Men are notorious for putting off going to see the doctor, even when they know their symptoms warrant investigation. Indeed, several studies, including one by the National Pharmacy Association in 2012, have found that men are in fact far more reluctant than women to see a doctor or pharmacist in regards to health concerns.
Fortunately, going to the doctor doesn’t have to be that scary – and there are a number of easy health checks men can get to make sure they stay in good condition, and pick out any possible risks before they have a chance to get too serious. We’ve rounded up four key things men can do to look after their health:
Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked
About one in five men in Britain die of cardiovascular disease, and the contributing factors tend to appear earlier in the male population. These include high blood pressure (hypertension) – which is associated with a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, and other issues – as well as high levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol in the blood, which contributes to the build-up of plaque that causes atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, that puts you at higher risk of heart attack or stroke. By regularly having your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked by your GP or at your Vitality Health Check, you’ll be able to spot any increases that may be cause for alarm – giving you plenty of time to make any necessary adjustments before things get serious. Which leads to our next important health check…
Measure your BMI and waistline
Your body mass index, or BMI, indicates whether you’re a healthy weight relative to your height. Having a BMI that falls outside the healthy limits for your age and height puts you at risk of raised blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and other factors that can contribute to serious illness. In particular, keep an eye on your waistline – if you’re carrying too much weight around your midsection, you could be at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Of course, the best way to keep your weight in the healthy range is to eat a balanced, varied diet and exercise regularly – so stock up on whole grains, lean protein and colourful fruits and vegetables on your next grocery shopping trip, and sign up for a session with a personal trainer to ease you into a new fitness routine if you need a bit of help getting started.
Speak to someone if you’re feeling down
While overall women are more likely to suffer from depression, men are more likely to commit suicide – possibly because they are usually more reluctant to admit to their problems and seek help. In part, this can be attributed to the traditional view held by many in the past that men should be strong and silent in the face of adversity. Nowadays, however, there’s greater awareness that depression is a serious illness with significant consequences for a patient’s life and wellbeing – and it’s important to spot the warning signs before the condition progresses too far. If you’ve been feeling extremely sad, hopeless, listless or even angry and frustrated for a prolonged period of time – with or without an obvious cause – it’s important to speak to someone. Start by sharing your feelings with a family member or friend, but remember, too, that your GP can offer advice and treatment to alleviate the symptoms. The key thing is not to suffer alone – there is help at hand.
Have a doctor look at any lumps, bumps or mysterious marks
One of the best ways to ensure you stay healthy in the long term is to know your body and learn to spot anything that seems unusual. For instance, check your testicles and scrotum regularly and speak to your doctor immediately if you notice a lump, swelling, or any other unusual change, as it could be a sign of testicular cancer.
This is the most common cancer amongst young men aged 20 to 35 in the UK, with almost 2,000 cases identified each year, but the chance of successful treatment is considerably higher if it’s caught early. Similarly, keep an eye on moles, freckles and other marks on your skin and report any changes to your GP as they could indicate skin cancer. In particular, be aware of moles that change in size or colour, develop an irregular border or start to itch, as these could be warning signs. Men are often less likely than women to wear sun cream with at least SPF15 on a daily basis, so remember to slather it on, even when it’s cloudy or as you’re simply going about daily tasks – incidental sun exposure can still lead to damage.