The health statistics for New Zealand men aren’t ideal…one in four Kiwi men die before they reach retirement age. Men are more likely to experience and die from cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and common cancers than women. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Kiwi men aged between 15 and 30 years. Heart disease and cancer are the leading cause of death for Kiwi men over the age of 40. Some of the reasons for these alarming statistics are attributed to men’s less healthy lifestyles – excess alcohol, lack of exercise and poor diet. As well, men don’t visit their GP or talk to a health professional as often as women do.
The international Movember campaign every November is dedicated to raising both awareness and funds for men’s health issues. In New Zealand, Movember funds help to support the Cancer Society and Mental Health Foundation. Movember is a timely reminder for men to think about getting a warrant of fitness for all aspects of their health – physical, emotional, mental and sexual.
Regular health checks
We think nothing of spending time and money on our car to get it checked for a warrant of fitness or a service at least once every year, yet some people – men in particular – don’t spend the same effort on their own health. Even though you may feel well, it is always worth checking in with a health professional regularly. If you are young and healthy a visit to the GP would be recommended every two to three years. If you are older, then a visit to your GP should be at least yearly. Regular checks can sometimes discover health problems early, preventing disease, disability and early death. Early diagnosis can mean better health outcomes.
WHAT TO GET CHECKED AND WHAT TO WORK ON…
- Blood pressure – if high, this can indicate a risk of developing underlying serious health conditions such as stroke, heart attack, or kidney failure.
- Cholesterol – high cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Blood sugar levels – can indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes. Untreated diabetes can lead to problems with eyes, brain, nerves, feet, kidneys.
- Smoking – consider quitting.
- Nutrition – decrease saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar in diet.
- Stress levels – high stress levels increase the risk of heart disease and negatively affects mental health
- Exercise – doctors recommend exercising at least 30 minutes five times a week and strength training for two days a week.
- Good sleeping habits are essential for good mental health.
- Poor oral health not only leads to tooth decay and lost teeth, but is also associated with other serious health conditions such as coronary artery disease, pneumonia, and diabetes.
- A dental check once a year is recommended.
Other health checks:
- Skin – have a regular skin check for melanoma and other skin cancers, self-check every 3 months and yearly with a doctor.
- Immunity – check you are up-to-date with all the vaccinations needed for preventable infectious diseases.
- Eyes – See an optometrist yearly if aged over 60. From the age of 45 it is important to be screened regularly for macular degeneration and glaucoma.
- Hearing – free screening checks are available to screen for hearing loss.
Reducing cancer risk
- Bowel cancer – the second highest cause of cancer death (after lung cancer). A simple screening test can detect for cancer at an early stage.
- Consider lifestyle – can you improve nutrition, decrease alcohol intake, minimise or stop smoking, get better sleep, have a better work-life balance, ensure adequate wellbeing and support, use relaxation techniques.
- Prostate check – men over the age of 50 should discuss having a prostate check with their doctor (or from 40 if there is a family history of prostate cancer).
- Testicle check – self-check every month for painless lumps, swelling or change in testicle size or shape.
Living a longer, healthier, better quality life is about men taking small and regular steps to address any health, lifestyle or wellbeing concerns. If it has been longer than 12 months since your last health check, make an appointment to see your health provider soon. Here’s an idea…book it for the same day as you are taking the car in for a warrant or service! Your body has to last you a lifetime!