thoughts of death, or wanting to end your life.
Diabetes is a disease that affects blood glucose (sugar) levels. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. When sugar enters your bloodstream, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which moves that sugar into the cells to be used for energy, or stored. In diabetes, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it effectively. The blood sugar level rises as a result.
Everyone experiences digestive woes from time to time—an upset stomach, gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. These symptoms can simply be mild annoyances, or they can warn of more serious conditions affecting the digestive system, which is made up of the stomach, esophagus, intestines, and gallbladder.
Our eyes, ears, and nose are our connection to the world around us. If we were to lose any one of these senses, we would have trouble getting around and functioning. A number of health conditions can compromise our ability to see, hear, and smell if they aren’t properly treated. Hearing loss is a common affliction with age. Yet ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, can affect people of all ages. Damage to the inner ear produces the sound, which can range from ringing to buzzing or hissing. Treating the underlying medical condition that’s causing the sound can often make it go away.
Dementia symptoms vary by type, but can include difficulty remembering names and events, trouble communicating, depression, poor judgment, confusion, behavior changes, and sleep disturbances. People who are suspected of having dementia will undergo a series of dementia tests, or Alzheimer’s tests, to determine whether they have lost memory and cognitive function.
Having strong core muscles—the muscles of the abdomen, back, and pelvis—help you stay upright and make it easier for you to be physically active. Core exercises for seniors strengthen these muscles without causing excess stress on them. Programs such as Pilates, tai chi, and stability ball training work core muscles in a safe, effective way. Specific abdominal exercises such as crunches and planks create a flatter, more toned stomach.
Good nutrition is essential to maintaining health, especially as you get older. The food pyramid is a guide, created by the USDA, to help Americans choose the right combination of foods each day for optimum nutrition. It divides foods into groups—bread, cereal, rice, and pasta; fruit; vegetables; milk, yogurt, and cheese; meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts; fats, oils, and sweets—and describes how much of each food group people should eat. In recent years, MyPlate, also from the USDA, has replaced the food pyramid. MyPlate features a divided plate graphic representing the major food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.
Back problems are another source of chronic pain. Sciatica affects the lower back and legs. It starts in the sciatic nerve, which runs down the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs. A herniated disk that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve often triggers sciatica. Spinal stenosis—a narrowing of the spine—can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be very painful, but medicines, physical therapy, and other treatments usually improve the pain within a few weeks.
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that sits underneath a man’s bladder and wraps around the urethra—the tube through which urine travels from the bladder to the outside of the body. The prostate gland’s main function is to add fluid to sperm to form semen. Although the prostate starts out small, it typically grows as a man ages. Prostate growth is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Over time, BPH puts pressure on the urethra, leading to urinary problems. Prostatitis is swelling of the prostate gland that is often caused by bacteria. The condition can come on quickly (acute prostatitis) and usually clears up with antibiotics. However, it can sometimes continue long term, in which case it’s called chronic prostatitis.