Does your man need a health check?

By at home

man gets_health_check_21_05_12Men are less likely to visit their GP than women. But if they want to live to old age in full health, it’s high time that changed…

Ask a man to name five things that he can’t live without, and he is likely to list sex, food, cigarettes, booze and a fast car. Good health doesn’t feature. And doctors have been unsuccessful in getting men to go for screening tests because most of them don’t want to be told it’s time to alter their lifestyle.

The fact is that men are more likely to die between five and 10 years younger than women, and they often spend the last 15 years of their life living with a long-term chronic illness. What’s more, by the time they do finally get round to seeing a doctor with a recurring complaint, their condition is often so far advanced that it becomes difficult to treat.

So why do men take ridiculous risks? The answer is that young men think they are immortal. They simply haven’t thought about their health until they hit their 40s. And even then, they tend to be more concerned with the superficial aspects of how they see themselves rather than the more serious ones concerning their health. Male health issues are of great importance so get your man to sit up and take notice – today.

Weighty matters

As a general guide, if your partner’s waist measures more than 37in, he needs to lose weight. A waist size of more than 40in across the stomach is dangerously obese. For a more accurate guide, ask him to check his body mass index (BMI). He can calculate this in three easy steps:

  1. He needs to work out his height in metres and multiply this figure by itself for example, 1.6m x 1.6m.
  2. Measure his weight in kilograms for example, 65kg (10st 3lb).
  3. Divide his weight in kilograms by height squared (65 divided by 2.56 = BMI of 25.39).

Get healthy – Two in three of all men are defined as overweight (with a BMI of over 25) or obese (with a BMI of over 30) compared with half of all women. Obese people are at risk of diseases including heart disease and diabetes. The risk may be significantly reduced by weight loss.

Blood pressure

This test is one your man will have to go to his doctor or local pharmacy for. It’s important he has his blood pressure checked every three years if he’s under 40 and once a year if he’s over 40. At the same time, he should ask his doctor for a cholesterol test and, if he has any chest or leg pains, this is the time to mention them.

Get healthy – Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the main causes of heart disease. This can cause blockages in vital arteries and is a huge killer. Serious symptoms of high blood pressure include tunnel vision and blood in your urine. Some people mistake cardiac pain for indigestion, but if none of the usual remedies work or the pain intensifies with exercise, it is more likely to be a heart condition.

Prostate problems

Men only tend to become concerned when they suddenly notice that their urinary stream means they cannot wee as high up against the wall as they could when they were 18! But the real concern for doctors is that the prostate gland may be enlarged because of cancer, the most common cancer affecting men as old as 90. As many as one in three men over the age of 50 are affected by benign prostatic enlargement, which causes similar symptoms to that of prostate cancer. These include a weaker stream of urine, hesitancy before weeing, dribbling afterwards and the need to wee more often than they used to.

Get healthy – Men are often embarrassed to talk about problems below the waist but diagnostic tests and modern treatments mean more can be done with fewer side effects. Your partner should monitor how often he goes to the loo at night and whether he has trouble passing water or has blood in his urine. This may be a sign that the prostate is enlarged. If it is, it may be cancerous. This can be detected with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. If it is cancer, then one treatment being used is the EDAP TMS Ablatherm high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), which is a fully robotic device that treats localised prostate cancer.

Bowel cancer

Since time began, men have found their bowels to be an endless source of amusement and source of puerile jokes. Doctors, on the other hand, realise men are very reluctant to talk seriously about any significant change in bowel habit or the presence of blood in the motions. As a consequence, thousands of men die each year. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer overall, but is eminently curable if detected sufficiently early.

Get healthy – The symptoms may point to bowel cancer but often these are indications of less sinister conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or piles. But if your partner notices anything wrong, he should see his doctor as soon as possible.

Symptoms to look out for include a change of bowel habit which lasts more than a few weeks. There may be bleeding from the back passage or the motions themselves may appear darker. Anaemia causing pale skin, tiredness and breathlessness may also result. Very occasionally, a lump can be felt in the abdomen by the doctor. Any man with concerns in this area should talk to a doctor so that tests can be arranged to investigate appropriately, and hopefully rule out bowel cancer.

Testicular cancer

Men have always been hugely fascinated and obsessed by the size and function of their sexual organ. This curiosity often starts when they’re young or going through puberty and never really goes away. Many worry that they are less generously endowed than others. But doctors are used to reassuring them that they are ‘within normal limits’ and will be more concerned that a testicular lump in a young man may be cancer, rather than the effect of its appearance on the man’s girlfriend or wife.

In fact, testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men aged between 18 and 35, and the usual symptom is a painless lump attached to one testicle. There may also be some pain or tenderness in either testicle, an increase in the general size of the testicle or a heavy dragging feeling in the groin region or the scrotum.

Get healthy – All men are encouraged to check their bodies for lumps or bumps. Your partner can do this every month after a morning bath or shower. He needs to start by feeling the contours of each testicle and roll it between thumb and forefinger. It should feel smooth with no lumps or swellings apart from a soft, tender, knobbly tube towards the back of each testicle. This is the the tube which carries a man’s sperm, the epididymis

Erectile dysfunction

Men may boast about their sexual prowess but in actual fact one in 10 suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) at some time in their lives, and in some instances this can be a reflection of more serious health problems such as heart disease.

Get healthy – For many, the underlying difficulty is psychological due to performance anxiety or a relationship problem. In other cases there may be a physical explanation such as diabetes, circulatory disturbance or a nerve disorder. Counselling or treatment with medicines such as cialis, viagra or levitra can be extremely effective and restore a very important aspect of a man’s life.

Dr Hilary’s 10-step guide to immediate better health
There are some health conditions that need medical intervention, but for other worries, there are things you and your partner can do to help yourselves. The following tips should keep you in tip-top condition

  1. Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and cut out added sugar and salt which appear in processed foods.
  2. Exercise for 30 minutes daily (walking is fine) to lose weight and boost feel-good hormones.
  3. Listen to your body and report anything that is out of the ordinary to your doctor as soon as you notice.
  4. Add nuts and seeds to your daily diet to boost brain power, and take an occasional supplement of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E for an extra boost.
  5. Cut out binge drinking. Two to three units a day is less harmful than drinking it all in one go.
  6. Cut out, or at least reduce, smoking. Quitting is the single most important step you can take for good health.
  7. Eat little and often – high-fibre foods stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent energy fluctuations.
  8. Look after your feet to prevent athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections which afflict the majority of the male population. Try to keep feet clean, dry and exposed to air.
  9. Drink plenty of water, at least two litres of tap or bottled water a day, to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  10. Open up about your problems. A problem shared really is a problem halved and you’ll be surprised by just how helpful a sympathetic colleague or partner can be.

This article was first published in at home with Lorraine Kelly in April 2012. [Read the digital edition here] 

Photographs: Getty Images 

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