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Healthy Living

June 10-16 National Men's Health Week

The biggest health threat to American men is heart disease -- over 356,000 die from diseases of the heart each year. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking and obesity, which can be controlled to various extents.

The second most common cause of death is cancer, which kills 291,100 men annually. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in American men, and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths, behind lung cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer and cancer death in American men -- killing 27,800 men each year.

Experts say the risk for many diseases can be reduced with a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, not smoking and a low-fat diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Men also should talk with their doctors to set up a schedule of preventive screening exams that can help detect diseases at their earliest, most treatable stages. For example, elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are strong indicators for heart disease so men should be checked regularly, according to a schedule determined by their age and other risk factors.

Prostate cancer screening, which involves a digital rectal exam of the prostate gland and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, is often advised yearly after age 50. However, some doctors do not recommend routine PSA testing due to the lack of hard proof that it decreases the death rate from the disease. Colon cancer screening also begins at 50 for most men.

Additionally, men should have their testicles checked regularly by a doctor. Testicular cancer, the most common cancer in young American men, is one of the most curable types of cancer when found early. Many doctors also recommend monthly testicular self-examination after puberty, although some experts say the benefits of self-exams are unproven.

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