‘No Fear’ looks impressive when plastered on a longboard, but it’s only surfing bravado. We know because we asked you about your darkest medical concerns in an online poll. As it turns out, most of you fear a lot of health problems, but you fear the wrong things. And that may turn out to be your deadly miscalculation.
Take testicular cancer and paralysis. These relatively infrequent afflictions scare the living daylights out of you. And yet you seem far less concerned about more common health menaces such as lung cancer, heart attack, diabetes and stroke.
Why the misguided dread? When you stand to lose a portion of your life from a disease striking in your later years, you weight the risk lower in the present.
Here are your top health fears, their actual risk and the real stealth killers to fret over today.
Call it the Lance Armstrong effect – the men we polled live in dread of groping their happy sac and finding a lump. Testicular cancer is known as the ‘young man’s disease’ because it usually hits guys between the ages of 18 and 35, yet, it only accounts for 5.45 percent of the cancers diagnosed in men under the age of 30, placing it in the ‘relatively rare’ category. What’s more, testicular cancer has a cure rate of more than 90 percent, one of the highest among cancers.
Check your testes once a month, in a warm bath or immediately after showering. Gently roll each testicle between your thumb and forefinger. See your doctor if you feel any unusual lumps. Early detection has driven down deaths related to this cancer. Don’t be the fool who bucks the trend. Fear this more. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men after basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer), accounting for 13 percent of all cancers diagnosed. Although it tends to be diagnosed only when you’re in your sixties, the seeds of trouble can be planted decades earlier. So how can you improve your odds? By chowing down on broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolate, which makes the liver produce enzymes that help break down carcinogens.
Being dead, no big deal. Being paralyzed – now that would suck. Brain injury, motor-vehicle accidents and diving are some of the ways men become paralyzed (by severing the spinal cord), but the most common cause of paralysis is stroke (by causing neurological damage). Lower your blood pressure by drinking 350ml of carrot juice daily. The potassium will sweep excess sodium out of your system and the phytochemicals will help combat hypertension.
Fear this more. Falling off a ladder. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, ladder-related injuries at home have climbed almost 50 percent since 1990. Set the legs of the ladder 30cm away from the wall for every metre of the ladder’s height.
Brain cancer also ranks high on your list of health fears. Yes, it’s grim. Sure, survival rates are low. Heredity seems to be a major risk factor. So is prolonged inhalation of vinyl chloride – the kind of doses you’d receive working in a plastics factory.
Unless you do, in fact, work in a plastics factory, relax. Try to adopt the attitude of one survey respondent: ‘I don’t worry about things that I cannot control.’ Fear this more. Lung cancer may be less common than, say, prostate cancer, but it is one of the most fatal of all the cancers. Don’t smoke? Two hours spent in a smoky bar can affect your lungs as much as puffing four cigarettes does, so limit your exposure. Try to eat more apples, too. A study in the International Journal of Cancer showed a big decrease in the incidence of lung cancer among those who ate apples and pears.
More than impotence, gunfire or being flattened by a car, the fate you fear most is losing your awareness and memory to Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that leads to senile dementia and, ultimately, death. My mind controls my life. Losing it means losing who I am.
Your Alzheimer’s threat is negligible until you reach the age of 65. At that point, the odds jump to 6.3 percent. However, if the disease runs in your family, lifetime risk soars to 64 percent. The cause remains as hazy as the mental degradation it causes, although there seems to be a connection to diabetes. Increased insulin in the bloodstream unleashes plaque-forming proteins in the brain. Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease may share metabolic pathways.
To keep your wits, join the Internet Chess Club at www.chessclub.com. You want to build up as much cognitive reserve as you can through activities that involve memory and abstract thinking. Better yet: start a chess club with some friends. Social engagement accomplishes much the same and lowers stress. To lessen your risk of diabetes, slash your intake of carbohydrates that don’t come from fruits and vegetables.
Fear this more. Losing your mind at age 70 won’t be much of a concern if you pull a Kurt Cobain before turning 30. Suicide is the third-leading cause of violent/accidental death in men between the ages of 20 and 30. What’s more, men are more likely to kill themselves than women. If you’re entertaining self-destructive thoughts, ask your doctor for help. Any suggestion of suicide should be taken seriously.
Your fear of burns is out of whack with the real risk. While it is true that burns account for 50.7 percent of all non-road-related accidental deaths between the ages of 25 and 34, it’s important to realize that accidental deaths only account for a small fraction of deaths that fall in the ‘homicide and violence’ category.
If you do burn yourself seriously, chances are it will happen in the kitchen, not from a truck exploding next to your car. In the event of a grease fire starting on the stove, don’t douse it with water – that will only spread the flames. Instead, cover the flames with a metal pan to smother them.
Fear this more. Skin cancer. It’s highly curable, but only if detected early. Save your hide from the worst effects of the sun by slathering on thin coats of SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen before soaking up rays.
The ability to achieve and maintain an erection is a complex physiological process. Yet even though a mere five percent of men under 40 can’t produce wood on demand, you obviously fear what lies – or flops – ahead. And rightly so: erectile dysfunction (ED) afflicts 52 percent of men over the age of 40.
To ensure you’re up for whatever she’s offering, turn off the telly. Men who watch more than 20 hours of TV a week are 30 percent more likely to experience ED.
Fear these more. High blood pressure, diabetes and obesity – all of which take a toll on your arteries. We’re learning that the most common cause of ED is related to vascular disease. Your countermeasure: eat two small, healthy breakfasts instead of one (or none) so that your sugar and insulin levels don’t skyrocket then crash. At 7am, blend 300ml of water with two scoops of protein powder, a handful of berries, a tablespoon of wheatgerm, a tablespoon of coconut oil and a dusting of cinnamon. Follow that up at 10am with scrambled eggs, a small portion of fruit and that BP-busting carrot juice. Eat small, fat- and protein-rich meals at three-hour intervals until 9pm.