Gray hair creeps up on you — sometimes literally. I was in my 30s, sporting a full beard, when I first noticed a few gray hairs appearing. Then there were more than just a few. It wasn’t long before the lumberjack image was beginning to give way to something closer to Old Father Time.
It wasn’t just the image that bothered me. It was the way I felt. Sure, gray hair is supposed to make men look distinguished. To give them gravitas. Look at Bill Clinton. Look at the baby-faced newsman Anderson Cooper,...
"A few days," he answered, speculating it was probably just an
outbreak of eczema.
"That doesn't look good," I replied. "Maybe you should see your
"OK," he said. I shook my head, knowing it would be a while before
he heeded my suggestion. Last year, it took a few months to convince him to go
for a physical examination. Before that, it had been five years since he'd been
to a doctor.
To Noel's credit, he's just being a guy. According to a 2001 CDC report,
women are 33% more likely than men to visit a doctor in general, although the
gap narrows with increasing age.
One could accept the statistic as just another difference between men and
women, but the stakes are too high to remain complacent.
The Men's Health Network (MHN) reports that men die at higher rates than
women from the top 10 causes of death - heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, accidents, pneumonia and influenza, diabetes,
suicide, kidney disease, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
Men also die younger than women. In 1920, women outlived men only by one
year. Today, CDC figures show the life expectancy gap has widened: On average,
women survive men by over five years.
"Any human being who is not connected to a physician to screen for major
health problems is at greater risk (of disease and death)," says Jean
Bonhomme, MD, MPH, a board member of the MHN.
The biggest problem that men have is not so much a specific disease, says
Bonhomme, but the diseases are the result of lack of health care monitoring
earlier in life. He cites the progression of heart disease as an example:
"If you don't get your cholesterol checked when it's going high when you're
20, and if don't get your blood pressure checked when it's going high when
you're 30, maybe your blood sugar's getting a little high when you're 40, what
do you think is going to happen when you're 50?"
Bonhomme places part of the blame on society in general, which expects boys
to be tough and ignore pain. As people get older, however, the rules change. A
little pain can get worse, or signal something more serious going on in the
Many of the top 10 causes of death are preventable, and can be treated, if
found early. To help men better their health, WebMD examined the risk factors
for five of the biggest killers of men: heart disease, stroke, suicide,
prostate cancer, and lung cancer. We asked the experts why men were so
vulnerable to these ailments and what they could do to reduce their risk of
disease and death.