Unique Bodies, Unique Challenges: 3 Ways Obesity Affects Men Differently

We may be celebrating Men’s Health Week in June, but the issues men face as a result of obesity are a year-round struggle. And our health can suffer in a few unique ways you might not know about.

Prostate Problems

As our waistlines get bigger, so do our prostates. This condition, known as benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH, sometimes requires surgery to correct. And when combined with obesity, the likelihood is far higher that you’ll need it. Obesity can also lead to decreased levels of prostate-specific antigens. Measuring the amount of these proteins in the bloodstream is one of the key ways that we can detect prostate cancer early. Obese men have more blood in their bodies, so these antigens are diluted and any drop in the level becomes harder to recognize. When you combine that with the fact that obesity can raise your risk of prostate cancer by as much as 34% — and the fact that obese men often delay seeking medical help (sometimes for reasons I discuss in another article) — you get a deadly cocktail with one underlying ingredient.

Lower Testosterone

When we’re younger, most men produce a ton of this hormone — it helps shape our bodies, our voices and even our bones. But as we age, it begins to decrease at a rate of about 1% a year – unless you’re suffering from obesity. Studies have shown that for each one-point increase in our Body Mass Index (BMI), we lose 2% of our testosterone. Not only that, but our waistlines are actually one of the strongest indicators of our testosterone levels. Research tells us that 1 in 7 obese men could be candidates for testosterone replacement therapies. Compare that to nearly 1 in 30 for the non-obese.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Despite what many believe, ED isn’t usually caused by lower testosterone levels. But it certainly is linked to obesity. Even just being overweight can increase our chances of developing the condition by 90%. And for men struggling with obesity, that risk can more than double. But at the same time, losing weight has been shown to be an effective response. An Italian study indicated that diet and exercise could be five times more effective than simply treating the condition with medicine.

As always, I want to remind men of the silver lining here: we can deal with a whole host of issues through a simple two-pronged approach: healthier eating and more active living. This month is the perfect time to begin. It’s also an opportunity to support the men in your life as they try to make these changes. Encourage each other to start small, keep working towards a goal and keep sight of the bigger health picture.