Diabetes is a current health concern in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has gone as far as to label it an epidemic. In fact, in 2016, the CDC reported 29 million cases of the condition throughout the country, with another 86 million people living with prediabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 percent to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, and Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 percent.
Historically, there tends to be a greater incidence of diabetes in men than in women. But why? Are men facing a higher risk for the condition? Are there any specific concerns that arise with cases of diabetes in men? Here's what you should know.
The Truth of the Matter
Looking at those statistics, it would be easy to conclude that men are biologically at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. However, this simply isn't true, according to Naser Jamal, DO, Internal Medicine with Dignity Health Medical Group in the Ventura, California, region. Granted, there are certain lifestyle factors -- such as inactivity and poor diet -- that can contribute to the development of diabetes, but in large part, diabetes is a genetic condition that both men and women are at equal risks for. The real problem is that men tend to neglect their health and usually schedule an office visit when pushed by family members. "My wife made me come" is a phrase Dr. Jamal often hears.
"When men come to the office, often they have had diabetic symptoms for some period that they didn't pay much attention to. They just kind of brushed those symptoms off to the side. So, when they do come, their diabetes tends to be more advanced," explains Dr. Jamal. "Because of that delay in seeking medical care, often you have males that have complications related to diabetes that could have been prevented earlier."
It's very possible, though, that this hesitance to see their doctor when diabetes symptoms start to develop has to do with the symptoms themselves. Diabetes in men can, of course, lead to cardiovascular problems, nerve damage, and other complications. However, men can also experience issues related to sexual health and bladder control, including erectile dysfunction and retrograde ejaculation -- factors that may make men feel to embarrassed to seek medical help.
Treatment for Men
If you do learn that you -- or a man you care about -- are dealing with diabetes, what sort of treatment might a doctor recommend? According to Dr. Jamal, "the cornerstone of diabetic care is diet and exercise."
Frequently, he finds that his male patients feel that they simply don't have time to exercise. The trick, then, is to uncover ways to incorporate activity into your regular routine. "Simple activities like, after dinner, going for a nice stroll around the block or parking a little farther in the parking lot, or, during lunchtime, taking 30 minutes to walk around the building" can all help increase your activity levels without muddying up your already busy schedule.
Similarly, when it comes to diet, Dr. Jamal's male patients typically feel they're so busy that they have to settle for whatever food is fast, easy, and available. Again, your doctor will work with you to develop a way for you to plan for your meals and design a healthy diet.
Whether you were just diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, or you feel like you may have the symptoms, see your doctor in order to make a plan and be proactive about your health.