Raising Awareness of Men's Health Conditions
Men come in all shapes and sizes, no one is the same as the other, but one thing they all have in common is their health and the risks involved.
Men need to talk more openly about their health. We check our boilers, pets, and cars, so we should check our own health too!
Men, it’s time to give yourself an MOT!
Men’s Health Week was created to raise awareness of men’s health issues and encourage men to reach out for support instead of suffering in silence. There are various health conditions out there that affect us all, however, there are a fair few in particular that men are at a higher risk of developing. So it’s important to recognise these and know how to prevent them.
Also read: Movember: Why Men's Health is Important
What are common health concerns for males?
1. Heart disease＋
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the UK and worldwide. It is caused by a build-up of fatty substances in the arteries. Over time, this can cause your artery walls to get so narrow that it will be difficult for blood to pass through.
Symptoms vary, and some may not experience symptoms at all, however, the most common symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, and feeling faint or sick.
The main causes of heart disease are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Smoking and drinking excessive alcohol also contribute, so eating healthy and exercising regularly are key to preventing heart disease.
If you are worried about your blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, your local pharmacy can provide a blood pressure reading for free.
Why is heart disease more common in men?
It’s becoming more common knowledge now that a lot of men have trouble expressing their emotions due to the standards set by society. Because of this, men tend to have more difficulty when experiencing stress, which can have larger health repercussions, such as hypertension.
Diabetes is caused when a person’s blood sugar level becomes too high. There are two types:
- Type 1: When the immune system destroys cells that produce insulin.
- Type 2: When the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body doesn’t react properly to insulin.
Symptoms of diabetes include feeling very thirsty, frequent urination, tiredness, weight loss and more.
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid type 1 diabetes, however, type 2 diabetes can be avoided by maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. Those with a family history of type 2 diabetes, or people of Asian, Black African or Caribbean origin also tend to have a higher risk.
Why is diabetes more common in men?
According to Diabetes UK, men aged between 35 and 54 are twice as likely to get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This is likely due to the fact that men tend to store more fat around their stomachs. High blood pressure – which tends to be more common in men - also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply is cut off from part of the brain. Strokes are life-threatening and must be treated as an urgent medical emergency. The sooner a stroke is recognised, the better chance they’ll have of survival.
The best way to recognise a stroke is to act FAST:
- Face – A person’s face may have dropped to one side, making them unable to smile.
- Arms – They may be unable to lift their arms due to them feeling weak or numb.
- Speech – Their speech may become slurred, or they may be unable to speak at all despite seeming awake. They may also have difficulty understanding others.
- Time – If you recognise any of the above, it’s time to call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
A stroke is caused by the lack of blood, and therefore oxygen, getting to the brain. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats and diabetes can all increase the risk of having a stroke.
Living a balanced, healthy lifestyle and not smoking, or drinking excessively, can reduce the risk of a stroke.
4. Liver disease＋
There are various types of liver disease which are all caused by different things.
- Alcohol-related liver disease – Regularly drinking a high amount of alcohol
- Non-alcohol fatty liver disease – A build-up of fat around the liver
- Hepatitis – A viral infection or drinking too much alcohol
- Haemochromatosis – A genetic cause passed down from parents
- Primary biliary cholangitis – Possibly caused by issues with the immune system
Symptoms of liver disease tend to not show in the early stages, and often only show when there is already damage to the liver, these symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, low sex drive, and yellow skin and eyes – also known as jaundice. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of most types of liver disease.
Why is liver disease more common in men?
Alcohol-related liver disease is more common in men as they are 15% more likely to use alcohol as a coping mechanism than women, and are more likely to use alcohol excessively.
5. Prostate cancer＋
Prostate cancer begins in the prostate gland which is found at the base of the bladder, when cells begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably. Early stages usually don’t have any symptoms meaning it’s usually only noticeable when it’s metastasised. These symptoms include back pain, fatigue, and unexplainable weight loss.
Getting diagnosed early means that your chances of survival are fairly high. You can test for prostate cancer by seeing your GP who will provide more information.
Also read: Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy
6. Testicular cancer＋
Testicular cancer is a less common form of cancer which resides in the testicles as a small, painless lump or swelling. It is more likely to affect younger men compared to other forms of cancer. It is, however, one of the most treatable forms of cancer, with almost all men diagnosed surviving for five or more years after diagnosis.
You can learn more about men and cancer in our Movember article.
7. HIV and AIDS＋
HIV is a virus that damages your immune system, making it harder to fight off common infections and illnesses. HIV can be spread from one person to the other, usually in various - but not all - bodily fluids, and is most commonly spread by unprotected sex. Symptoms of HIV include a short flu-like illness a few weeks after infection that lasts a week or two. Other than that, there are very few symptoms. So it’s important to get tested as soon as possible if you believe you are at risk.
AIDS refers to a variety of possible life-threatening illnesses that occur due to the immune system being damaged by the HIV virus. AIDS cannot be transmitted from one person to the other.
Although incurable, people diagnosed with HIV can live a fairly normal life if it’s detected early and effective treatments will help avoid any AIDS-related illnesses developing. Your yearly flu jab can help lower the risk of getting seriously ill.
8. Erectile dysfunction＋
Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is a common issue in men, particularly those over 40. It's usually nothing to worry about, but can feel embarrassing and difficult to talk about or admit.
Most men from time to time will struggle to get an erection, which can be caused by stress, tiredness, or too much alcohol. It can also be a side effect of some medications. However, frequent impotence can be caused by other conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression/anxiety, and hormone problems.
Making lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight and healthy diet, quitting smoking, exercising and reducing stress can help reduce erectile dysfunction.
Your local pharmacist is a professional in their field and is qualified to discuss personal topics such as impotence with helpful advice and zero judgement. Making the first step and speaking to your pharmacist can be a difficult but important move. Many pharmacies have a consultation room where you can discuss your issues in private.
Men in particular often struggle to express their emotions, choosing to bottle it up and keep it to themselves. Your mental health is equally important to your physical health, and neglecting it can have severe consequences. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
If you feel you have a constant low mood and are feeling sad or empty, it could be a sign of depression. Primary symptoms include feeling overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness, feeling irritable and anxious, and fatigue. Symptoms more often experienced by men include feeling angry, losing interest in hobbies, obsessing with work, becoming abusive and having difficulty sleeping.
There’s no single cause of depression and it can affect even the happiest of people, however, some causes can include sudden and difficult life events, abuse of any kind, being passed on from family members, or the environment you’re in.
Speaking to your pharmacist for advice and guidance on improving your low mood can be a vital first step to improving your mental health.
What is best for men’s health?
As we have mentioned repeatedly in this article, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to lowering the risk of various health conditions, both physical and mental. Your pharmacy can help you make those vital changes with a variety of products on offer, and services that can be booked directly via the Hey Pharmacist app and website.
What is key, however, is speaking up. There is no shame in having concerns about your own health, and discussing it with friends and loved ones is crucial for support from those close to you and to build confidence to seek professional help.
At what age do men start having health problems?
There is no set age at which men begin to experience health issues. Mental health conditions such as depression can affect children and adults alike, and testicular cancer and AIDS can affect young men as well as older. However, men are advised to regularly check up on their health with tests and health exams at their GP around the age of 40 and onwards, usually annually but depends on what you’re concerned about.
Speak to your pharmacist about your concerns, and they’ll provide guidance on what to do next.