Heart disease is a broad term that refers to multiple conditions, including angina, heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms, and heart failure. It is the leading cause of death in men in the United States.
Many things about heart health overlap for men and women, but heart disease affects men in different ways, and there are specific things to consider about heart health and prevention for the male sex.
Heart disease affects both men and women, but men experience heart disease earlier than women. Women, on average, develop heart disease at age 73; for men, it's 70. Men are also more likely to have a heart attack earlier, at age 74.5, compared to women at age 78.9.
Heart health is important for both men and women, but men have fewer years to focus on prevention.
Research shows that 47 percent of men from 2013 to 2016 had hypertension, a significant risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Other risk factors include an unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol use, obesity, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle.
These are the areas men and women should focus on to improve heart health, but men should take multiple other factors into consideration.
Men are less likely to get regular checkups than women, so they are less likely to receive routine tests for blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. These tests are key to evaluating heart health.
Men are also less likely to report health problems to their doctor and more likely to ignore symptoms of heart disease. So, one thing men can do to improve heart health is to have regular appointments with the doctor and report any symptoms they experience.
Many men assume heart attacks happen later in life, but people with a close male family member who has had a heart attack before age 55 are at higher risk for a heart attack at a young age themselves.
In some cases, heart attacks in men can happen as early as their 30s or 40s. Men should manage risk factors early, including controlling their weight, following a heart-healthy diet, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Men may have a difficult time accepting or talking about impotence, but it has more to do with heart health than they might think. Getting and maintaining an erection is directly linked to healthy blood flow, and damaged blood vessels in the penis can indicate there are also damaged blood vessels in the heart.
Men who experience erectile dysfunction should talk to their doctors about whether their heart health is the cause.
Men are at greater risk for hypertension than premenopausal women of the same age. This hypertension, paired with the fact that men are less likely to get checkups, can cause significant damage to the heart before men even realize there is a problem. Regular blood pressure screenings combined with exercise and a heart-healthy diet can help keep blood pressure under control.
Researchers do not understand what causes the differences in heart health between men and women, but evidence suggests hormones may play a role. Testosterone may contribute to high blood pressure, while estrogen can protect against it.
Monitoring pediatric patients shows differences in blood pressure between boys and girls, with boys skewing higher. If testosterone contributes to high blood pressure, it is all the more reason men should be mindful of heart health at every age.
A healthy diet is an essential part of heart health for men and women. Focus on eating plant-based foods, including fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes, and limiting red meat, which is high in saturated fat.
Saturated fat has many negative effects on the heart and should be minimized in favor of foods with high amounts of unsaturated fats, like olive oil, almonds, and avocados. Fatty fish, like tuna and salmon, are also good for heart health because they contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Exercise is an essential part of heart health for men and women. Everyone should aim for at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity spread out over most days of the week.
Strength training at least two times a week and flexibility and balance exercises are also essential.
There are many lifestyle factors men should pay attention to for better heart health. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so getting regular blood pressure screenings is key.
Men should also limit alcohol use as too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure. Smoking cigarettes greatly increases the risk of heart disease, so men who smoke should try to quit.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.