In the past few years, Movember has gained more and more popularity. Originally started as an awareness campaign for prostate cancer, the Movember trend has fast become a vehicle for promoting male health in general. So, with Movember in full swing, we wanted to get involved by sharing our knowledge on some of the top health issues facing men in the UK and around the world.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men in the UK and 40,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. Most cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 50 and those who have a first degree relative who has been diagnosed (brother or father, for example) are at a higher risk.
Symptoms of prostate cancer can develop very slowly and it is often only really evident after a number of years. The symptoms include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Needing to urinate frequently, especially at night
- An urgent need to go to the toilet
- Feeling that your bladder is not completely empty after going to the toilet
- Pain, numbness or swelling in the legs, hips or feet
Prostate cancer is an easily treatable condition, and many men don’t require treatment at all. Instead, your doctor will closely monitor your symptoms to ensure that it doesn’t spread or get worse. About 1 in 5 men have fast-growing prostate cancer meaning it is likely to spread and require treatment.
Age and family history are the most likely causes of prostate cancer. However, like any cancer, diet and exercise can also affect prostate cancer risk.
If you’re worried about developing prostate cancer, take a look at our article, How to cut your cancer risk.
Heart disease is responsible for 160,000 deaths in the UK every year, and affects around 1 in 6 men. Heart disease has a number of causes, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Luckily, there are a number of lifestyle changes men (and women) can make to dramatically lower their risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) and related issues:
- Lower blood pressure – there are many easy steps you can take to make this happen. Consider calming activities, such as Tai Chi and Pilates to eliminate stress, limiting your salt intake and giving up smoking.
- Take responsibility for other health issues – issues such as diabetes can more than double your chances of developing CHD if left unmanaged. This is because the lining of the blood vessels in people with diabetes often thickens causing restricted blood flow around the body. Be sure that any existing conditions are monitored closely and voice any concerns with your doctor.
- Lower cholesterol intake – high levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ or low density lipoproteins (LDLs) can lead to fatty build ups in the blood vessels meaning that blood flow can be restricted to the heart and brain.
For more information on lowering your risk of CHD, you might be interested in our article, Preventing common health issues for over 50s: heart disease and stroke.
Suicide and Depression
Unfortunately, on a global scale, one man commits suicide every minute and 3 out of 4 of all suicides are men. Most of these suicides stem from existing mental health conditions, like depression.
Some signs and symptoms of depression include:
- A general feeling of unhappiness, hopelessness or pessimism that won’t go away
- Poor concentration
- Unexplained weight loss or a loss of appetite
- Feeling worried or irritable
- Losing interest in your appearance and personal hygiene
If you’re struggling with these symptoms, it’s important to talk to a doctor or counsellor about them instead of ignoring them or trying to get rid of them on your own.
On top of medical treatment, there are some easy lifestyle changes you can make to help alleviate your symptoms:
- Regular exercise – this can help to release endorphins to tackle the neurochemical causes of depression. Some experts say this can be as effective as medication in treating depression.
- Good nutrition – this can help to keep your energy up and minimise the mood swings that can come with depression.
- A regular sleep cycle – of course, if you’re struggling with insomnia this could be a challenge. However, trying to get your body into a regular cycle can dramatically improve mood and might even alleviate insomnia.
- Social support – isolation is a key risk factor for depression. Surrounding yourself with a strong network can help you find the support that you need to combat your symptoms. Studies have also shown that improved social interaction can help tackle sleep issues.
- Reduce stress – whilst many people work in stressful jobs, knowing how to manage stress can minimise the impact of depression symptoms overall.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar to become too high or uncontrollable. Men have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and are biologically more susceptible to it than women.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, the hormone designed to regulate blood sugar levels. Common symptoms include:
- Urinating more often than usual, especially at night
- Feeling very thirsty or tired
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slow healing cuts and wounds
- Blurred vision
Type 2 diabetes can be easily prevented by eating a healthy, balanced diet, limiting processed foods and maintaining a healthy weight.
Liver Disease and Alcohol Problems
There are over 100 different types of liver disease. Added up, these affect around 2 million people in the UK every year. Whilst biologically women are more susceptible to developing liver diseases, alcoholism is twice as common in men as it is in women.
This means that alcohol related liver disease (ARLD) is one of the top male health problems. Because the liver is so complex, and has such a variety of functions, it’s important to take care of it and monitor the following symptoms:
- Tummy pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Swelling in legs, ankles, feet and abdomen
- Itchy skin
- Hair loss
- Weight loss and muscle wasting
- Fatigue, insomnia, memory loss and trouble concentrating
- Bleeding and bruising more easily
- Increased sensitivity to alcohol or drugs
Many of the long-term effects of liver disease, such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) are irreversible and recovering from alcohol-related liver disease usually means giving up drinking completely. The most effective way to prevent alcohol problems and ARLD is to stay within the NHS recommended limits and spread your drinking over at least 3 days of the week.
Getting involved with Movember is a great way to start promoting men’s health and tackling some of these problems. However, it’s important to remember that these issues affect men throughout the year as well. As always, if you’re concerned about any of these conditions it’s important to seek advice from a health professional.