It’s a great time to be a man—health-wise, at least. With ever-increasing access to information and the development of new trackers and apps, it’s easier than ever to know what’s going on with your body (and to know whether those changes are good or bad.) But there are still a few issues that young men need to work on. We sat down with ZocDoc’s Keri Peterson, M.D., an internal medicine doctor in New York City, to discuss the top health risks to young men, so you can avoid becoming another statistic.
“Men are less conditioned than women to think of the sun as a health risk,” says Peterson. “A majority of skin cancer screening messages are targeted at women—as are marketing campaigns on anti-aging.” Even if picking up a few wrinkles is not your top concern, that doesn’t mean you can skip out on SPF.
According to Peterson (and pretty much every other doctor ever) you should be wearing SPF every day, including in the winter. You should also be trying to keep track of your moles, even in those hard to spot places like your back and your neck. If you see any changes, ask your physician what they think, or schedule a trip to the dermatologist.
One of the most common places for men to get skin cancer? The scalp, where close buzzcuts or thinning hair allow harmful rays to get through to the skin more easily. If you know you’ll be out in the sun for a long time, throw on a baseball cap to protect your scalp.
The last step to avoiding skin cancer? “Visit your dermatologist at least once a year for a full body scan,” says Peterson.
Lack of Sleep
Countless studies show that Americans work longer hours and take less vacation than their peers in other countries. This means less time to sleep, which can lead to all kinds of health problems.
“Men need eight hours of sleep a night,” said Peterson. “And who gets that? Nobody.”
Aside from the general drowsiness and misery we associate with not getting enough shut-eye, lack of sleep can actually have serious medical consequences. “It’s a chain reaction,” says Peterson. “Increased blood pressure, increased hunger, impaired memory, moodiness and weakened immune response can all come from a lack of sleep.”
Stress is a major problem for young American men, and it is more prevalent now than ever before. Aside from problems associated with stress-induced sleep deprivation, it can also lead to muscle pain, headaches, upset stomach, and decreased sex drive.
Peterson offers some simple tips to help you unwind better, which will take down your risk for anxiety and depression. “The first step is to stop overscheduling,” she syas. “People expect themselves to be in two places at once.”
To that end, Dr. Peterson suggests that you limit multitasking. Take on the task at hand, and put everything else out of your mind while you work on it. Lastly, she suggests powering off on the weekends. Check your work email once a day, then sign out and put your phone away.
Getting away to the gym for a few hours can help, too. “Exercise releases endorphins and boosts self esteem,” says Peterson.
One of the biggest risks of stress is that it puts you at risk for depression and anxiety.
“In my practice, I see a lot of denial regarding depression and anxiety because it’s associated with women,” said Dr. Peterson. But despite the stigma, depression is common among young men, and left untreated it can become a serious threat. If you don’t feel like you can discuss it with your primary care doctor, make an appointment via ZocDoc.
We all know that STDs are common; one in four Americans will have one in their lifetime.
Every time you have unprotected sex, and for every new partner, you need to go to your doctor and get a test done. Most common STDs (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, to name a few) can be easily cured with a antibiotics. And the more frequently you get tested, the less terrified you need to be.
Are you up to date on all shots and vaccines? This is one question you should definitely ask your doctor.
“We sometimes think we finished with vaccines as children,” says Peterson. “But as adults it’s important to stay current with booster vaccines, receive new vaccines like for HPV that have come to market in recent years, and get short-term vaccines like those for the flu, whooping cough, and pneumonia.”