50 Signs of Poor Health Men Should Never Ignore
Don't tune out these warning signs your body is trying to send you about your health.
While the coronavirus pandemic has deterred most of us from visiting hospitals and doctor's offices unless absolutely necessary, even when that wasn't a factor, there are probably about a thousand things you'd rather do than go to the doctor—particularly if you're a man. A past survey from the Cleveland Clinic found more than 40 percent of men don't get annual check-ups—and, needless to say, that's not exactly helpful when it comes to your health. Sure, there are blatant symptoms that say, clear as day, "Go to the doctor!" But there are also plenty of signs of poor health that generally fly under the radar, despite the serious conditions they may signal. Here are 50 you should always watch out for. And for ways you can reduces your chances of seeing these signs, check out 101 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) Healthier Man.
Swollen or stiff joints
You might think experiencing stiff or swollen joints is due to all that extra yard work you did, but it can also be an indicator of bigger problems.
"One thing you should never ignore is joint swelling and joint stiffness. This may occur anywhere throughout the body, whether the hands and feet or knees," says Adam Kreitenberg, MD, board-certified rheumatologist for health platform 1MD. "These signs or symptoms could be the sign of declining health status. Oftentimes, it could be the start of benign degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis, but may underlie something more serious or detrimental. It may be the early signs of autoimmune arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis, immune system imbalance, hormonal imbalance, improper nutrition, or physical 'deconditioning.'" And for more hints your body is trying to give you, check out 40 Subtle Signs Your Body Is Telling You Something's Seriously Wrong.
Sensitivity to cold temperatures
If you're always cold no matter how many blankets you bundle up in, you could have hypothyroidism, according to Harvard Medical School. If you're wearing multiple layers of clothing in the same environment as others who are completely comfortable sans coat, it's time to get your thyroid levels checked out. And for other indicators of serious illness, These Are All the Cancer Warning Signs Hiding in Plain Sight.
Sitting most of the day
If you sit all day at work and then all night at home, you're setting yourself up for poor health, says physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist, Danielle Weis. Not only can a lack of movement cause problems like muscle and joint pain, poor endurance, and difficulty with functional movements, but it can also weaken your body.
"When you don't move or participate in any sort of exercise—even just a walking program—the body will progressively weaken," Weis says. "The muscles and joints stop properly stabilizing the body and areas of stiffness and loss of mobility settle in. Oftentimes, these restrictions lead to pain, which further perpetuates the sedentary lifestyle. The great news is almost all individuals can begin some form of exercise program, no matter how sedentary they are."
Experiencing multiple chronic symptoms
When you're dealing with certain symptoms every single day, it's not uncommon to brush them off and forget about them. Unfortunately, if you want to stay healthy for years to come, that's one of the worst moves you could make.
"Somewhat subtle symptoms such as fatigue, low testosterone, slower metabolism, digestive disorders, joint and body pain, and skin conditions are common due to chronic inflammation," says anti-inflammatory health coach Jenny Carr. "They become significantly more important to pay attention to over time as the inflammation builds and can turn into serious—or even life-threatening—conditions," including cancer, dementia, and Parkinson's.
Trouble remembering things
Everyone forgets where they put the car keys and remote every now and then—it's a normal part of the aging process. One thing that isn't normal, though, is forgetting what your remote or car keys are used for. The Cleveland Clinic says those memory problems could be a sign of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. And for more on memory-lated symptoms, check out 40 Early Signs of Alzheimer's Everyone Over 40 Should Know.
Sudden weight gain
Sure, plenty of people gain some weight around the midsection as they age. But if you let your waistline grow, you could be setting yourself up for health problems down the line.
"Most people know that being overweight has a negative impact on their health, but don't know that even if their weight is in the normal range, abdominal (or 'visceral') fat can be dangerous," says Nate Favini, MD, chief medical lead at primary care company, Forward. "Visceral fat increases the risk of conditions like heart disease and diabetes even more than being overweight."
Unplanned weight loss
Losing weight can be incredibly hard, so if it happens, you're usually putting in the effort in the kitchen and at the gym. So if you're losing pounds and aren't sure why, it could be a cause for concern. The Mayo Clinic says losing more than 10 pounds (or 5 percent of your body weight) in six months to a year could be a sign of a long list of health problems, including diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cancer, and liver disease.
Cough that gets worse at night
If your cough has stuck around far beyond the length of a typical cold—into the three- or four-week range—it could be a sign of something more serious, potentially even coronavirus. According to Harvard Medical School, a common symptom in patients with advanced heart disease can be a chronic cough that gets worse at night as you're lying flat due to fluid building up in the lungs.
Cough combined with heartburn
Harvard Health also says that one of the main causes of a nagging cough is gastroesophageal reflux disease, better known as GERD. Acid spilling up from the stomach can irritate nerves in the lower esophagus, which can cause you to cough. And get this: The nagging cough can occur without heartburn, which is why a lot of people don't realize it's due to GERD in the first place.
Chest discomfort whenever doing anything physical
If you tend to experience chest discomfort whenever you exert yourself, it could be a sign that your heart isn't as healthy as it should be.
"If a man experiences chest discomfort that's brought on by exertion and goes away with rest in a few minutes, he should seek medical attention promptly. This is the symptom we call 'angina,' and it often indicates there's a narrowing in an artery supplying the heart muscle," says cardiologist Barbara Roberts, MD. "Less often, this symptom could be caused by a narrowed aortic valve—the valve that directs blood from the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber, into the aorta."
The good news, she adds, is that "treatment of angina can allow many years of healthy life."
Severe chest pain
Anytime you have severe chest pain, don't take it lightly. According to Roberts, it's always a medical emergency and any man experiencing it should call 911 right away.
"If it's caused by a heart attack, or a dissection of the aorta, prompt intervention can be life-saving," she says. "A heart attack is caused by the abrupt cessation of blood flow to the heart muscle, usually by a clot in an artery that has some build-up of plaque. If blood flow is restored promptly, the heart muscle may be saved. Similarly, repair of the aorta in the case of dissection can save a life and prevent a stroke."
Constantly having itchy skin isn't always a sign you should be using more moisturizer. It may be an indicator of advanced liver disease, says the Cleveland Clinic. One of the symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver is pruritus, or severe itching of the skin. If you think a liver issue could be responsible for your scratchiness, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Don't get down on yourself for being unable to get or keep an erection. Instead, talk about the issue with your doctor. According to Harvard Medical School, erectile dysfunction can be indicative of heart disease or other circulatory problems. Just like with heart disease or stroke, the buildup of fat and cholesterol in your arteries can limit blood flow to your member, causing issues in the bedroom as a result.
Swollen feet or ankles
Having swollen feet, legs, and/or ankles isn't something to take lightly. While it could be due to eating too much salty food, Harvard Medical School says it could also be a sign of heart failure, kidney disease, liver failure, or inefficient blood flow to your legs.
Unexplained shortness of breath
You'd expect to be gasping for air after moving furniture around or taking the stairs. But if a major case of shortness of breath comes on suddenly after minimal to no exertion, the Mayo Clinic says it could be due chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or something like bronchitis, asthma, or pneumonia.
Trouble breathing accompanied by leg or back pain
"The sudden onset of shortness of breath should raise concern. It can be caused by a clot in a leg vein breaking off and traveling to the lung, what we call a pulmonary embolus," Roberts says. "A massive pulmonary embolus can be fatal, but prompt diagnosis and treatment can be life-saving. Long plane rides are not an uncommon scenario, which can cause an increased risk of clotting." So if you experience shortness of breath with back or leg pain—especially while flying—be sure to seek medical attention immediately.
Experiencing body pain while exercising
Being sore after a workout is one thing, but if you're experiencing pain in your arms, back, shoulders, jaw, or abdomen while exercising: Harvard Medical School says it could be an indicator of heart disease. "Any symptom that seems to be provoked by exertion and relieved by rest could be heart-related," says Randall Zusman, MD, a cardiologist with Massachusetts General Hospital.
Getting full easily during a meal
Before, you could eat a truckload's worth of food before feeling full. Now, all it takes is a few bites. If you're experiencing early satiety, the Mayo Clinic says it could be due to GERD and peptic ulcers or pancreatic cancer.
Sudden trouble speaking
When you're suddenly unable to speak, you know something is off. "Sudden onset of difficulty speaking can herald the onset of a stroke," says Roberts. "Prompt diagnosis and treatment can prevent death or disability." If you ever find yourself in a situation where this happens, don't wait to get help.
Feeling weak on one side of your body
Suddenly having trouble speaking is one telltale sign of the onset of a stroke, but Roberts says another common symptom is experiencing weakness on one side of your body. If you find yourself in this situation, the most important thing you can do is get immediate medical attention.
According to Favini, the darkening of your skin could be due to Addison's disease. The disorder occurs when your adrenal glands aren't producing enough cortisol and aldosterone. Since symptoms develop slowly over time—including extreme fatigue, weight loss, and decreased appetite—it's important to go to your doctor immediately, as it can be life-threatening.
Sometimes there's a reason your personality or behavior changes, but other times, less so. Whether you notice it first or your friends tell you something seems off, head to the doctor. The Mayo Clinic says a personality change could signal everything from an infection and poor nutrition to a mental health condition.
Feeling constantly thirsty
If you still feel thirsty no matter how much water you seem to drink during the day, it could be a sign you have diabetes. When you have excess glucose, your kidneys excrete it through your urine. Unfortunately, fluids from your tissues often get excreted during the process as well, says the Mayo Clinic, which makes you feel dehydrated and constantly thirsty.
No matter how many mints you pop into your mouth, your bad breath won't go away. So what's the issue? According to the American Dental Association, consistent bad breath—called halitosis—or having a constant bad taste in your mouth can be a warning sign for advanced gum disease.
You should be especially concerned if shedding all those pounds goes hand-in-hand with a change in your bathroom habits. "Unexplained weight loss and changes in bowel habits may indicate poor health," Roberts says. "They may indicate bowel cancer, and early detection and treatment save lives."
Some people have a pretty steady bathroom schedule. If that's definitely not the case for you, Favini says it could be an indicator that you might need to make some changes in your diet.
"Constipation is often a sign that you don't have enough fiber in your diet. Increasing your fiber intake by eating more fruits and vegetables not only makes it easier to go to the bathroom, but also helps reduce your cholesterol levels and protect your heart," he explains.
Seeing black stool in the toilet after going to the bathroom can be a little unsettling. According to the journal Clinical Methods, the presence of black tarry stools, or melena, can be indicative of an upper gastrointestinal bleed, which needs to be evaluated quickly.
Or red stool
Passing a bright red stool is something you should bring up to your doctor immediately. Also according to Clinical Methods, red stool is associated with bleeding in your lower gastrointestinal tract—usually your colon. While it could be caused by something as benign as hemorrhoids, it can also be a sign of something more life-threatening, such as colorectal cancer.
Coughing up blood
According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer doesn't usually show any symptoms at first—not until it spreads. With that being said, if you find yourself coughing up blood, it's best to get it checked out right away. That way, if it is cancer, you can get a diagnosis as early as possible.
Severe back pain
Back pain is one of the most common afflictions in America, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, experiencing a severe, sharp tearing pain in your back could be due to an aortic dissection. This is a life-threatening event, and emergency care is needed right away.
Dark yellow urine
If your urine is always dark yellow, it's probably a sign that you're not drinking enough water during the day. By simply upping the amount you guzzle, you can improve your health in many different ways. "Drinking up to a gallon of water per day is the fastest way to melt inflammation from the body, gain energy, stabilize blood sugar levels, and lubricate joints," says Carr.
Going to the bathroom more than usual
Frequent trips to the bathroom could mean you're getting those eight glasses of water a day in, but it could also potentially be a sign of diabetes. When your kidneys can't handle all the excess glucose in your blood, they get rid of it through your urine, says the Mayo Clinic. Because the process makes you feel dehydrated, it causes you to guzzle down more water and pee more often.
Going to the bathroom frequently at night
If you find yourself waking up multiple times a night to urinate, it could be due to prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, aside from urinating more often during the night, you might also have a slow or weak urinary stream or problems urinating in general. While another explanation for these problems could be benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)—which is non-cancerous—it's something to bring up to your doctor either way.
Getting winded easily
Feel super out of breath from doing simple things throughout the day? Take it as your body trying to tell you some lifestyle changes need to be made in order to live a long, healthy life.
"If you find that you get easily winded when you're walking up the stairs or doing your day-to-day activities, this may be a sign of a developing heart or respiratory issues, but it most likely means you need to spend more time exercising," Favini says. "Check with your doctor, then get out there and do some aerobic conditioning."
A lump on or near your testicles
After all these years, you've gotten to know your body pretty well. That means if you notice anything off—especially in your groin area—you need to bring it up to your doctor. "If you find a lump in your scrotum—even a small lump—this can be a sign of testicular cancer and should be evaluated ASAP," Favini says.
Pain or swelling in your groin
While a lump on the testicle is the clearest indicator of testicular cancer, the American Cancer Society says you may also experience a painful feeling of heaviness or aching in your lower abdomen, along with the swelling of one of your testicles. If you can't tell whether your testicle is swollen or just bigger than the other—which is totally normal—ask your doctor to be sure.
Changes in your handwriting
One of the earliest and most detectable symptoms of Parkinson's disease is experiencing handwriting abnormalities. Particularly micrographia, which is an abnormally small letter size, according to the journal Movement Disorders Clinical Practice. If you or someone close to you notices your handwriting is becoming much smaller in size, check in with your doctor.
Snoring doesn't just keep your partner awake. According to Harvard Medical School, snoring can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, where your upper airway is completely or partially blocked while sleeping. If sleep apnea is left untreated, it can lead to serious medical problems, including pulmonary hypertension. If it gets to that point, it could put enough strain on your heart to cause a heart attack.
Feeling exhausted after a long day is a given. The problems come when you feel tired all the time, no matter how much is on your plate.
"Between work, family, and other responsibilities, many people feel tired," says Favini. "But persistent tiredness where you never feel like you have the energy you need can be a sign of problems with your thyroid, vitamin levels, or immune system. It's worth discussing this with your doctor."
Falling asleep during the day
If you're falling asleep while doing daily tasks (or worse, driving), it could be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which leads you to feel incredibly tired during the day, says the National Sleep Foundation. If you allow sleep apnea to go untreated, you could be setting yourself up for health problems—and accidents—in the future.
Seeing small specks in your vision
Have you ever noticed small specks or clouds moving around in your field of vision? The Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan says it's probably due to floaters—little clumps of gel or cells floating around inside your eye. If they come about suddenly, talk to your eye doctor right away. While they can be a normal part of the aging process, they could also signal a tearing of the retina, which could lead to retinal detachment and vision loss.
Sudden vision changes
Any sudden changes in vision—such as double vision, blurred vision, or total loss of vision—could be due to a stroke, says the Cleveland Clinic. The longer the brain goes without fresh oxygen, the lower the chances of survival and recovery. If you're experiencing any of these visual symptoms, make sure to seek emergency care immediately.
Yellowing of the eyes
Noticing the whites of your eyes turning yellow is a clear indicator that your liver might not be in the best condition. "These can be a sign of serious liver problems and should be evaluated by a doctor," Favini says. Since alcohol can cause liver damage, he says to hold off on drinking until you're told it's okay.
Yellow bumps on your eyelids
If you have yellow bumps around your eyes, they're most likely a result of something called xanthelasma. According to Harvard Medical School, the deposits of cholesterol that pop up underneath the skin are benign and don't spread, but they could be a sign of hyperlipidemia—a condition where you have high levels of fat particles, including cholesterol and triglycerides, in your blood.
Nope, you can't always blame your comforter or partner for causing you to overheat and wake up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat. If it happens often, the American Osteopathic Association says it could be due to various different medical conditions, including different types of cancer, hormone disorders, infections, or anxiety.
If you find yourself sweating when it's not warm, you should be concerned about your health. " A 2005 study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that "when individuals begin perspiring while experiencing discomfort in their chest, arm, neck or jaw—with little or no exertion—it could be the onset of a heart attack."
Some people run cold; others, hot. While a fever can simply mean your body is trying to fight off an infection, having one that's persistent could be a signal that something is wrong with your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, it could be due to cancerous conditions, so it's important to get checked out by your doctor ASAP.
Always feeling hot
If you commonly experience increased sensitivity to hot temperatures, it could be related to a problem with your thyroid, says Harvard Medical School. People with overactive thyroids tend to feel hot in normal climates and experience heavy sweating in a normal environment while those around them might not be quite as bothered.
Take a look at your nails. If the tips look like the round part of an upside-down spoon, it could be nail clubbing, which is typically associated with diseases of the heart and lungs, says the Mayo Clinic. Since the most common cause of nail clubbing is lung cancer, ask your doctor to take a look as soon as possible.
Sudden changes to your body
If you've noticed some major changes going on with your body, it's probably not something to ignore. Instead, work with your doctor to get to the bottom of the matter.
Men should "never ignore any significant change in their body, like a sudden change in weight, energy, sleep patterns, or strength," says Brian Greenberg, MD, a board-certified allergist-immunologist for 1MD. "The body has an extraordinary ability to maintain itself in balance. Our electrolytes, our pH balance, and our temperature are maintained almost perfectly our entire life unless there's something seriously wrong."