Rekindle the Fire: The Latest Men's Health Update
Men are dying an average of 6 years earlier than their female counterparts, and often from preventable health conditions. One in three men do not have a regular doctor. More than half of men do not get regular screenings or preventative care. One in four men wait as long as possible to seek care of advice about a health concern. This trend has only been worsening in the last decade and is leading to higher rates of chronic disease and hospitalizations among men compared to women. At a recent men's health conference I attended, these were the eye-opening facts that left me stunned but also motivated to reach male patients in a more thorough and effective way.
At NaturoMedica, our focus on men's healthcare extends beyond the typical male specialties of hormones and the prostate. I know that keeping men safe and thriving into their middle and late decades requires addressing a more comprehensive range of concerns: cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, sleep quality, mental health and stress response, genetic risk factors, sexual health, and their relationship with diet and exercise. Often times, there are hints in a man's life that serve to elucidate hidden risks that, if addressedearly, can prevent disease later in life. As a physician, my task is to use my years of experience, coupled with advanced testing options and longer visit times, to more effectively uncover those subtle clues. I listen to those canaries in the coalmine, that when addressed, will improve the quality of life, vitality, and longevity of my male patients at any age.
One such clue is a man's sexual wellbeing. This one determinant of health may seem trivial compared to heart disease or diabetes, but new research points to the fact that erectile dysfunction or decreased libido is often an early indicator of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of men. While sexual function and libido can naturally decrease as men age, the severity to which it occurs often correlates with onset of chronic disease. Changes in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body weight, energy, and mood are often identified as occurring in tandem or subsequent to sexual health symptoms. It is for this reason that talking to men about their libido and sexual performance is an important conversation to have when considering a holistic and proactive approach to men's healthcare. Men should consider their sexual health a good indicator of their general risk for developing other health conditions. It is a good reason to pursue proactive healthcare screenings and get blood work to make sure erectile dysfunction or loss of libido are not actually symptoms of a greater and more sinister condition such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome or diabetes.
An integral part of a proactive health assessment is taking a look at hormone health. Recently, a greater body of scientific evidence has demonstrated that the hormone changes that occur as a man ages contribute significantly to the onset of some chronic diseases. Specifically, it is the increase in estrogen and cortisol levels and the decrease in testosterone levels that many men will experience at some point in their life that contribute to worsening of their metabolism and cardiovascular health, sexual function, and quality of life metrics like mood, energy, and sleep quality. The testosterone decline may indeed be the common thread that ties chronic diseases like cardiovasculardisease, obesity, diabetes, mental health conditions, and erectile dysfunction together. For that reason, assessing and then optimizing a man's hormones is now considered a foundational step to take at almost any age, especially if other chronic health concerns already exist.
Luckily, there are many safe and effective options for male hormone improvement as technology and access totreatment continues to improve. Scientifically developed natural therapies that stimulate testosterone production in the body are available and cost effective for men who have not experienced an age related slowdown in their testicular function. At a certain point in the aging process, the testicles may no longer be relied upon to adequately produce testosterone and so a more direct method may need to be employed, i.e. pharmaceutical grade testosterone injectable therapy, used once or twice a week and administered at home, or compounded topical testosterone cream applied once daily to a thin skinned area of the body. Both options have shownsuccess at increasing both the total and free circulating levels of testosterone.Free testosterone is the usable quantity of testosterone and what I will most often treat when low, while total testosterone refers to the entire amount of testosterone being produced and points to the condition of the overall hormone balance in the body.
In addition to these therapies, all men who wish to improve their testosterone levels can benefit from diet and lifestyle practices that encourage the toning down of estrogen and the increasing of testosterone. Improving sleep quality and preventing sleep apnea is an important first step to take, as a decrease in oxygen while sleeping affects testicular stimulation and lowers testosterone production. Diets rich in healthy fats and lean protein and an avoidance of over-eating is important for hormone balance. Exercising 4-5 days per week and prioritizing both cardiovascular and resistance activities, especially in the lower body muscle groups, will also improve testosterone levels. Unfortunately, high stress does play a role in stifling testosterone production, so adequate stress-reduction techniques should be considered. Additionally, excess body weight will raise estrogen levels and suppress testosterone. A 10% decrease in body weight often leads to an almost 100 point gain in testosterone levels, a meaningful amount for most men.
If you have noticed a decrease in sexual wellbeing in yourself or your partner, or if you are curious about how hormones may be affecting your risk for other health conditions, it is worth pursuing hormone testing as part of a comprehensive wellness assessment. Much of the health disadvantage that men face in terms of their longevity and onset of chronic diseases is preventable and may be strongly linked to insufficient hormone health as a causative factor. At NaturoMedica, we take pride in our specialized approach to men's healthcare, offering the latest testing and treatment options to help each of our male patients achieve optimal health and vitality.