You and Your Health: Men’s Health

With Andrew Watson of Goodmeasure Pharmacy

We might like to think it, but us men are not invincible. We’re all guilty of taking better care of our car or phone than our bodies, but unhealthy work and personal lifestyles, as well as poor health education, are putting men at risk of premature death.

Men are less likely to see their GP or even acknowledge an illness, often putting on hold more serious health problems by being too shy or embarrassed to talk about them. Yet figures for pre-retirement deaths in males are staggering, with one in five men likely to die before the age of 65. Those under 75 account for around 40 percent of all male deaths.

Heart disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of male deaths in the UK. Around 119,000 men have a heart attack every year – almost double the number in women.

Having high cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking, being overweight and having diabetes are all risk factors of developing heart disease which puts you at heightened risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Heart disease, as well as medication to treat it, can also cause erectile dysfunction or impotence in some men.

Warning signs of heart disease are pain in your chest, arm, leg or jaw, feeling sick or having indigestion, feeling hot and sweaty, and having extreme tiredness or fatigue.

There are lots of easy ways to keep your heart healthy that don’t involve running a marathon. Try and cut down on alcohol, eat a more varied and balanced diet, lower your salt and saturated fat intake and quit smoking if you want to reduce your risk. Making small lifestyle changes, such as moving more and trying to avoid unnecessary stress, will also help.

Prostate and testicular cancer

Men don’t tend to take much notice of their bodies. Well, most parts.

Although it’s relatively rare overall, testicular cancer is most common in young men aged between 15 and 49. However, it is very treatable and has a good outcome if caught early . Around 60 percent of men don’t know how to check their balls; you should examine your testicles for any lumps or abnormalities and visit your doctor if you are worried – but remember only a very small minority of scrotal lumps or swellings are cancerous.

Prostate cancer is also a male-specific cancer which one in eight men will get in their lifetime, most of them being over 50.  It is common for the prostate to enlarge with age and usually this causes no problems. But it may press on the tubes of the bladder and interfere with urination.

There aren’t many early warning signs of prostate cancer and 37 percent of all cases are diagnosed late. If you have any symptoms, such as difficulty in urinating, a weak flow, frequent night visits to the toilet and pain in that region, you should see a doctor.

Currently, there is no screening programme or single test for prostate cancer, but your GP may request a PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) test which may indicate something is wrong. In three out of four cases of an abnormal reading, this won’t be due to cancer. But you should be referred for further hormone tests if your reading is high.

Mental health

Everyone you meet is going through a storm. Some dark clouds may be similar to your own, so don’t fear being left alone without that umbrella of support when it rains.

Be it problems of pressure at work, uncertainty about future employment and pensions, or general family life, stress can creep up on us and it may feel like you don’t know where to turn. If you are feeling depressed, it is important that you see your GP as clinical depression should never be ignored and needs correct treatment, either medication, counselling or both.

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 and men are three times more likely to take their own lives. Most men don’t talk about pain, or grief, or problems in life for a number of personal reasons. But those around you would rather listen to you talk than hear your eulogy at your funeral.

As men, we need to make a conscious effort to check in on our male friends and family members. Look for warning signs that someone might be struggling with their mental health. They may talk about being a burden, withdraw or isolate themselves from a group, have extreme mood swings with feelings of anger, hopelessness or resentment, misuse drugs or alcohol, or give away their possessions. 

Exercise is proven to boost mental wellbeing. Join the lads for a game of five-a-side, find a gym partner to keep you motivated, or even just get out for a walk together – and I’m sure you can stop off for a pint afterwards.