Let this sink in for a moment: according to the Victorian Government’s Better Health website, male mortality rates are greater in almost every non-sex-specific health problem. Put simply, men die more often, and it leads medical professionals and health researchers toward explaining the reasons behind this significant trend. Out of the billions of people alive today, the consistency across mortality rates is worrying for men of all ages and backgrounds.
You can debate the reasons behind why this occurs, but the true challenge lies in breaking taboos and educating men on the health issues that affect them. Education is the key to changing trends and raising awareness, so take some time out of your day and learn about the most common health problems for men. It could help you make an informed choice on health problems that may confront you in the future.
Your cardiovascular system carries blood around your entire body, supplying essential nutrients, oxygen and glucose to your muscles, organs and skin. Made up of a system of veins, arteries and capillaries, these blood vessels are coated in a substance called cholesterol, which helps provide strength and flexibility to the vessel wall. Sometimes, cholesterol can build up and cause blood vessels to narrow, harden or become blocked. This can cause problems like strokes and heart attacks.
Maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system can reduce your risk of heart disease and strokes significantly. A range of lifestyle and genetic factors contribute to heart disease, but the Heart Foundation recommends that you can reduce your risk of a heart attack by:
- Enjoying healthy eating
- Staying smoke free and avoiding second-hand smoke
- Becoming physically active
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight
- Maintaining your social and emotional health
- Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, as advised by your health professional
- Taking medicines properly
Cancer is a disease that affects the body’s cells. Our cells reproduce at a steady and self-controlled rate, but cancers form when there’s a problem with this self-regulation. The cells reproduce too much and spread across different parts of your body. Some of the most common cancers in men are lung and trachea cancers, colon and rectal cancers, and blood and lymph cancers. Obviously, men should also recognise the signs of testicular and prostate cancer.
According to the Cancer Council, Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in Australia, so here are some of the signs and symptoms you should look for:
- frequent urination, particularly at night
- pain on urination
- blood in the urine
- a weak stream
- unexplained weight loss and fatigue.
Visit the Cancer Council website for more information on the types of cancers that affect men and how you can seek help and monitor your health.
Cancers affecting men are some of the most prevalent, but they are also the most treatable, so getting in early means the cancer can be managed and removed quickly before it spreads. One of the reasons that men don’t seek help is because our culture encourages independence and stoicism, which could bring about feelings of guilt or shame when those values aren’t upheld. Early detection is the key to successful treatment, so visiting the doctor about a problem, no matter how minor, can make a real difference to survival rates.
Diabetes is a problem that affects the regulation of glucose in your blood. Glucose levels must stay within a certain range, so our pancreas produces hormones, called glucagon and insulin, that tell the body to break down or store glucose. In diabetes, these hormone-producing cells can’t work properly, and It’s not really well understood why this happens or what triggers it. Depending on what is happening with your body, diabetes is divided into Type 1 and Type 2, or insulin dependent or non-insulin dependent respectively. Generally, Type 1 has an early onset whereas Type 2 generally affects men later in life.
Although there is a strong genetic link, the risk is increased if you have high blood pressure, if you are overweight or obese, if you lack regular physical activity, maintain a poor diet or if you have the classic ‘apple shape’ body where extra weight is carried around the waist. According to Diabetes Australia, some signs and symptoms to look for include;
- Passing more urine
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Always feeling hungry
- Having cuts that heal slowly
- Itching, skin infections
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained weight loss
- Being excessively thirsty
Depression and anxiety are very common conditions among Australian men, as mental health problems are generally brushed off as ‘not serious’ or ‘a sign of weakness.’ Unfortunately, with depression, the symptoms do not resolve the longer you leave them, as the feelings of worthlessness and anxiety persist and compound over time. Rather than seek help for depression, tragically some men take their own lives as an escape. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, six people take their lives by suicide each day, five of these are men.
This is a confronting health problem for men, but its treatments are very effective and may include counselling, antidepressants, or simply learning to talk about your problems with friends and family can make you feel a whole lot better. Whether you choose to see a doctor or psychologist, they can provide you with a range of effective treatments for anxiety and depression. Also, depression can become easier to manage by making lifestyle changes like sleeping and eating at regular times, learning stress management and coping strategies, and even reducing your alcohol intake can make a big difference.
The website claims that one in eight men suffers from depression at some point in their lives, and worryingly men are less likely to talk about it. Some of the signs and symptoms of depression in men include:
- Not going out anymore
- Not getting things done at work/school
- Withdrawing from close family and friends
- Relying on alcohol and sedatives
- Not doing usual enjoyable activities
- Inability to concentrate
- Lacking in confidence
- ‘I’m a failure.’
- ‘It’s my fault.’
- ‘Nothing good ever happens to me.’
- ‘I’m worthless.’
- ‘Life’s not worth living.’
- ‘People would be better off without me.’
- Tired all the time
- Sick and run down
- Headaches and muscle pains
- Churning gut
- Sleep problems
- Loss or change of appetite
- Significant weight loss or gain
While all men may face some unique challenges with their health and wellbeing, it is important that your family and friends learn about the signs and provide a supportive environment for men to discuss their health in an open and honest way. When you find a friendly setting to share your health concerns, you are more likely to seek help and deal with problems before they become serious. Take a moment to think about the important men in your life and it really brings home the need to remove the ‘macho’ man image from Australian culture, so all men can take control of their health and wellbeing.
Beyond Blue has everything you need to know about fighting depression. The signs and symptoms are too varied to list here, so talk to a GP or mental health nurse and visit their website for a more information.