• Men's Health Myths: From Viagra Tales to Hair Growth Legends

    IMAGE It iss no wonder health myths abound. For example, as a kid you may have believed that if you did not wait an hour after eating to go swimming, you would get a stomach cramp and drown. Not true—unless you have eaten lead. Although, sometimes what sounds like a myth may be true. For example, wearing briefs that are too tight can indeed lower your sperm count.

    Myth: Men Do Not Get Osteoporosis

    Fact: While women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) reports that many men aged 50 and older may be at risk. It is a sneaky disease because many people do not realize they are losing bone density until a brittle bone fractures. Proportionally, more men than women who have the disease suffer hip fractures, and men are also at a greater risk than women to die within a year after breaking a hip.
    In addition, NOF says osteoporosis in men is under-diagnosed, under-reported, and inadequately researched. What is known is that age, certain conditions (e.g., cancer and its treatment), medicines, and lifestyle habits can speed bone loss. The NOF advocates a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and a weight-bearing exercise routine (eg, walking, dancing, playing tennis). The organization cautions against smoking and excessive use of alcohol.

    Myth: Shaving Your Head Will Make Hair Grow Back Thicker

    Fact: Do not bother. But the good news about this myth is that it does not cost anything. You could spend a fortune chasing other so-called hair-loss remedies that do not work either, like creams, scalp massage, and vitamins.
    Many prescription and nonprescription treatments are available. However, the American Academy of Dermatology cautions consumers to be wary of drugs and herbal remedies that are not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating hair loss. For example, the drugs finasteride (Proscar) and minoxidil (Rogaine) are two products that have passed FDA trials.

    Myth: Depression Is a Sign of Personal Weakness

    Fact: Major depression is not a sign of personal weakness. "It's a bona fide disorder with characteristic symptoms: insomnia , particularly waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 AM., poor appetite, weight loss, low energy, loss of interest in usual activities, and oftentimes thoughts of suicide," says Steven Wengel, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "There are tests done in a research setting that demonstrate there really are brain changes with depression. One thing we know is that certain brain receptors are altered either in number or sensitivity, and that the brain changes back to normal after a patient has been successfully treated."
    "The data suggests that women have about twice the lifetime frequency of major depression, but it makes you wonder if the numbers could be biased due to men being more reluctant to get help," says Dr. Wengel. "It's unfortunate because depression is not only a common disease, it's also one of the most treatable."

    Myth: Having the Mumps as a Child Will Make You Sterile

    Fact: Having mumps as a child probably gave you just a sore, swollen neck for a few days, however, there is a small risk of becoming sterile if you get the disease after puberty.
    "When kids get the mumps, it's usually pretty benign," says Thomas Brady, MD. Dr. Brady is in private practice in Reno, Nevada, and a clinical professor of urology at the University of Nevada. He says the disease is a virus that can spread from the neck's parotid gland to other organs. "When a man gets mumps, he can be sick for a long time, and the disease can 'go down.' The testicle can shrivel up to the size of a pea."

    Myth: Having a Vasectomy Will Increase Your Risk of Certain Conditions

    Fact: "The real facts appear to be that there's no connection between vasectomy and any disease process over and above being sterile," says Dr. Brady. "At various times I've seen it linked to heart disease, prostate cancer , multiple sclerosis and obesity, but there's no connection." In addition, a large study involving almost 4,00 men found no association between having a vasectomy and developing heart disease or having a stroke.

    Myth: Loss of Muscle Mass Is Inevitable With Old Age

    Fact: It's the combination of inactivity with aging that causes muscles to shrivel. "If you take a 50-year-old man who's exercised properly all his life, he'll have the body of a 30-year-old," says Edward Jackowski, PhD, CEO of Exude Inc. "Take a 30-year-old who's been a sloth, and he'll have the body of a 70-year-old."
    "A number of studies prove that you can build muscle mass at any age," Dr. Jackowski explains. "It's only when you're inactive that, synergistically as you become older, you lose muscle faster."

    Myth: Viagra Can Boost the Sexual Prowess of a Normally Potent Man

    Fact: Viagra helps men who have erectile dysfunction —men who cannot complete the sex act to their satisfaction because they are unable to achieve or sustain an erection. It is not an aphrodisiac, it will not prevent premature ejaculation, and it will not make a 45-year-old 18 again.
    Dr. Brady says when a normally functional man asks for Viagra, he sits him down and talks about becoming comfortable with his sexuality. "I'm not trying to make them young stallions," says Dr. Brady. "I had one man come in here saying he was having sex twice a day, and that wasn't enough! You have to have realistic expectations."

    RESOURCES

    American Urological Association http://www.auanet.org/

    National Osteoporosis Foundation http://www.nof.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index-eng.php/

    Osteoporosis Canada http://www.osteoporosis.ca/

    References

    American Academy of Dermatology. Available at http://www.aad.org .

    Androgenetic alopecia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated January 27, 2012. Accessed April 23, 2012.

    Cook AR. Men's Health Concerns Sourcebook . Omnigraphics Health Reference Series; 1998.

    Inlander C. The People's Medical Society Men's Health and Wellness Encyclopedia . Macmillan; 1998.

    Jackowski E. Hold It! You're Exercising Wrong . Fireside; 1995.

    Kiebzak, GM, Beinart, GA, Perser, K, et al. Undertreatment of osteoporosis in men with hip fracture. Arch Intern Med . 2002; 162:2217.

    Mumps. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated February 15, 2010. Accessed Marhc 29, 2010.

    Pollack W, Levant R. New Psychotherapy for Men . John Wiley and Sons; 1998.

    Siddiqui, NA, Shetty, KR, Duthie, EH Jr. Osteoporosis in older men: discovering when and how to treat it. Geriatrics . 1999; 54:20.

    Vasectomy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated February 3, 2012. Accessed April 23, 2012.

    What men need to know: the man's guide to osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Avaialable at: http://www.nof.org/aboutosteoporosis/formen/whatmenneedtoknow. Accessed April 23, 2012.

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