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

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IMAGE It is 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 ate 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, which may affect your fertility.

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 health conditions, medications, and lifestyle habits can speed bone loss. The NOF advocates a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D . This should be coupled with a weight-bearing exercise routine, such as walking , dancing, or 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 and minoxidil 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. Depression is a disorder that affects both men and women. Men have a tendency to hide depression or mask it in dangerous behaviors, such as fighting or heavy drinking. Loss of interest in activities, tiredness, lack of sleep, appetite change, anger, and sexual problems are all tied to depression. The good news is that depression is highly treatable, so if you think you may have depressive symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor.

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. This can occur if the virus travels from the parotid glands in the neck to both testicles. Mumps is considered a childhood disease, occuring before puberty. Except for occasional outbreaks, vaccination makes mumps relatively rare in the United States.

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

Fact: There appears to be no connection between vasectomy and any disease process over and above being sterile. At various times it has been linked to heart disease, prostate cancer , multiple sclerosis, and obesity , but there is no evidence to support this.

A study involving nearly 4,000 men found no association between their vasectomy and development of heart disease or stroke.

Myth: Loss of Muscle Mass Is Inevitable With Old Age

Fact: It's a known fact that we lose muscle mass as we age, but it isn't something that has to be inevitable or permanent. The principle of use it or lose it applies here. Since your body doesn't make as much muscle as it did when you were younger, it's hard to build it up. Dietary changes, weight gain, and lower levels of hormones contribute to this loss.

All is not lost. Regular exercise, strength training, and a diet higher in protein can help you maintain your strength. Remember diet and exercise also help you maintain bone strength. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. You can add strength training at least two days per week. Keeping fit will help your body fight off some effects of aging.

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.

It is important to have realistic expectations about Viagra. It won't change your inherent sexuality. If you have questions or concerns about how the drug will affect your sexuality, make sure you have an honest talk with your doctor.

  • National Osteoporosis Foundation

    http://www.nof.org

  • Urology Care Foundation

    http://www.urologyhealth.org

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • Osteoporosis Canada

    http://www.osteoporosis.ca

  • Androgenetic alopecia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 8, 2013. Accessed January 15, 2014.

  • Coady SA, Sharrett AR, et al. Vasectomy, inflammation, atherosclerosis and long-term followup for cardiovascular diseases: no associations in the atherosclerosis risk in communities study. J Urol. 2002;167(1):204-207.

  • Ebeling PR. Osteoporosis in men. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2013;25(4):542-552.

  • Hair loss. American Academy of Dermatology. Available at http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/e---h/hair-loss. Accessed January 15, 2014.

  • Herrera A, Lobo-Escolar A, et al. Male osteoporosis: A review. 2012;3(12):223-234.

  • Just for men. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Avaialable at: http://nof.org/articles/236. Accessed January 15, 2014.

  • Mumps. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 7, 2013. Accessed January 15, 2014.

  • Prevent sarcopenia. Age Well website. Available at: http://www.age-well.org/prevent-sarcopenia.html. Accessed January 15, 2014.