Men's Health Awareness Week 2022

Author : Seán Connolly

Men's Health Awareness Week 2022

This article will focus on what can deter some men from seeking medical help, what some of these conditions are and what can be done to reduce the risk and enable them to reach out.

It is well known fact that more men than women refuse to go to the doctor or to seek out help through other means.

This can be because of the society in which we grew up in and the stigma attached to toxic masculinity, that to seek help is a sign of weakness.  It also can be due to our role in a professional sense, that there is simply not enough time in the day to look after our own health which can have a direct link to ego, ego driven ideology can be a massive inhibiter for our wellbeing.  So, to be weak, sick, unable to function, or seen to be getting professional help is not how a man should be, or at least that is how the world is seen through a toxic and harmful lens.  We need to need to reshape this lens, so it promotes health masculinity, that we are unafraid of our emotions, feelings of being open in every sense.  We need to be open about our mental and physical health.

Dr Demetrius James Porche, Chief Editor of American Journal of Men’s Health is quoted as saying “Men put their health last,” “Most men’s thinking is, if they can live up to their roles in society, then they’re healthy”, “As long as they’re working and feeling productive, most men aren’t considering the risks to their health”.

So, as a man, what can you do to improve your health?

Well, the first step begins with you.  We need to be honest with ourselves about our current lifestyle and have accountability for our own actions.  After all, it is our own thought process that will influence those actions.  And depending on what that action is will inevitably lead to a positive or negative outcome.  We can get ourselves into the practice of positive habits by literally looking at ourselves, listening to ourselves and being kind to ourselves.  Throughout the year we have global recognition days, weeks, and months for all health-related issues.  As part of men’s health week this year, one of the themes is “The Action Starts with You”, so again, referring to that first step of honesty and accountability.

Some health problems are truly preventable. We need to let go of this ideology that we are somehow invincible and some sort of machine that doesn’t break down and keeps working non-stop.  Well, I’m afraid, that this isn’t the case, machines breakdown all the time and need be examined and repaired with replaceable parts.  The bad news is that as humans, some parts are quite rare to come by and the process to replace them involves complex, life threatening procedures which are not exactly cost effective.  We can take measures now to lessen our risk of health problems in the future.

For example, according to the centres for disease control and prevention Stroke is a leading cause of death in men, killing almost the same number of men each year as prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined.  This is a worrying statistic, but the good news is that 4 out 5 strokes are preventable. The leading factor with stroke is high blood pressure. We can reduce high blood pressure and therefore reduce risk of stroke by making changes to our diet and lifestyle.  An unhealthy diet high in salt, saturated and trans fats can produce cholesterol which builds up within our arteries and forms a plaque that narrows the passageway for blood to travel around the body.  As a result, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood which leads to blood pressure becoming abnormally high.

Exercise and being active on a regular basis also helps by keeping your weight down, which means   your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you mobile and functioning.  It also reduces cholesterol in your blood keeping your arteries open so blood can move more freely.  If you are concerned about Stroke or feel your risk may be increasing then please go to a GP, get a check-up, get some education and professional guidance.  Be mindful that you can now get home testing kits for cholesterol, which can be sourced through your local pharmacy or certain health insurance providers such as Laya Healthcare.

The next health issue which needs addressing is prostate cancer.  According to the word cancer research fund, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, with lung cancer being the first. The Marie Keating Foundation states that prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in Ireland.  In the UK, prostate cancer is also the most common as cited by prostate cancer UK. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system which located just below the bladder.

One in eight men will be affected by this disease and nearly 4,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland every year.  In the UK there are around 47,500 new cases each year…that’s more than 130 men per day!

The good news is that, globally, over 90% of men who are diagnosed survive, but around the world in 2020 alone, we lost over 375,000 men.  It is simply not good enough, especially when we have preventative measures in place such as home testing kits.  In the past, it was the case that you would need to go to a GP to have an examination and test done.  For a lot of men, this felt quite invasive and the physical act of going to the GP is daunting enough for some.  These home testing kits involve a small sample of blood being provided and sent away for testing, very simple and straightforward.   Like the guidelines for reducing the risk of stroke, a healthier lifestyle can reduce the risk. Eat healthy, again, foods low in saturated and trans fats, more healthy fats such as fish oils for example and exercise always helps.  And take the time to get an examination or order that home testing kit.  Early detection can literally lifesaving.

Another form of cancer among men is that of testicular cancer.  John Hopkins Medicine states that testicular cancer impacts up to 10,000 men each year.  Testicular cancer is most common in men in their late 20s and early 30s, with the average being 33.

You can perform and should be aware that you can check yourself for signs and symptoms which simply involves checking for a lump or an enlargement in either testicle, a collection of fluid in the scrotum and general pain and discomfort.  See a GP as soon as possible if you notice such signs. Most lumps within the scrotum are not cancerous, but it’s important to get checked as soon as possible.  As with prostate cancer, treatment for testicular cancer is much more effective when it has been detected and diagnosed early.  If you want to know more there is an amazing organisation called Movember who have wealth of knowledge and coping mechanisms for those of you with concerns or who may be battling these conditions right now.

In closing, for any of you out there who have concerns about their health, please do not shy away from taking that step forward. Take action about your health, talk about your health do not let negative opinions steer you away from being open about a potential condition that you may have.

If you know of someone who is struggling simply offer compassion and support, be kind, it will enable them to be mentally prepared for what may lie ahead.