Surprise: Men Get These Diseases, Too

A doctor talking to a male patient while holding a prescription bottle(BlackDoctor.org) — It’s hard to escape gender labeling in our society. Dolls and the color pink are associated with girls, while guys are assigned GI Joes and the “manly” color blue. And the trend doesn’t stop at childhood, either. It trickles down to matters of health as well. But in reality, men can face the same challenges when they develop a disease more common in women.

Men may be less likely to get these diseases than women are, but that doesn’t mean the danger–and the need for preventative measures–isn’t there.

Breast Cancer: One Man Per 108 Women

All of us are born with breast tissue. Women tend to have more of it, thanks to hormones, which is one reason why their breast cancer rates are higher. But men are at risk, too. In 2009, the American Cancer Society determined that 1,910 men would be diagnosed and 440 would die from invasive breast cancer. The potential causes are similar between men and women–excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, high estrogen levels (in men, this could be the result of Klinefelter’s syndrome or cirrhosis), genetic predisposition, and so on. Breast cancer is most common among men aged sixty to seventy.

Doctors used to believe that men were less likely than women to survive breast cancer, but their survival rates are about the same. The National Cancer Institute thinks the mistaken belief was due to men’s not being screened for the disease earlier in life (as women are with mammograms), which means their diagnoses often happen at later, and more terminal, cancer stages.

Lupus: One Man Per Nine Women

For centuries, doctors have known that autoimmune diseases are more common in women. The difference might be due to the way estrogen levels affect the immune system in women and men.

Among young people, lupus affects females especially heavily. In the 50s and beyond, women still account for most cases, but men start to catch up. Older patients tend to be more concerned that they’ve developed a disease that pops up more in women. A 19 year-old man with lupus may not care, per se, but the 55 year-old men may be a bit more traditional. Sometimes  there’s a bit of reticence or embarrassment on their part over the diagnosis.

Men tend to have more serious cases of the disease than women, and it’s often especially severe in young men. However, men typically respond as well to treatments – which are mostly the same for men and women — and the risk of death from the disease is similar.

Osteoporosis: One Man Per Four Women

Look at any advertisement for calcium supplements or osteoporosis treatment, and it’s obvious who’s being targeted–namely, not men. While it’s true that women are more prone to weakened bones, the National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that two million men have it currently, while twelve million more are at risk. Women have smaller frames, which give them less to work with as calcium depletion rises with age. But while women are often tested for bone density around menopause because their hormonal changes make bones more fragile, men aren’t until something major happens, like a fracture.

Men die more from hip fractures than women (31 percent, compared with 17 percent), partly because their fractures tend to happen later in life, and partly because the disease progresses unchecked so for long, severely damaging their frames. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 6 percent of men will have hip fractures by age fifty. Age isn’t the only trigger, though. Lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and getting little to no exercise, as well as certain medications (for example, those that contain steroids, like asthma medication), ethnicity, and family history, are all possible risk factors.

Lower Your Blood Pressure With…Purple Potatoes?

potatoes(BlackDoctor.org) — A daily dose of purple potatoes served plain may help your heart. That is, if you steer clear of the deep fryer and fatty toppings.

A new study shows that people who ate plain purple potatoes cooked in the microwave twice a day for a month lowered their blood pressure by 3%-4% without gaining weight.

Researchers say the blood pressure-lowering effects are likely due to the high concentration of antioxidants found naturally in potatoes. Antioxidants protect your body from molecules called “free radicals” that can damage healthy cells.

But the frying process destroys the healthy substances in potatoes.

“Mention ‘potato’ and people think ‘fattening, high carbs, empty calories.’ In reality, when prepared without frying and served without butter, margarine, or sour cream, one potato has only 110 calories and dozens of healthful phytochemicals and vitamins,” researcher Joe Vinson, PhD, of the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania, says in a news release. “We hope our research helps to remake the potato’s popular nutritional image.”

Researchers say potatoes contain a variety of potentially beneficial phytochemicals at similar levels as broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts.

Potatoes’ Surprising Effect
In the study, 18 overweight and obese people with high blood pressure either ate six to eight small purple potatoes (about the size of a golf ball) with the skins twice daily or no potatoes, as a part of their normal diet for four weeks.

The results showed that people who ate purple potatoes lowered their diastolic (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) blood pressure by an average of 4.3% and systolic (the top number) by 3.5%.

Researchers say that blood pressure-lowering effect is nearly the same as with oatmeal.

Although the study used purple potatoes, which can increasingly be found in farmers markets, researchers say red and white potatoes may have similar effects.

They say the results are especially noteworthy because 14 of the 18 people in the study were already taking drugs to control their high blood pressure, yet still experienced a further lowering of their blood pressure. No other changes in body weight or cholesterol were found as a result of adding potatoes to the peoples’ diet.

Researchers say the potato is the most eaten vegetable in the U.S., but it’s gotten a bad rap.

“The potato, more than perhaps any other vegetable, has an undeserved bad reputation that has led many health-conscious people to ban them from their diet,” Vinson says.

The results of the study were presented this week at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver.