June is Men’s Health Month, 30 days dedicated to fostering discussion and education of some of the key health issues which affect men today. As cardiologists, this mission is important to us. While heart disease is the leading cause of death in men, tending to affect them at younger ages than women, one study showed that men are a third less likely to have gone to a doctor within the past year than women. It’s so important that we close that gap – it can literally save lives.
How does heart disease affect men?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men in the United States. According to the CDC, half of the men who die suddenly from coronary artery disease have previously not had any symptoms. This is why it’s highly important to get heart screenings, even if you don’t have noticeable symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of heart disease in men?
Symptoms of heart disease can vary in severity and may include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing while exerting yourself
- Irregular heartbeat
- Extreme fatigue
- Upper back or abdominal pain
Do only old men have heart attacks?
The short answer is no. 20% of deaths from coronary artery disease occur in men under the age of 65. Men should begin cardiovascular screenings by the age of 40. If you have a family history of premature coronary artery disease (younger than 55 years old in men, younger than 65 in women), we recommend you start screening even earlier.
How can heart disease affect men’s sex lives?
Those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or coronary artery disease are at a higher risk of erectile dysfunction due to reduced blood flow to the penis. Those who have coronary artery disease often have peripheral artery disease – that is, plaque buildup in other vessels in your body. If there is plaque build up in the penile artery it can restrict the blood supply to the penis and cause erectile dysfunction.
What can men do to help prevent heart disease?
Know your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. Seeing your doctor regularly can help with early identification of a potential problem and give you more options and a better chance at effective treatment. Most importantly, you should maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle by avoiding tobacco use, eating a low salt, low saturated fat diet, and doing regular aerobic exercise.