Clearly not a Top 10 you'd find on David Letterman, this list is compiled around a rather grim subject. The good news, however, is that most of these causes are largely preventable. So put down that pizza, grab your workout gear and start taking the necessary steps to live healthier and longer.
- Heart Disease
- Unintentional Injuries
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Influenza and Pneumonia
- Kidney Disease
- Alzheimer's Disease
With obesity on the rise and more people leading increasingly inactive lifestyles, it's not surprising that the leading killer of both men and women is heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, only 3 percent of Americans practice the "big four" habits that prevent heart disease: eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. And men tend to die earlier from heart disease than women-about 25 percent of all deaths related to heart disease occur in men between the ages of 35 and 65.
Take these steps to reduce your risk of developing heart disease:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats.
- Get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don't smoke. If you already smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
- Know your numbers-blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose (blood sugar) and BMI (body mass index).
The most common causes of cancer death in men are lung (31%), colorectal (10%) and prostate (9%) cancers. While it is not fully understood what exactly causes cancer, there are certain factors that put you at greater risk. These factors include using tobacco (smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancer deaths), obesity/overweight, sun exposure, excessive drinking, inactivity, environmental factors and heredity. While there's little you can do about your genetic predisposition, you can take important steps to avoid other risk factors related to lifestyle, which some experts say account for roughly 80 percent of your risk.
One of the reasons men's life expectancy is nearly five years shorter than women may be their willingness to take unnecessary risks. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, accidents killed 70,532 men in 2003. Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death, followed by poisoning, falls and drowning. Follow these and other safety precautions to avoid accidental injuries:
- Practice smart motor safety: wear your seat belt, adhere to traffic laws, have your vehicle inspected regularly, and don't drive if you're sleepy or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Make sure your home has carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, especially near bedrooms. Check regularly to make sure the batteries are good.
- Have any fuel-burning appliances inspected each year (gas stoves, oil furnaces, kerosene heaters, etc.)
- Take medications exactly as directed by your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure you completely understand how your prescription should be taken before you leave with it. Read the label carefully to make sure it doesn't differ from the verbal instructions your doctor or pharmacist gave you.
- If you use chemical cleaning products, make sure to keep the area you're working in well-ventilated.
- Keep the poison control number (800-222-1222) by each phone in your home and program it into your cell phone if you have one.
- Practice common sense safety precautions when doing anything with a potential for accidental injury. Use safety ladders, wear closed-toe shoes when mowing the lawn, put nonskid mats in your showers and tubs, never swim alone or in an unfamiliar body of water.
While you can't control some risk factors for stroke-such as your family history, age and race-you can prevent the leading causes, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and BMI) and keep them in check. Don't smoke, or quit smoking if you already do. Studies have found that 5-15 years after you quit, your risk for stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Manage your diabetes. Limit your alcohol consumption to two drinks per day. Reduce stress.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, refers to a group of chronic lung conditions that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Because COPD is strongly associated with lung cancer, men who smoke are 12 times more likely to die of COPD than men who are nonsmokers.
Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body regulates blood sugar (glucose). The most fatal consequences of diabetes include heart attack and stroke, which are two to four times more likely in people with diabetes. Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of the most common type of diabetes (Type II). Many men are not aware they have the disease until they experience complications from it, including erectile dysfunction, loss of vision, kidney disease and nerve damage to the hands or feet. To prevent diabetes, maintain a healthy weight, exercise at least 30 minutes a day most every day of the week, eat a healthy diet, have your blood sugar tested regularly and talk with your doctor about your family history of diabetes.
These lung infections are more severe for men whose lungs are already affected by COPD, asthma or smoking, as well as men with heart disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system. Prevent the flu and pneumonia by getting vaccinated each year.
The suicide rate for men is four times as high as that of women. Men tend to choose more violent means of suicide, which makes their chances of survival much lower. The main risk factor for suicide is depression. Men are less likely than women to seek help for depression, or they may not even know they are suffering from the disease. Symptoms of depression for men are not the same as the largely publicized symptoms that most frequently affect women. Rather than the typical feelings of guilt or worthlessness, men may simply experience depression as fatigue, irritability, problems sleeping or trouble concentrating. To prevent depression, maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well, exercising and staying connected with people you care about. If you think you may have depression-or if your friends or family members think you may be depressed-talk to your doctor. It's important to realize that depression is in fact a disease and not something you can ignore.
Causes of kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure and overuse of certain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. To avoid kidney disease, be sure to drink plenty of water each day, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight and know your numbers. Take medications only as directed by your doctor or pharmacist and limit the amount of pain relievers you take.
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Though Alzheimer's disease is more common among women than men, it may be due to the fact that women often live longer, as age is one of the main risk factors for Alzheimer's. Most people who suffer from the disease are 65 or older. While there is still a lot to be discovered about the causes of Alzheimer's, research has found links between brain health and heart health. Experts suggest eating a low-fat, heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and staying mentally and socially active to decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer's. Know your numbers and talk with your doctor about ways to maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.