7 Top Health Risks for Men Over 40

By , Caring.com senior editor
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During midlife and beyond, men's leading causes of death include familiar standbys: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, suicide, and Alzheimer's disease.

To lessen your odds of dying from these killers, curb the critical habits that lead to them:

Risk: Being single

Numerous surveys have shown that married men, especially men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, are healthier and have lower death rates than those who never married or who are divorced or widowed. Never-married men are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, for example. After 50, divorced men's health deteriorates rapidly compared to married men's, found a RAND Center for the Study of Aging report.

What's the magic in the ring? The social connectedness of marriage may lower stress levels and depression, which lead to chronic illness. (Women tend to have more social ties outside of marriage.)

Oops: Unmarried men generally have poorer health habits, too -- they drink more, eat worse, get less medical care, and engage in more risky behaviors (think drugs and promiscuous sex). Exception: It's better to be single than in a strained relationship, probably because of the stress toll, say researchers in Student BMJ.

Silver lining: It's never too late. Men who marry after 25 tend to live longer than those who wed young. And the longer a fellow stays married, the greater the boost to his well-being.

Risk: Electronic overload

Psychologists are debating whether "Internet addiction disorder" is a legitimate diagnosis, and how much is too much, given how ubiquitous screens are in our lives. But one thing's certain: The more time that's spent looking at wide-screen TVs, smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, laptops, and other electronics, the less time that's spent on more healthful pursuits, like moving your body, communing with nature, and interacting with human beings.

Social isolation raises the risk of depression and dementia. And a sedentary lifestyle -- a.k.a. "sitting disease" -- has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premature death. A 2012 Australian study of more than 220,000 adults ages 45 and up linked sitting for 11 or more hours a day with a 40 percent increased risk of death over the next three years.

Oops: Americans spend five hours in front of the TV every day, according to a 2011 JAMA study that didn't even take all those other screens into account. More than just three hours a day ups your odds of dying of any chronic disease.

Silver lining: The Australian researchers say that getting up and moving even five minutes per hour is a "feasible goal . . . and offers many health benefits."

Risk: Sloppy sunscreen use

Men over age 40 have the highest exposure to damaging UV rays, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Men are twice as likely as women to develop skin cancer and die from it. And 6 in 10 cases of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, affect white men over age 50.

More men tend to work and play sports outdoors; having shorter hair and not wearing makeup adds to the gender's exposure. Nor are their malignancies noticed and treated early: Middle-aged and older men are the least likely group to perform self-exams or see a dermatologist, according to a 2001 American Academy of Dermatology study.

Oops: Fewer than half of adult men report using sun protection methods (sunscreen, protective clothing, shade), in contrast to 65 percent of adult women.

Silver lining: Doctors tend to detect more early melanomas in men over 65, perhaps because the older you get, the more often you see a doctor for other (nondermatological) reasons.