Make sure your man is taking care of his health. Here’s a rundown of key male health risks through the decades.
Australian men could be doing more when it comes to looking after themselves. Their life expectancy of 79 is among the best in the world, but there is room for improvement, says the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)
“Australian men make fewer GP visits than women, only 40 per cent discuss health issues with health professionals, and 16 per cent of men do not use any Medicare services at all,” AIHW director David Kalisch says
So what health risks are affecting men and how do they reduce those risks?
20s & 30s
The big issues: Alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, infertility, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), suicide and mental illness.
What to do: “Most young blokes aren’t thinking about what life will be like when they’re 50, but if you want to be healthier later, you have to think about it in your 20s and 30s,” says Professor Duncan Topliss, director of the Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Alfred Health in Melbourne. “Have a little alcohol, don’t smoke, keep your weight down and be active.”
Men with a family history of heart problems or high blood pressure should get checked out by their GP at least annually.
Professor Peter Royce, director of urology at The Alfred Hospital, recommends a monthly testicular self-examination. “If the testicles are hard or lumpy, have an ultrasound. If they are the size of an acorn there may be infertility issues so you need to be tested,” he says.
Symptoms such as urethral discharge, painful ejaculation and rashes or ulcerations on the skin of the penis could indicate a STI.
The late teens and early 20s are a period with the highest incidence of mental health problems.
“About three-quarters of men who develop schizophrenia experience their first symptoms by the age of 25 or 26,” says Professor Paul Fitzgerald at Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre. “Anxiety and depression can arise as they struggle to establish themselves in relationships, employment and as parents.”
40s & 50s
The big issues: Heart disease, diabetes, depression, alcohol, smoking and bowel, skin, bladder and kidney cancer.
What to do: “If you have high blood pressure and cholesterol or are overweight, start checking for diabetes after the age of 45,” Professor Topliss says.
From 50 onwards, men are at greater risk of prostate and bowel cancer. Signs of prostate cancer include difficulty or changes in urination, while signs of bowel cancer include rectal bleeding and changes in bowel habits.
Bowel screenings are free for men at 50, 55 and 65, but it is recommended every two years after 50. Men over 50 are advised to discuss with their doctor whether to have a prostate test.
Bladder and kidney cancer can be an issue at this age, usually for men who are smokers.
“This is often evident as blood in the urine,” Associate Professor Royce says.
Heart disease and heart attacks also become greater threats. Know your cholesterol and blood pressure and your diabetes risk, says Professor Tony Dart, director of cardiovascular medicine at The Alfred Hospital. If checks show you are healthy, a follow-up check every five years is fine.
“If you have unexplained chest pain at any age, get checked,” Professor Dart advises. “Pain and breathlessness are the two chief symptoms of a heart attack.”
The risk of skin cancer rises after 50. Men should check their skin every three months and see a doctor if there are changes.
Feeling stuck in a job, redundancy, a broken relationship and less contact with grown-up children can lead to depression and problematic drinking.
“Men in middle age have a relatively high risk of suicide, so get depression assessed and treated early,” Professor Fitzgerald says.
The big issues: Heart disease, stroke, lung, bowel, skin and prostate cancer, depression and diabetes.
What to do: After the age of 55, all men should be checked for diabetes. Symptoms include fatigue, excessive thirst, passing a lot of urine and skin infections.
“Getting old is a diabetes risk factor and there’s not much we can do about that. But look after your body and you can do something about your risk,” Professor Topliss says.
Prostate, bowel and skin cancer continue to be key health issues for men, particularly as they age, so it’s important to have regular checks and to monitor your body.
Irregular heartbeat is more common as men get older and increases the risk of stroke. Medication may be required to manage the condition.
“While in middle age men can have a sudden cardiac event, for older men it’s more likely to be accumulated problems leading to impaired heart function,” Professor Dart explains. “But a lot of things are improved by simply having a good diet and exercise and remembering that smoking kills you.”
Source: Body and Soul