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Men's Health: Staying Healthy throughout every decade

Tuesday, 07 May 2019
Men's Health: Staying Healthy throughout every decade
Men aren’t the best at seeking out help from a doctor or health professional.  The average life expectancy gap is 4.1 years lower for males (80.4 years vs 84.5 year), with males also setting the bar when it comes to premature deaths at 62%.  Lifestyle differences between men and women may be a factor, such as:
  • 7 in 10 males are overweight or obese, 6 in 10 for women
  • Only 1 in 2 people are sufficiently active (similar rates for men and women)
  • 16.9% of men smoke daily vs 12.1% of women
  • 26% of men are lifetime risky drinkers vs only 10% of women
  • 18% of men have used an illicit substance in the previous 12 months vs 13% of women

So why are you reluctant to seek help?  Research has suggested that some men feel, in order to be masculine they must be brave and self-reliant to be respected.  This can cause barriers to seeking care as symptoms may be under reported when visiting a doctor, hindering their ability to deliver adequate treatment and potentially delaying preventative care.  This could be one of the major reasons the health statistics are worse for males when compared to females. 

Try to think of a doctor’s clinic as a safe, judgement-free place.  Choose a doctor you feel comfortable with, which may mean more than one visit to a doctor to discuss symptoms.  Once you have found a doctor you are comfortable with, do your best to continue seeing that doctor for all future appointments.  The doctor will get to know you, which makes them feel comfortable and understand your body and health better.

What you should be aware of at your age?

Keeping up your health checks throughout every decade of your life is extremely important to maintaining good health.  The following is a list of health issues that every man should be aware of and check throughout each year of their life:

Young Adult (<30)

  • Weight and lifestyle factors
  • Skin cancer
  • Blood pressure
  • Testicular self-examinations
  • Diabetes
  • Mental health and suicide
  • Flu vaccinations
 Middle years (30-50)
  • Weight and lifestyle factors
  • Skin cancer
  • Blood pressure
  • Testicular self-examinations
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Liver and kidney function blood testing
  • Mental health
  • Flu vaccinations
  • Eye checks
  • Prostate test
In your 60s
  • Weight and lifestyle factors
  • Skin cancer
  • Blood pressure
  • Testicular self-examinations
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Bowel cancer screening
  • Prostate test
  • Eye checks
  • Flu vaccinations
  • Liver and kidney function blood testing
  • Mental health
In your 70s and beyond
  • Weight and lifestyle factors
  • Skin cancer
  • Blood pressure
  • Testicular self-examinations
  • Blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Bowel cancer screening
  • Prostate test
  • Eye checks
  • Flu Vaccinations
  • Pneumonia vaccine
  • Liver and kidney function blood testing
  • Mental health
  • Bone density

Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the key health issues men face throughout every decade of their life and how to avoid them:

Blood pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is the pressure of your blood on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps it around your body.  A healthy blood pressure is 120/80mmHg with readings up to 139/89mmHG regarded as being in the normal to high range.  If your blood pressure is high for long periods of time it can cause a heart attack, stroke or affect your kidneys.  The chances of high blood pressure increase as you get older.

The causes of high blood pressure aren’t often clear however they are influenced by factors such as:

  • Family history
  • Alcohol intake
  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Exercise
  • Some medicines can also raise blood pressure

In terms of symptoms, there aren’t usually any warning signs so it’s extremely important to check your blood pressure regularly. 

Low blood pressure can also cause issues.  Signs your blood pressure might be too low include:

  • Light-headedness, when standing from a sitting or lying position
  • Unsteadiness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting

Stay healthy by…Making the right lifestyle choices.  Eating healthy meals and regular exercise can help reduce blood pressure.  Medicine can also help control high blood pressure.

High Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol can cause a hardening of the arteries leading to chest pain and a higher risk of heart attacks.  Cholesterol is a fatty substance carried around the body in the blood.  Our bodies produce cholesterol to:

  • Build the structure of cell membranes
  • Make hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones
  • Help your metabolism work efficiently, for example, cholesterol is essential for your body to produce vitamin D
  • Produce bile acids, which help the body digest fat and absorb important nutrients
Cholesterol levels should be no higher than 5.5 mmol per litre if there are no health risks present.  Too much cholesterol can lead to fatty deposits developing in our arteries which can lead to blockages, heart disease and stroke.The best way to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol is to limit foods high in saturated fats.  Try to avoid:
  • Fatty meats
  • Processed meats like salami and sausages
  • Snack foods like chips
  • Most takeaway foods, especially deep-fried foods
  • Cakes, biscuits and pastries
Stay healthy by…maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as:
  • Increasing the amount and variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods you consume each day
  • Choose low or reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and dairy products or have ‘added calcium’ soy drinks
  • Choose lean meat and limit fatty meats (sausages, salami etc)
  • Eat fish at least twice a week
  • Replace butter and dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines
  • Include foods in your diet that are rich in soluble fibre and healthy fats such as nuts, legumes and seeds
  • Limit cheese and ice cream to twice a week

Mental Health

Men make up an average of 6 out of 8 suicides every day in Australia.  The number of men who die by suicide is nearly double the national road toll.  1 in 8 men will experience depression and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some stage of their lives. 

It’s important to remember that everyone’s mental health will vary throughout their life.  But there may be times when you are affected by anxiety or depression.  It’s important to be able to identify both.

Depression

It’s normal to feel flat, angry, irritable or sad at times but if this describes the way you feel most of the time for more than two weeks you may be experiencing symptoms of depression.  Physical symptoms include constant tiredness, changes in weight and a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.  Depression won’t go away without treatment and can develop to a point where it’s difficult to cope with day to day life.

Anxiety

Anxiety is the fear that something terrible is going to happen. Your worries ‘snowball’ with constant catastrophe seen in everyday situations.  It disrupts your life, can cause sleepless nights, makes you feel panicked and can cause you to avoid any further situations in which you might feel panicked.

Keep healthy by:

  • Staying healthy, keeping fit, eating healthy and having plenty of sleep to reduce your mental health risk
  • Talk to you family and friends. Speak to a health professional if required 
  • Go for a walk outside if you aren’t feeling great
  • Have time out with mates
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Call a mental health crisis service like Lifeline (13 11 14) or visit the Beyond Blue website for more information

Prostate Cancer

As the most commonly diagnosed cancer for men in Australia, it’s important for men over the age of 40 to discuss their risk of prostate cancer with their doctor. This is particularly important as you get older, and/ or if you have a first degree male relative who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  In the early stages, there may be no symptoms. In the later stages, some symptoms of prostate cancer might include:

  • Feeling the frequent or sudden need to urinate
  • Finding it difficult to urinate (for example, trouble starting or not being able to urinate when the feeling is there or poor urine flow)
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Finding blood in urine or semen
  • Pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips

These symptoms may not mean you have prostate cancer, but if you experience any of them, go and see your doctor.

Keep healthy by…Although there is no evidence maintaining a good healthy diet and exercise can prevent or stop prostate cancer from developing, they can help reduce the risk and improve overall health.  Early detection and maintaining regular health checks is very important.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer in young men aged between 18 to 39 years.  The rate of men diagnosed with this cancer has increased by more than 30% over the past 30 years. Although there isn’t a routine screening test for the cancer, it’s important to understand the normal look and feel of your testicles and consult a doctor should you notice anything unusual.  Regular self-examination is the best way to detect cancer early and improves outcomes.

Testicular cancer may not cause any symptoms but the most common one is a painless swelling or a lump in a testicle.  Less common symptoms include:

  • Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • Swelling or lump in the testicle
  • Change in the size or shape of the testicle
  • Feeling of unevenness
  • Pain or ache in the lower abdomen, the testicle or scrotum
  • Back pain
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breast tissue (due to hormones created by cancer cells)

There are no proven measures to prevent testicular cancer with early detection key to successfully treating it.  The five year survival rate for testicular cancer is 98%.

Weight and lifestyle factors

It’s important to eat well and exercise regularly to ensure good health.  Your waist size can be a good indicator as to your risk of chronic disease.  A waist size of more than 94cms means an increased risk of chronic disease.  Follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines for tips on healthy eating:

  • To achieve and maintain a healthy weight be physically active and choose the right amounts of nutritious foods and drinks to meet your energy needs
  • Enjoy a wide range of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day and drink plenty of water
  • Limit intake of food containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol
  • Care for your food; preparing and storing it safely

It’s important to achieve at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week. It doesn’t have to be strenuous to be of benefit and can be simple choices such as walking up stairs instead of taking the lift or getting off the train one station early to walk home, or taking the dog for a walk to the park.

For further information, contact your Sonic HealthPlus GP.  Find your nearest clinic location here.


References

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/male-health/contents/who-are

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/RES-115-Aust_heart_disease_statstics_2015_WEB.PDF

http://www.pcfa.org.au/awareness/general-information/what-you-need-to-know-about-prostate-cancer/

https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/testicular-cancer.html

https://andrologyaustralia.org/testicular-cancer/https://theconversation.com/men-more-reluctant-to-go-to-the-doctor-and-its-putting-them-at-risk-57420

Himmelstein, Mary, Sanchez, Diana. (2015), Masculinity in the doctor's office: Masculinity, gendered doctor preference and doctor–patient communication, Preventative Medicine 84, pg 34-40. 

Tudiver F1, Talbot Y. (1999), Why don't men seek help? Family physicians' perspectives on help-seeking behavior in men, Journal of Family Practice 48(1), pg 47-52.

https://www.qld.gov.au/health/staying-healthy/men-women/men/ages        

https://www.healthpartners.com/hp/healthy-living/healthy-living-blog/men-health.html

http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/balancing-energy-and-outhttps://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/node/add/calculator-servings

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men     

 https://www.prostate.org.au/awareness/general-information/what-you-need-to-know-about-prostate-cancer/#a

https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/testicular-cancer.html

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/blood-pressure

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cholesterolhttps://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cholesterol

Kate Rowan-Robinson

As a key member of the Clinical Governance Team leading our Nurses, Kate has also contributed to the wider nursing community through her work outside Sonic HealthPlus.  Kate has had several articles published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice, Nursing Standard, British Journal of Community Nursing and Public Health Nursing.

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