November is known globally for being the month to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide, among others. You may have heard of Men’s Health Awareness month in November via the annual event Movember which involves the growing of mustaches to raise funds for these causes.
Men’s Health Awareness month is important for a number of reasons. The life expectancy for men tends to be lower than women throughout the world. Many studies have shown this disparity to be true regardless of living location, where you come from, or racial background.
In addition, men tend to have higher morbidity and mortality than women in a number of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and cancer.
When looking at the reasons for the low levels, the Who European Region’s review of the social determinants of health showed that these rates reflect several factors such as the greater risk of chemical/physical hazard exposure to men, that men are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, health beliefs men may have and how that reflects on their masculinity, and the fact that they are less likely to complain of symptoms of any condition they may have.
The importance of men’s health, just as women’s health, is the fact that many of these conditions can be prevented or treated.
Let’s look at the stats, shall we?
The following infographic contains statistics published by the World Health Organisation in 2018 regarding Men’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region.
Interestingly enough, another study conducted by Gilette last year discovered that a third of men tend to avoid doctor visits in regards to their health as they don’t think it is important.
Even more worrying, 75% choose not to go to a doctor if they have any symptoms suggestive of illness. Now that’s shocking!
Well, what can men do to better look after themselves?
Socialize with friends
Reaching out to friends when we feel low can be good for your mental health. Call your friend, check in on them, and make time for them. The good feeling from being around your friends is good for you.
Know the numbers
Have a general health screen by your doctor. There is no good age to start seeing your doctor for a health screen test or to look after your well-being. Nowadays, many known illnesses and diseases can be easily treated or managed with the help of your doctor if found at an early stage. Early detection would be imperative for a greater chance of successful treatment. Remember, prevention is always better than a cure
There are specific things you can talk to your doctor about at certain ages in life. You should consider discussing prostate cancer with your doctor if you are approaching the age of 50, and see if it is a good idea for you to get your PSA levels checked (this number is 45 for those of African or Caribbean descent).
Depending on where you live, you can also enquire about screening programs such as bowel cancer screening which is usually done from your early 60s, and abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, which is usually done in your mid-60s.
Take out time to reflect
Consider taking some time off to reflect on any stress or frustration that may have come up during the day. As men, we don’t make time to reflect. One thing I’ve found to be quite helpful with this is keeping a journal or notebook. Throughout the day, my mind may become consumed with information, so I jot down reminders in here. I also use the notebook to take note of how I’m feeling to be able to deal with my thoughts, and life in general in a healthier way.
This is one I’m guilty of not doing, and my friends know it. Exercise makes us feel good due to a release of BDNF, a protein that has a protective effect on our memory. This results in us feeling calmer and resulting in clearer thoughts after exercise.
Endorphins are also released, which block the feeling of pain and create a sense of euphoria, or in other terms, makes us feel good.
You are what you eat….and drink
This point is quite important. It can be quite difficult to eat healthy, especially if you’re always on the go, but starting off with small changes can make all the difference. Cutting out sugar, salt and fats from your diet is a good way to start. Introducing healthy fruits and green vegetables to your diet can make positive impacts on your health.
Switch it off
Lastly, you’d be surprised all the things you’d notice around you if you just put down your phone for a moment. Try putting down your phone for one evening a week at first. Leave the work emails or texts that aren’t urgent until later, and perhaps focus on family, start that book you’ve been wanting to read for a while, do some work around the house, or anything else that makes you feel good.
Featured image: Giphy
Ola is a medical student at The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI).