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Men's Health: the myths, must-do's and main concerns
Posted 4 January 2019
It’s just as important as women’s health, but sadly men’s health is often forgotten and less talked about in this day and age. We spoke to Adelaide GP Dr Andrew Kellie about the major health concerns for men at every age, and what to do about it.
As with women, health concerns for men can be extremely varied. We’ve put together a list of top concerns and to-do’s to make it all a little simpler…
Be aware of SNAP risk factors
As a general rule, Dr Kellie says you can generally assess your health with regards to the SNAP system. “Having SNAP risk factors increases your risk of developing a chronic disease like heart disease or diabetes,” he says.
S – Smoking
N – Nutrition (poor diet)
A – Alcohol (excessive consumption)
P – Physical inactivity
What to do: If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the above SNAP risk factors, chat with your GP about how to improve your overall health and wellbeing. It could be as simple as starting with less alcohol, lowering your amount of cigarettes a day or even just heading out on a daily walk to up your physical exercise.
Have regular GP check-ups
SA Health recommends the following check-ups for men:
- Blood pressure checks
- Fasting blood tests to check cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Skin checks
- Bowel screening
- Prostate Cancer screening (only if you’re at risk)
- Weight and height checks
Dr Kellie says “just like women should look for breast lumps, all men should check their testicles for anything unusual.” He says it’s important men know what is normal for them, so they are able to detect when it’s not.
Better Health Victoria recommends that all men perform a self-assessment of their testicles around once every four weeks. They also state that it is important to be aware that many lumps or bumps might not be painful, so don’t just feel for the ones that hurt.
Monitor your lifestyle choices - sexual activity, drugs, alcohol
Dr Kellie says this age bracket is important from both a physical and mental standpoint, and men should be looking at their lifestyle choices in particular, and how they can perhaps lessen some behaviours to benefit their health. Excessive alcohol consumption, risky sexual activity and drug consumption can be damaging to health at this age. “This age group should be checking for risky behaviours associated with sexual health, drugs and alcohol,” Dr Kellie says.
What to do: Practice safe sex, have STI tests if you’re at all concerned, and drink responsibly. Be aware that recreational drugs have a number of negative side effects – it is not recommended that such substances be consumed.
Keep your mental health in check
While depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns are important at any age, Dr Kellie says that young males can be especially susceptible, given the stigma that young boys are not meant to be ‘emotional’. “It’s also important to check in with your mood, looking for signs of depression, which is common in young men.”
Be aware of testicular cancer
Difficult to detect and relatively rare, testicular cancer is still something all men should be aware of and have tested, particularly in their early years. The Cancer Council of Australia reports that it is one of the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 45. They also say that it is one of the most curable, if detected early.
What to do: Checking for lumps, bumps and any abnormal testicular appearances regularly is an important part of your self-assessment of health. Keeping check of certain things like sudden weight loss and your urine health (if it’s difficult to pass urine etc), is also important in detecting prostate cancer early, according to the Cancer Council.
Be aware of chronic conditions
Generally classified as ‘mid-life’, Dr Kellie says this is the time men need to begin being extra cautious with regards to any risk factors that may lead to chronic conditions
According to the Australian Department of Health, some examples of common chronic conditions in men can be:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cancer (see below)
- Respiratory disease
What to do: Dr Kellie recommends a clinical assessment by your GP in your 40’s to determine whether you may have any chronic diseases. This check is especially recommended if you’re already at risk. Risk factors may include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high cholesterol, family history of any chronic illnesses and poor lifestyle habits like physical inactivity.
Test for bowel cancer
The Australian Department of Health reports that around 1 in 19 men are at risk of developing bowel cancer before the age of 75. They list some of the more prominent risk factors as being over the age of 50, overweight, poor diet and family history of cancer.
What to do: It is recommended that regular bowel cancer testing be taken out if you are over the age of 50. Regular cancer screenings are extremely important. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program allows any individual to test at home for free if you’re not at high risk. The tests will be supplied to you, once you register, every two years, and are highly recommended between the age of 50 and 74.
So, now you know what to look out for and consider at every age, let’s debunk some of the most common men’s health myths…
1. Men don’t need check-ups like women do…
They do, and it’s vital we take this as seriously as our female counterparts.
2. Snoring is no big deal...
While it might just be a comical anecdote to fill our mornings, Dr Kellie says that snoring can actually be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea, which can have other detrimental health effects. To read more, click here.
3. Erectile dysfunction is psychological…
Dr Kellie says that “erectile dysfunction can be a sign of more serious issues, such as vascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease…”
4. Men don’t get breast cancer...
The Cancer Council of Australia says that while women have more breast tissue and are potentially more likely to have breast cancer, it is still entirely possible in men. They list some of the risk factors as family history, obesity and age (being over the age of 60). To read more, click here.
5. Only women get osteoporosis…
Men can also get osteoporosis. Dr Kellie says that “risk factors for men include low testosterone, smoking, drinking too much, being inactive, and gastrointestinal disease. Keep your bones strong by eating healthy and working out regularly with resistance exercises.”
6. Depression is only for the weak...
Depression is common in men, with Beyond Blue reporting that one in eight men experience depression at some stage in their lives. They also state that many men are less likely, however, to seek help for fear of seeming weak or feeling as though they should be able to handle it themselves.