Because women are more likely than men to try and lose weight, it may be surprising to learn that more men are overweight or have obesity than women, regardless of age. Although many health issues associated with obesity don’t discriminate between women and men, there are some concerns specific to men. Since June is Men’s Health Month, this is the perfect time to look at them.
One health issue men with obesity are more likely to experience is gout. This is caused when uric acid, which is a waste product in blood, builds up in joints and tissue. Not only is it painful, but gout is also associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and stroke. Gout most often affects middle-age and older men, though some post-menopausal women can also be at risk.
There also is a strong link between men with obesity and Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Among men who have ED, 79 percent have obesity. This can result from a hormonal imbalance, lack of physical activity, or psychological issues. Obesity is also directly tied to low testosterone levels. This affects not only men’s sex drive, but is also linked to lower muscle mass and increased body fat. Fortunately, as men with obesity lose weight, their testosterone levels come back up, which can be a big motivation.
Similarly, while any man might experience fertility issues, men with obesity have additional challenges because they have excess leptin and a higher body mass index. This usually means a lower sperm count and motility, lower testosterone levels, and higher levels of some female hormones. All of these contribute to infertility in obese men. Also, women with male partners who are obese have lower pregnancy rates when using in vitro fertilization and a greater chance of having a nonviable pregnancy.
Men also tend not to consider themselves to be overweight. If they do decide it’s time to lose weight, they’ll try it on their own instead of joining a program. Weight loss also affects men differently. Since men have more lean muscle than women, they burn more calories than fat, which means they lose more weight than women and they do it faster. And, though it hardly seems fair, their weight loss can be more apparent because men tend to have bigger bellies where weight loss is easier to notice than it is on hips and thighs, which is where a lot of women hold their weight.
These differences highlight a few areas where men may experience unique challenges due to weight. In the big picture, however, each person’s weight loss journey is individual. Whether you identify as he, she or they, and regardless of whether you have 20, 50 or 100 pounds to lose, it is important for everyone to figure out what factors contributes to their eating and how to best address those in a way that works and can be maintained.