Illinois Department of Public Health - Men's Health
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Frequently Asked Questions


What are the top health concerns of men?

Although the life-expectancy gap between men and women has decreased, women still live 5.2 years longer than men.  Several things work against men.  They tend to smoke and drink more than women and they don’t seek the medical attention they need as often as women.  There also are health conditions that only affect men, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and low testosterone.  Some men also define themselves by their work, which can add to their stress. 

Test your knowledge about men’s health issues by taking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Men’s Health quiz at http://www2a.cdc.gov/od/menshealth/test.asp.

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Why do men die younger than women?

Men face some unique health challenges, particularly as they age.  While men and women often suffer from the same adverse health conditions, men suffer from many common ailments at an earlier age.  A few possible reasons for this are hormones, heredity and often men do not pay as much attention to maintaining their health as do women.  In addition:

  • A higher percentage of men have no health care coverage.
  • Men go to the doctor for prevention visits half as often as women.
  • Men are employed in greater numbers in the most dangerous occupations, such as mining, firefighting and construction.
  • Men may have less healthy lifestyles, including risk-taking at younger ages.
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What can I do to stay healthy and prevent disease?

Men need to make an extra effort to stay healthy as they grow older.  They should focus on eating the proper foods, exercising and seeing a doctor for regular health checkups.  A healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward reducing the risk of developing health problems.  Remember:

  • Be your own health advocate
  • Educate yourself about a healthy lifestyle
  • Eat healthy
  • Be physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Go for regular doctor and dental exams
  • Get appropriate vaccinations
  • Manage stress
  • Know your family health history
  • Don’t smoke
  • If you drink, do so in moderation.
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What can I do if I don't have a doctor?

Many people have inadequate access to quality health care for a variety of reasons. Some are uninsured because they are unemployed, some employers don’t offer health benefits or some simply can’t afford costly premiums. Others have insurance that doesn’t cover the full range of prevention, early detection and treatment options. Still others are deemed “uninsurable” because of existing health conditions.

Research, however, shows that Americans want and value quality health care. And that's a good thing. Because when you make health care choices that offer the best possible care, you are most likely to get the best possible results ie living longer and healthier.

So when it comes to making major health care decisions -- about health insurance, doctors, prescription medicines and where to turn for treatment – there are a number of ways you can research which choices offer quality health care and which do not. 

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What types of health screenings can I do myself without going to the doctor?

While everyone should schedule regular checkups with a doctor and receive age-appropriate screenings to improve their health and reduce premature death and disability, there are several screenings you can perform on a regular basis by yourself.  You should consult your health care provider about the benefits of earlier screenings, especially if you are a member of a high risk group or have a family history of disease.  There are four self-exams you can perform on a regular basis between doctor visits that will help you help yourself – skin, testicular, oral and breast. 

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What is my prostate and why is its health important to me?

If you don’t know what your prostate is or what it does, you’re not alone. Most men don’t, but you should. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that forms part of the male reproductive system. The gland is made of two lobes, or regions, enclosed by an outer layer of tissue. The prostate is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder, where urine is stored. The prostate also surrounds the urethra, the canal through which urine and semen pass out of the body. The prostate squeezes fluid into the urethra to help make up semen as sperm move through during sexual climax.  More than 30 million men suffer from prostate conditions that negatively affect their quality of life. And every year more than 186,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 29,000 will die of it.  But many of these conditions can be readily treated and prostate cancer found early is curable.  So paying attention makes sense.

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We all feel 'down' from time to time, but how do I know if I’m depressed?

Your emotional and mental heath has an effect on everything in your life, from your relationships with others and your career successes to how long you live.  Depression is one of the most common diseases, affecting more than six million men in the U.S. But as common as depression is, it’s also one of the most misunderstood diseases. Many people believe, for example, that depression is a normal part of life.  If you experience symptoms for more than two weeks, or if you feel that any of these symptoms are interfering with your life, see a doctor right away. Not getting the help you need will only make the problem worse for you and those around you.  Untreated, it can lead to social problems, violence or suicide.

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What do I do if I think I have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?

Sexually active adults who consider themselves at risk for STDs should be screened for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and other STDs.  Your personal doctor or local health department can help you with this. 

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Do I need shots?

Some people think they don’t need immunization shots since they received them when they were younger.  However, vaccinations are not just for children.  There are immunizations people ought to consider as they get older – pneumonia, an annual flu shot, meningococcal (for college students) and hepatitis to name a few.  Also, everyone should have a tetanus shot every 10 years.  Others are recommended if you work in certain jobs, have certain lifestyles, travel to certain places or have certain health conditions.  For more information about adult immunizations, go to http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/2008-adult-schedule.pdf.

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I am an African-American man.  Are there special health concerns I need to be aware of?

Although all men generally live shorter and less-healthy lives than women, African-American men and some other minorities are at even greater risk of early death. African-American men, for example, suffer the worst health of any major population group in the United States , living an average of six years less then white men. The reasons for this are complex, but include a lack of health insurance or affordable health care, greater exposure to violence and hereditary factors.

  • African-American men are five times more likely to die of HIV/AIDS than white men.
  • African-American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world — they are at least 50 percent more likely to develop the disease, and twice as likely to die from it, than white men.
  • African-American men are about 30 percent more likely than whites to suffer a stroke and 40 percent more likely to die from it.
  • Among men age 40-59, half of African Americans and 30 percent of whites have high blood pressure.
  • African Americans are about 60 percent more likely to develop diabetes than whites.
  • African American men are more likely to develop cancer than men from any other racial or ethnic group. They also have a far higher death rate from most cancers, including oral and lung cancer.
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I am a Latino man.  Are there special health concerns I need to be aware of?

Although all men generally live shorter and less-healthy lives than women, Latino men are at greater risk for several health conditions.

  • Latino men are less likely than white men to visit a doctor. Some of the obstacles include lack of insurance, as well as distrust of the medical establishment.
  • More than 60 percent of American men are overweight or obese. Latino men are the most likely to be overweight, followed by whites and African Americans.
  • Latino men ages 20 and older are more likely than whites the same age to have high cholesterol.
  • Latino men are much more likely to develop diabetes than white men.
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Where can I turn to with questions regarding my health?

Good health is not merely the absence of disease. It's a lifestyle. Whether it's getting enough sleep, relaxing after a stressful day or enjoying a hobby, it's important to take time to be good to yourself. Take steps to balance work, home and play. Pay attention to your health, and make healthy living a part of your life. First and foremost, everyone should develop a relationship with a doctor or health care provider.  Together, you can forge a healthy lifestyle plan and attend to health issues.  Also, this Web site was created as a starting point for men and the women who love them to serve as a starting point to learn more about men’s health issues, where they can turn to for assistance, express their views and live a healthier life.  There are additional resources available now and more being added all the time, so check back regularly. 

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