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4 silent killers of men

Men don’t always think it’s important to stay on top of their health. But making unhealthy lifestyle choices and failing to schedule routine checkups can put them at risk for silent killers. 

Silent killers are medical conditions with no obvious symptoms that can progress to an advanced stage before they are discovered. Here are four of the deadliest silent killers of men.

1. Heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. The term encompasses a wide range of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, which includes heart failure, angina, coronary artery disease and arrhythmias. According to the American Heart Association, one in four men die of heart disease every year.

Heart disease is so deadly because it causes few to no symptoms in its early stages.

“Several of the most common risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a family history of heart disease are not things a person can feel,” says Jyoti Sharma, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute. “If left unchecked, these risk factors can add up over time. It's important to see your doctor on a regular basis to make sure all of your cardiovascular risk factors are well-controlled.” 

2. Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, after skin cancer. More than 270,000 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States, and more than 30,000 men die of the disease every year. 

“Unfortunately, prostate cancer typically produces no symptoms until it has metastasized, or spread throughout the body,” says Spencer Kozinn, M.D., a Piedmont urologic oncologist. “At that point, the disease is no longer curable, only treatable. For this reason, regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening is of the utmost importance for detecting prostate cancer while it is localized to the prostate.”

Research suggests that regular PSA screening can decrease the risk of death by prostate cancer by over 25 percent.  

“This silent killer can be stopped by educating our patients and working with them to stop this disease before it needlessly takes another life,” says Dr. Kozinn.

3. Hypertension

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. More than 70 million American adults suffer from the condition, which, if left untreated, can lead to a fatal heart attack.

“Hypertension is multifactorial, meaning blood pressure may gently increase over time due to a lot of different factors: chronic stress, poor diet, and family and genetic influences that were present from the moment you were conceived, but express much later in life,” says Vikash Modi, M.D., a Piedmont family medicine physician.  “Most of the time, there’s no one simple solution to stopping or reversing high blood pressure. It takes a lot of work with treatments and patient’s themselves to get their blood pressure under control.”

While mildly or moderately elevated blood pressures may cause mild or moderate “daily” damage to your body’s systems, a sudden sharp elevation from an extremely stressful situation, or a new chemical in your system (as simple as caffeine) can be the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“The damage could have been brewing for years quietly,” says Dr. Modi. “But then one bad day, it sneaks up on you when you least expect it.”

4. Diabetes

Diabetes strikes nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association, it is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

Diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease, and it can cause problems with the eyes, skin and nervous system. It’s easy for diabetes symptoms to go undetected, but frequent urination, fatigue, weight loss and blurred vision are all symptoms of the condition.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and scheduling routine checkups can help prevent or catch these silent killers before it’s too late.

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