Men and women are about equal when it comes to rates of obesity. However, obesity can take a higher toll on men. To understand men’s health overall, it’s important to understand the facts about male obesity.
Men’s Health Month in June hopes to increase awareness of preventable health problems for men. Also, the goal is to encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
Research shows that men are less likely to see the doctor, especially if they don’t have symptoms. As a result, men are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease or illness in its later stages. This delay often makes treatment more complicated.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that men are three times more likely than women to go without a doctor visit for five or more years. According to a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, three times as many men as women had not seen a doctor in the previous year. In addition, more than half of all men had not undergone a physical exam or cholesterol test in the previous year. Up to 60% of men are unlikely to seek medical care, even when they believe they are seriously ill.
Male Obesity vs. Female Obesity
Studies have shown that obesity is bad for both sexes. Excess body fat raises the levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides while also lowering the HDL or “good” cholesterol levels. In addition, obesity impedes the body’s ability to respond to insulin, raising blood sugar. As a result, obesity and a lack of exercise are responsible for about 1,000 American deaths daily. Obesity will soon overtake smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.
Also, men and women often do not gain weight the same. Abdominal fat is the most harmful variety. With higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of estrogen than women, men tend to accumulate fat in their bellies. Due to the influence of estrogen, women tend to store more fat in their legs and hips. According to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the risk of developing heart disease to diabetes to osteoporosis goes up with your waist size.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) determines levels of obesity. To determine risk from belly fat, measure your waist at your navel. Risk increases at a waist circumference of 37.5 inches. A circumference of more than 40 inches at the waist a signal of trouble.
Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension are higher in men than women. Notably, 80% of all sudden-death cases due to unrecognized heart disease happen to men.
The Risks of Male Obesity
Obesity takes a toll on male hormones, sexuality and prostate health. Decreased testosterone levels can be linked to weight. Ironically, decreases in testosterone can lead to increases in body fat. Low testosterone can result in decreases in strength, body hair and sex drive, as well as increased fatigue.
Two American studies link weight and waist size to decreases in testosterone more than typical aging. In one, a one-point increase in BMI resulted in a 2% decrease in testosterone. The average drop due to aging is 1% a year. A four-inch increase in waist size increases the odds of having low testosterone by 75%. In comparison, 10 years of aging increased the odds of low testosterone by 36%.
And there’s more unwelcome news associated with male obesity. A Harvard study found men with a 42-inch waist are twice as likely to develop ED as men with a 32-inch waist. A California study found that having an overweight, not obese, BMI increased odds of developing ED by more than 90%. Research has also linked male obesity to low sperm count and mobility, kidney stones, prostate gland enlargement and prostate cancer.
Help for Obesity
While being overweight is becoming the norm, it’s not normal. Obesity alters the metabolism of sex hormones as well as increasing the body’s production of growth factors like insulin. These can increase the rate of cell multiplication and risks of cancer and other malignancies.
Obesityaction.org recommends taking an active role in weight management. This includes seeing a healthcare provider regularly and making necessary lifestyle modifications. If needed, seek help with treatment, including bariatric surgery.
Even with the proven health benefits of weight-loss surgery, a UC Davis study shows that obese women are four times more likely than obese men to seek it. When men do see a bariatric surgeon, they tend to be older, more obese and sicker than women.
Research shows that weight loss surgery can normalize blood pressure and cholesterol, improve cardiovascular function, emotional health and testosterone levels, reduce the risk of certain cancers and sleep apnea, provide relief from joint pain and result in remission for type 2 diabetes.
In surveys, men have been found more than women to believe bariatric surgery to be cosmetic or an “easy way out” of weight issues. But study after study have also found that weight loss surgery can significantly improve the health of obese patients. About 90% of patients who had the surgery are glad they did. About 60% to 70% regretted they didn’t do it sooner.