Top Threats to Men’s Health and How to Prevent Them

Improving Men’s Health with Prevention and Lifestyle Changes

Men's Health prevention Doctor examining glands of throat of patient

Men are less likely to visit the doctor than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and they also live an average of five fewer years than women. Most of the top causes of death for men are preventable or treatable, men can greatly improve quality of life or even extend their life expectancies if they pay more attention to these health risks. Reminding the men in your life to get regular check-ups and screenings is key.

“The leading causes of death for men, according to the CDC, are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, COPD, and diabetes,” says Vimal George, M.D., a family practitioner with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic (ADC) Steiner Ranch. “By making healthy lifestyle choices and getting good preventive care, men can lower their risks for most of these problems.”

Heart disease

The number one cause of death for American men is heart disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about 60 percent of heart attacks have to do with issues that can be controlled.

Getting enough exercise, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet are good ways to prevent many heart conditions. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are especially important to monitor when it comes to heart health.

“Men should get their blood pressure checked regularly to make sure it’s at an acceptable level, and take steps to control it if it’s not,” says Dr. George.


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men, with nearly 89,000 deaths expected in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). A large percentage of lung cancer is due to smoking. Risk factors include having a family history of lung cancer, exposure to substances like asbestos or radon gas, smoking, or exposure to secondhand smoke. Not smoking and avoiding exposure to carcinogens can help lower the risk of developing lung cancer.

Prostrate cancer also ranks high in men’s cancer deaths. The ACS estimates that nearly 28,000 men will die from prostate cancer in 2009. The risk factors for this type of cancer include older age, family history of prostate cancer, and race. There are no definitive answers yet about what causes prostate cancer, but screening may help detect the disease in its earlier stages, resulting in more effective treatment.

Accidental injuries

According to the CDC, the leading cause of accidental death for men is a motor vehicle accident. Tell Dad that the best ways to reduce his risk of dying in a car accident include following these common-sense rules:

  • Always wear your seat belt
  • Follow posted speed limits and signs
  • Never drink and drive

The next two most common causes of accidental death are falls and poisoning. Both of these can be preventing by following safety protocols on the job, using chemicals and dangerous substances in well-ventilated areas, and installing safety features like non-skid mats or railings around the house.


Some risk factors for stroke are things you can’t change, such as age or family history of stroke. Men are more likely than women to have a stroke, but as people age the incidence becomes the same for both sexes. Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and substance abuse.

“The risk factors are much the same for both heart disease and stroke,” says Dr. George. “By adopting an overall healthy lifestyle—not smoking, controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol, staying active, and eating a healthy diet—men can reduce their risk for many conditions.”


COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, includes lung diseases such as emphysema. It is a leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC, and factors like smoking, asthma, and air pollutants may contribute to the development of COPD.

To prevent COPD, Dad should avoid tobacco products and limit exposure to air pollutants and chemicals both at work and at home. If he is, or ever was a smoker, remind him to see his doctor—especially if he is having respiratory problems. A simple test can help doctors determine the presence of COPD.


Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and can lead to a variety of complications—from heart disease and kidney failure to circulation problems and blindness. It also affects sexual health and may increase the risk of depression. Risk factors include obesity, older age, a family history of diabetes, and inactivity. To help Dad lower his risk of developing diabetes, he needs to eat healthy and exercise regularly to stay in shape.

“Good health starts with preventive care, for both men and women,” says Dr. George. “There’s no need to worry about how every single thing you do affects your health, but men should take health risks seriously. Dads—get your recommended tests and checkups, eat right, and stay active. Your good health is a gift you can give to yourself and to your family.”