The health of men remains a vital concern in our country, especially since many guys put their own wellbeing on the back burner. The average man is expected to die nearly 5 years earlier than the average woman, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In fact, more than 1 in 5 guys have not seen any kind of health professional in over a year, a report from the National Center for Health Statistics found.
That’s one reason National Men’s Health Week, which runs from June 13 to 19 this year, was created: to raise awareness for the preventable health problems facing men, and to encourage them to seek medical care for them before it’s too late.
Related: The Better Man Project From Men’s Health—2,000+ Awesome Tips on How to Live Your Healthiest Life
This year, we’re shining a spotlight on the 7 most common man-killers.
We reported on one every single day, and are ending with the top man-killer: Read on to learn what can raise your risk and how to protect yourself from it—so you don’t become another statistic.
Man-Killer #1: Heart Disease
A bad heart kills more men each year than all types of cancer combined.
Each year, over 325,000 men die from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for them, according to the CDC.
In fact, nearly 1 out of every 4 male deaths can be attributed to the heart.
Related: 6 Guys Who Suffered Heart Attacks Tell You What It Really Feels Like
But the good news is, you’re not slated to follow that path.
“Unlike other deadly diseases, virtually all the major risk factors for heart disease are modifiable,” says Steven Nissen, M.D., chair of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “Modify your behaviors, and you can significantly lower your risks.”
What Raises Your Risk
Like with other leading causes of death, cigarettes play an important role.
“If you’re a younger man—age 30 to 50—smoking doubles the risk you’ll have a heart attack,” Dr. Nissen says.
High blood pressure, poor cholesterol, excess body weight, and too little exercise are the other major risk factors, he says.
Related: How Your Neck Size Affects Your Heart Health
Factors to Watch For
Some heart attacks might strike silently, meaning they don’t come with the crushing chest pain you might associate with them.
Instead, you might feel things like mild chest pain, nausea, vomiting, unexplained fatigue, heartburn, shortness of breath, or discomfort in the neck or jaw, says David Bluemke, M.D., Ph.D., the director of radiology and imaging sciences at the NIH Clinical Center.
Related: Can You Have a Heart Attack—and Not Even Know It?
How to Keep Yourself Safe
Know what’s actually going on inside your body. You might be on the road to heart disease even if you feel great.
So you need a blood test known as a lipid panel.
“Beginning in his 20s, every man should know his cholesterol levels—including both his HDL and LDL measures—and his triglycerides,” Dr. Nissen says.
Armed with your cholesterol and triglyceride scores, your doctor can advise you on how to lower your risks.
“In general, a so-called Mediterranean diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil has a favorable effect on cholesterol and triglycerides,” Dr. Nissen says.
Physical activity also helps. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.
*Editor’s note: Check back to the National Men’s Health Week page every day this week for an updated list of the top mankillers.