As a young man, I often learned life lessons from my father. Perhaps none have been as lasting as the lesson he inadvertently taught me about health as his own health took a downward turn. While I was in middle school—a time when most boys are navigating puberty—my dad was busy prepping for heart valve surgery. With his life on the line and under doctor’s order, he and the rest of my family had to make brisk changes—dietary changes like less red meat—soon after the surgery he was accompanied by a cane; everyday tasks like bathing also required greater effort. Though he has largely recovered in the decade since, his experience has left a persistent impression on me as a young man about my own cardiovascular health.
It’s no secret that men are less engaged in their health; we’re less likely to go to the doctor than women, and more likely to die of the leading causes of death than women including cardiovascular disease. And data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows the problem doesn’t start later in life—nonelderly men were over 21% more likely than nonelderly women to be uninsured. And few health issues outpace that of cardiovascular disease or heart disease as it’s commonly known.
Why Heart Disease Matters
The heart is one of the most important parts of the body
that men have to keep healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), the
leading cause of death for males in the United States is
heart disease. Heart disease encompasses a wide variety of medical problems
that can affect the heart. These can include coronary
heart disease, angina, heart
attacks, high blood
pressure, and strokes.
Specific men-centric heart risks include erectile
dysfunction, low testosterone, and chronic stress. Men also have
gender-specific tendencies to make mistakes maintaining their heart’s
healthiness. These include skipping
preventative care, assuming problems are in your head, thinking you’re too
young for any serious problems, self-medicating, and adopting a fatalistic
approach to genetic health problems.
Some signs you or someone you know may be suffering from
heart problems include chest pains, shortness
of breath, or fainting. There are also certain factors – genetically
predisposed or otherwise – that can increase your risk of developing heart
problems during your life. These include being 45
or older, having an immediate family member that had heart conditions before
55, getting little or no exercise, being overweight, eating salty foods, smoking,
having poor hygiene, having high blood pressure and/or cholesterol and having
In order to prevent or reduce your risk of developing any
heart diseases, you should consider eating
more fruits and vegetables, avoiding trans fats, exercising
regularly, and having regular checkups with your doctor. Such preventative
measures are also good habits to possess regardless, if you don’t already have
As someone in the age 18-29 demographic, I am acutely aware of how important it is for someone my age to maintain their health. Many 18-29-year-olds feel the same – at least 60% have visited the doctor at least once within one year. But this still leaves 40% of all these young adults not visiting the doctor annually, and this places them at greater risk of developing health problems as a result of their negligence. Not to mention that more health problems could be developed later into their life as a result of the poor choices they make today. Now that you are more aware of the causes, signs and symptoms of heart disease, you are now better prepared to handle any heart problems that may come your way. Remember – a healthy heart is a happy heart!