Why distinguish between men and women’s health?
At IIN, one of the core concepts we teach in our Health Coach Training Program curriculum is bio-individuality, which means everyone has their own unique set of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. The foods, self-care practices, living environment, career, relationships – you name it! – that work for one person and make them feel fulfilled won’t necessarily work for another. Part of embracing this bio-individuality is recognizing the physiological differences that impact our well-being, such as our sex (whether someone is assigned male or female at birth), which includes hormones that will determine many aspects of health and longevity.
Men and women share the same hormones, but levels vary from day to day and month to month. Testosterone is the dominant hormone in men and its levels rise and fall every 24 hours. Estrogen and progesterone are the dominant hormones in women and their levels fluctuate over a 28-day cycle with four different phases within those 28 days.
Why does this matter? Well, these hormones are not just responsible for sexual maturation and reproduction. Testosterone is involved in many processes in the body, including muscle, bone, and hair growth, and there are health implications if levels are too high or too low. Estrogen is important for managing cholesterol, protecting bones, and regulating mood, and it can also cause health issues if levels aren’t within a normal range. In order to accurately and effectively treat patients for certain health conditions, doctors must take sex hormones into consideration and be able to speak to the nuances of hormone health.
Common men’s health concerns
Men and women can – and do – share many of the same health goals, such as a desire to maintain a healthy weight, boost energy, improve mood, and generally look and feel their best. But the biological mechanisms that underpin these goals have to be considered when addressing a course of action to improve health.
Common concerns among men experiencing high testosterone include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Fluid retention and weight gain
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Mood swings
- Prostate enlargement
Common concerns among men experiencing low testosterone include:
- Diminished libido
- Hair loss
- Muscle loss
- Poor concentration
The most common serious health conditions in men include:
- Colorectal cancer – Currently the second-leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, colorectal cancer is more prevalent in men and has become more prevalent in men ages 55 and younger.
- Heart disease – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States and around the globe. Many factors can contribute to heart disease, and in men in particular, there are key warning signs that could indicate development of heart disease and incidence of heart attacks, such as erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, and high stress.
- Prostate cancer – Approximately one in nine men will experience prostate cancer in their lifetimes, with older men and African American men at higher risk.
- Testicular cancer – Most commonly diagnosed in younger men (average age of diagnosis is 33), testicular cancer is highly treatable if caught early.
Why men should prioritize living a preventive lifestyle
There are many tried-and-true things that men can do each day to promote great health in both the short- and long-term. Disease prevention starts with becoming more aware of the physical body and how it feels and looks on a regular basis, as well as knowing risk factors that could apply to you. For example, testicular cancer symptoms are mostly confined to the testes area but can also include back pain and breast enlargement or tenderness. Risk factors for testicular cancer include family history, age (common in younger men), and race (more common in white men).
Disease prevention also requires an overhaul to dietary and lifestyle habits, especially if you smoke, drink alcohol, are sedentary, and/or don’t eat a balanced, nutritious diet. The risk of developing colorectal cancer can be dramatically reduced if you’re physically active, don’t smoke, increase fiber intake, and optimize digestion and bowel elimination with healthy bowel movements.
This blog post and Men’s Health Guide were created in collaboration with Colin Zhu, DO, American Board of Lifestyle Medicine Diplomate (DipABLM), chef, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. The free guide above details the unique aspects of men’s health briefly touched upon in this blog post but also contains more great information about preventive health and four quick lifestyle tips that Dr. Zhu recommends for any man looking to optimize his well-being and be his best in the world.