From the NYC Dept of Mental Health & Hygiene
August 25, 2010 – Life expectancy for New Yorkers is at an all-time high. City residents born in 2007 can expect to live an average of 79.4 years – a gain of nearly 5 months since 2006. Yet men continue to die six years younger than women – at 76 years versus 82 years – and more than a third of deaths among New York City men occur before age 65. A new report from the Health Department, Men’s Health in New York City, points to heart disease and violence as leading factors in this longevity gap. The report, available at nyc.gov/health, describes the most common causes of death, and also provides recommendations to improve men’s health, safety and life span.
“Complex factors contribute to men’s shorter life expectancy and higher death rates, but many premature deaths are preventable,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “The Health Department is working to improve men’s health and well-being. Healthier behaviors such as quitting smoking, exercising and eating well can prevent heart disease and cancer – and efforts to prevent violence can help save lives.”
In New York City, men are 65% more likely than women to die between the ages of 35 and 64, mainly because of their higher death rates due to heart disease. More than 1 million of the 1.5 million men in this age group are either overweight (46%) or obese (25%) – conditions that increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, the vast majority (93%) report eating fewer than the recommended five servings of fruits or vegetables each day, and one in six report smoking (18%). Many men also face barriers to receiving preventive health care, as 24% are either uninsured or insured but lacking a regular medical provider. Only 18% of women face these barriers.
The gender gap is just as striking in younger adults. The report shows that men aged 18 to 34 die at more than twice the rate of women in New York City. Homicide has declined markedly in New York over the past two decades, yet it remains the leading cause of death in this group – claiming the lives of about 260 younger men each year in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In most of these cases, young men were the perpetrators as well as the victims, suggesting that violence prevention efforts should focus on this group.
The factors contributing to men’s excess mortality vary widely by neighborhood. Among 35- to 64-year-old men, the highest rates of preventable hospitalization for heart disease occur in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods, along with the Crotona, Tremont, Highbridge and Morrisania sections of the Bronx. Violent death follows a similar pattern. For men aged 18 to 34, the study found the highest homicide rates in the Bronx neighborhoods of Hunts Point and Mott Haven and the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and East New York. Young men were also more likely to be hospitalized for non-fatal assault in these areas, where more than 30% of residents live in poverty. Poverty affects health through many channels, increasing stress and limiting people’s access to health care, economic opportunities and good nutrition.
Improving men’s health and longevity will require determined effort, both by individuals and by communities. Here are some of the steps the report recommends:
* Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days. Take the stairs, bicycle to work, or exit the subway a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
* Make small, healthy changes to your diet: eat more fruits and vegetables, choose low-sodium foods, and substitute water or seltzer for sugar-sweetened beverages.
* Limit alcohol use. Drinking more than two drinks per day increases men’s risk of heart disease, violence, injury, and other health problems.
* If you smoke, quit. If you have trouble quitting, speak to your medical provider about options.
* Call 311 for more information on alcohol problems, quitting smoking, or finding a doctor.
* Adult men should get screened for high blood pressure at least every two years and men 35 and older for cholesterol at least every five years. Equally important, they should take medication daily if a health care provider recommends it.
* Community groups can engage young men and boys, especially those in neighborhoods with high rates of homicide or assault, in activities that promote non-violence and well-being.
* Health care professionals can work with all patients, particularly men, to discourage smoking and promote physical activity and healthy eating.
* Health care providers should also closely monitor men’s risk factors for cardiovascular disease, screening them regularly for high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, and recommending preventive measures as needed. Electronic health records can help track blood pressure and cholesterol and generate preventive care reminders for all patients. For more information, providers can visit nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/chi/chi26-1.pdf