In many ways, your 40s should be the best years of your life. Aside from achieving personal and professional goals, age brings a certain wisdom that just can’t be bought. Which is all the more reason that, as you age, you should know better than you did a decade earlier how to take care of yourself. Because, while you may feel more invincible than ever, your body begs to differ.
Whether it’s your pancreas, your kidneys, your prostate, or your bones, along with those extra candles on your birthday cake, age brings wear and tear, opening the door to aches, pains, and illnesses that can blindside you. So, before that nagging pain becomes a chronic issue, make sure you’re well-acquainted with these 40 male health concerns over 40 that you can’t afford to dismiss.
“Given the long latency period associated with most asbestos illnesses,” says Dr. Snehal Smart, a practitioner at The Mesothelioma Center, “men over the age of 40 are at a higher risk for developing asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma.” Unfortunately, many of its symptoms are identical to those associated with less aggressive health issues—such as cough, wheezing, and chest pain—and so it’s important to be vigilant. “Anyone with a history of asbestos exposure,” says Dr. Smart, “should alert they primary care physician and closely monitor their health for any changes.”
“Sun damage is cumulative,” says Dr. Joshua Zuckerman, MD, FACS, “and as a result, men are increasingly at risk for skin cancers such as melanoma as they reach middle age.” In addition to wearing daily sunscreen, men should be sensitive to any changes in their skin, such as growths or discolorations, bringing them to the attention of their primary care physician or a dermatologist as soon as they become apparent.
The dangers of high cholesterol—heart disease and stroke, just to name a few—are well documented, but less well-known, says Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of Atrial Fibrillation: Remineralize Your Heart, is that even “a diet without cholesterol does not necessarily lower it.” Thus, even the healthiest of men could be at risk for high cholesterol, and you may need to get creative with your diet or implement a medication routine to bring it under control.
Considering that it’s the number one cause of death in the United States, it’s no surprise that heart disease is one of the biggest male health concerns over 40. The fact is, the heart ages, too, and it’s important to do all you can, including maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, to reduce the stress on it and make sure it’s not aging faster than the rest of you.
The risk of sustaining a stroke doubles each decade after the age of the 45, meaning there’s no better excuse to begin paying attention to your own risk factors than hitting that fourth decade. Among other things, these include smoking, elevated blood pressure, and a sedentary lifestyle. The good news? You don’t need to commit to a lifetime as a marathon runner to lower your risk: according to research conducted at Columbia University, even leisurely physical activity can slash your stroke risk.
“Twenty to forty percent of men over 40,” says Dr. Dean, “have elevated levels of homocysteine.” While you’ve likely never heard of this chemical, she explains, “individuals with high levels have almost four times the risk of suffering a heart attack.” Some ways to reduce this dangerous byproduct of digestion include avoiding dairy and red meat, exercising, and reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption.
If, despite lifestyle changes, a high level of cholesterol remains in your bloodstream, it might be due to a nagging lack of magnesium, according to Dr. Dean. “If there is not enough magnesium to limit the activity of the cholesterol-converting enzyme,” she explains, “we are bound to make more cholesterol than is needed.” That is exactly why, she says, in our “present-day circumstances of magnesium-deficient soil…cholesterol has become elevated in the population.”
ED impacts almost 30 million Americans, says David Barbour, co-founder of Vivio Life Sciences, and its “prevalence increases with age.” In addition, he explains, forty is “an age that is often studied for the development and occurrence of ED.” So, while the disorder is typically the result of various other health issues, like poor circulation or obesity, forty seems to be the sweet spot at which these diverse problems all, in confluence, begin affecting a man’s health.
According to researchers at the University of Vienna, the risk of prostate cancer jumps drastically—from .005 percent to 2.2 percent—in men crossing the threshold of forty. That means there’s no better time than your fortieth birthday to begin getting serious about paying attention to your prostate, and to make sure you’re getting an annual exam.
Cancer isn’t the only illness that can affect your prostate with age. A more common condition affecting men is BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia. Also known as prostate gland enlargement, this swelling of the prostate can make it difficult to urinate and lead to irritation. If you begin having trouble urinating as you age, it’s time see a doctor sooner rather than later.
Kidney stones affect almost five percent of the entire population, with men being twice as likely as women to form the painful calcium buildup. While the peak age for their occurrence in men is 30, the chances of forming a second kidney stone after passing a first within the following five to seven years is an absurdly high 50 percent.
As you age, the muscles in your bladder and urethra begin to lose some of their strength, leading to the possibility of incontinence. There are a variety of symptoms which are classified as incontinence, but no matter what, it can be an uncomfortable—and awkward—problem to have. Therefore, it’s important—especially since it might be an indication of a more serious condition, like a tumor pressing on your bladder—that afflicted individuals contact their medical professionals as soon as they experience any kind of leakage to avoid further deterioration.
Just like any road experiencing lots of traffic, over the years the arteries begin to accumulate unwanted rubbish. These deposits—called plaques—can cause inflammation and clogging, eventually leading to other problems, like erectile dysfunction and heart attack. “[So] instead of taking a pill to force an erection,” says Ali Cody, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, “men would be better off to begin focusing on preventing clogged arteries to begin with.”
“One health concern in men over 40 is low testosterone levels,” says Dr. Chirag Shah, co-founder of Accesa Labs. As he explains, testosterone production naturally decreases with age, but an abnormally low level “can lead to fatigue, low sex drive, and decreased muscle mass.” Fortunately, he says, this can be assessed with “simple blood tests” and treatment is widely available.
Male androgenetic alopecia, the most common form of male hair loss, affects between 30 to 50 percent of men by age 50. While not harmful in itself, hair loss has been linked to depression and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a common condition that can lead to life-threatening health problems, including heart attack or stroke. To help lower your risk of developing hypertension, and to manage it if you are diagnosed, the Mayo Clinic recommends getting a blood pressure reading from your doctor every year.
As men age, tendons become less able to tolerate stress and movement, leading to an increased risk of tendinitis. This painful condition, in which a tendon becomes inflamed, can be caused by activities from gardening to tennis, and is likely to linger if not treated. If you begin to feel pain in your joints, cease the activity likely causing it immediately and try icing the injury; if pain continues, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories may help, but a doctor should be consulted if your pain doesn’t go away.
Hydrocele is a swelling in the scrotum which sometimes occurs in baby boys and can be brought about in older males as a result of an injury. If the size of your scrotum appears abnormal, it’s important to bring it to a doctor’s attention immediately, as it might be caused by an infection which could lead to a reduced sperm count or erectile dysfunction.
Similar to hydrocele, epididymitis is swelling in the scrotum, but one which affects the epididymis at the back of the testicles, that part that carries sperm. It’s most often caused by bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted diseases. Symptoms include swelling, redness, tenderness, and, in the worst cases, blood in the semen. Suspected epididymitis should be brought to a doctor’s attention immediately as it may be a sign of an underlying illness. If untreated, it may also become chronic.
In your twenties, having one too many drinks at a bar may have seemed like a normal part of socializing, but once you hit forty, it’s time to get serious about your alcohol consumption. Because of the many ill-effects a lifetime of heavy drinking can have on the rest of your body, including cirrhosis, obesity, and an increased risk of digestive cancers, it’s important to become smart about the way you drink as you enter your second prime.
A British study conducted in 2012 found that those turning 42 that year were “considerably more likely to be overweight” than earlier generations. In other words, middle age is increasingly being linked to unhealthy weight gain, likely due to more sedentary lifestyles. Couple this with the fact that obesity at middle age is “strongly linked” to poor physical and mental health, it’s clear why maintaining a healthy weight through your 40s is crucial.
It’s almost impossible to avoid stress in your 40s—after all, you’ve likely got a heaping load of responsibility on your plate. Nonetheless, it’s important to manage this stress—taking time off when necessary, and allowing yourself to relax every once in a while—to avoid enduring some of the more life-altering side effects stress can bring, such as weight gain, high blood pressure, hair loss, depression, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
The idea of a mid-life crisis is often used as the butt of a joke, or the fulcrum of a wacky TV plot. However, its underlying impulse—unhappiness with one’s place in life—is no laughing matter, and one that can affect even the most seemingly content individual. And considering it’s one of the most surprisingly deadly male health concerns over 40, affecting up to 18 percent of the adult population, it’s important to talk to a professional about how you’re feeling before those blue days turn into a depression you can’t break out of.
Emphysema is a condition in which the lung’s air sacs are damaged, leading to a chronic shortness of breath. Because the main cause of it is long-term exposure to airborne irritants–such as smoke, pollution, or dust—men are at an increasing risk of developing emphysema as they age. If you’re experiencing symptoms like inability to climb stairs, or notice your lips turning blue from exertion, it’s time to consult a doctor.
An inflammation of the bronchial tubes that carry air to the lungs, chronic bronchitis leads to coughing and increased production of mucus, making it harder to breathe and making everyday activities more difficult. Much like emphysema, it is often a result of built-up pollutants, meaning risk levels increase with age. Fortunately, if brought to a professional’s attention, treatment can significantly improve your quality of life.
Cirrhosis is a build-up of scar tissue in the liver that impedes its function over time. Often a result of chronic alcohol use, viral hepatitis, or fat accumulation in the liver, it primarily affects men in middle age or older. While the damage, once done, generally can’t be removed, if the cirrhosis is caught early, the worst of it can be avoided.
Like most cancers, the risk for liver cancer increases with age. However, incidence rates for men specifically begin to increase steeply after age 40. While symptoms generally won’t appear until the later stages of the cancer’s growth, these may include loss of appetite, vomiting, and abdominal swelling, and should be brought to a doctor’s attention immediately.
A 2011 study found that “in populations of European extraction,” type 2 diabetes is one of the most common male health concerns over 40, even among men with low BMIs typically not associated with the onset of the disease. Thus, it’s important to stay on the lookout for symptoms—excessive thirst and frequent urination, to name a few—in order to get the illness under control immediately, avoiding possible complications, like gangrene, blindness, and organ failure.
While the times of influenza wiping out entire continents have thankfully come and gone, the dangers of the flu are still very real, especially as you age. Given the complicating factors age can bring—such as other illnesses requiring their own care—a case of the flu can prove hazardous or even deadly if left untreated. However, with the flu, a good offense is the best defense, meaning flu shots, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding contact with sick people are your best bets for reducing your risk.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs which tends to be most dangerous for young children and older adults, and can prove deadly if left untreated. In fact, in 2013 alone, pneumonia and the flu were responsible for 56,832 deaths in the United States alone, making them the eighth-deadliest diseases in the country. If you’re experiencing a fever, chest pain, frequent cough, muscle aches, or chills, it’s time to talk to your doctor and nip this in the bud while it’s still possible.
After the age of 20, the body begins losing bone mass. Unfortunately, if you lose too much of this mass, you can develop osteoporosis, a condition that causes brittle and weak bones and can significantly contribute to your risk of falls and fractures. To help avoid this painful condition, make sure you’re consuming adequate calcium and protein, and maintain a healthy body weight to avoid undue wear and tear on your bones.
While pancreatic cancer rarely affects men before 45, research published in the journal Pancreas reveals that the incidence of the disease begins to spike shortly thereafter. Coupled with the fact that survival rates for pancreatic cancer remain devastatingly low, it’s crucial that men begin to understand the risk factors for the disease, including obesity and tobacco use, as they age.
According to a 2015 study, social isolation is associated with “increased risk for mortality.” Given that many men find themselves in their forties with few close friends—and much of their time for socializing swallowed up by work—it’s crucial to take steps to avoid loneliness.
According to research out of Harvard Medical School, duodenal ulcers—a sore in the lining of the small intestine—typically occur in men between the ages of thirty and fifty. It’s important to treat them as promptly as possible, both to avoid complications as well as to lessen the likelihood of requiring more invasive treatments, like surgery or blood transfusions.
One of the most common male health concerns over 40, the American Cancer Society reports that, in the United States alone, an estimated 97,220 cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed this year, with men having a one in 22 risk of developing the disease in their lifetime. And while the prognosis for those diagnosed early continues to improve, the disease still causes more than 50,000 deaths in the United States each year, the bulk of them in men over 40.
Kidney disease, like many other illnesses on this list, is positively correlated with age. Scarier yet, the American Kidney Fund suggests that up to one in three individuals is at risk. Frighteningly, however, kidney disease can fail to present any symptoms until the kidney has lost much of its function. It’s important, therefore, especially if you have other risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, to ask your doctor for a blood test to ascertain your kidneys’ health before it’s too late.
Often, fatigue is simply the result of a draining day of activity. However, if that fatigue never seems to go away, it may be a symptom of something more concerning, like sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to suddenly stop breathing in your sleep, potentially causing sudden death. Fortunately, CPAP machines can help reduce some of the condition’s symptoms, as can lowering your weight.
Getting dizzy at 20 might have been the result of a few too many games of Twister or a glass of champagne with dinner. However, at 40, sudden dizziness shouldn’t be overlooked. Unfortunately, the sudden drop in blood pressure causing the dizziness may be sign that you are at risk for potentially-deadly circulatory problems, including heart disease and stroke.
Memory loss means more than just forgetting your keys: it means a frequent inability to remember even the most basic of things. As you age, your risk of memory loss spikes dramatically—in fact, according to a review of research published in the BMJ, by age 65, an estimated 45 percent of adults will be dealing with some form of memory loss or another, with one percent of that population developing dementia. The good news? Catching this problem early and treating it with modifications in diet, exercise, and medication, you can start to get your memory back on track before it progresses.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the joints, leading to severe pain and restricted movement. While there are some cases involving younger individuals, the condition typically doesn’t begin to affect men until middle age. If you find yourself unable to bend certain joints, it’s important to see a doctor, both to lessen the pain and to explore options to avoid worsening the condition going forward.
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