Good Advice for Kiwi Blokes
US baseball star Mickey Mantle once said, ”If I had known I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.” Good advice for the typical kiwi bloke whose reluctance to seek help for medical problems is a source of frustration for spouses and medical professionals alike.
Eight out of 10 men admit to waiting too long before going to their doctor. No matter how smart a man is or what professional status he’s achieved, he can still ignore health symptoms and pay the consequences.
Ministry of Health figures (Our Health, Our Future, 1999) reveal that New Zealand men not only have a greater incidence of ischaemic heart disease, stroke, and cancer than women, they also die from these conditions at a greater rate.
Taking The Pulse (New Zealand Health Survey 1996/97) indicated that overall, more men smoke than women. Smoking doubles the risk of heart disease. Also, more men than women have a potentially hazardous alcohol-drinking pattern.
“Many health conditions are preventable with early detection,” says GP and public health medicine registrar Dr Tom Robinson. “It’s best for men to turn the tables on the ‘social construction of masculinity’, ‘be a man’ and take charge of their own health.”
So what are some of the health hazards men should be facing up to?
Men are prone to collecting fat around the abdomen, often resulting in a “beer belly”.
Visceral fat, a deep inner layer wrapped around the abdominal organs, increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and sleep apnoea, a serious condition marked by a cessation of breathing for short periods during sleep.
Fortunately, because upper body fat is easier to shift than lower body fat (where women tend to store it) it’s not hard to lose that “pot”. So why are so many men obese?
It’s an ancestral kickback. Our hunter forefathers needed fat as a quick energy source to run after prey or away from predators, and today’s less-active blokes are still following those gut instincts.
“At least half an hour a day of moderate exercise is recommended. And look for opportunities to exercise in your everyday life — gardening, walk to the shops, walk up the stairs, or get off the bus a few stops early.”
“They should speak to their GPs on how often they should be tested for blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, and seek advice on diet, exercise and alcohol consumption,” says Tom
Best-selling author and one of New Zealand’s leading nutritionists, Jeni Pearce says men tend to think they are invincible and then take an all or nothing approach to their eating (very good or terrible). Their diet must include lean meats, whole grains, fruit and vegetables and less higher-fat foods and snacks.
Tauranga urologist and Southern Cross Affiliated Provider, Peter Gilling says the most common men’s condition is prostate disease: “Prostatitis, or infection of the prostate, can affect men of all ages (20-60 years); benign prostate enlargement (BPH) affects older men generally (50 onwards) as does prostatic cancer.
Unfortunately there’s nothing specific men can do to prevent getting prostate disease, but it would certainly help if they stay vigilant about the symptoms, particularly if they have it in the family. If picked up early, prostate cancer is likely to be curable.”
Peter explains that an enlarged prostate causes lower urinary tract symptoms: “They include passing urine frequently; having to go in a hurry; a slow stream (rather than a flow) and the feeling that the bladder hasn’t completely emptied. Prostatic cancer has no symptoms in the early stages. Often these two conditions are found together. The youngest we would recommend to have a PSA test (prostate specific antigen) is 50 and how often after that depends on what you find at the first check.”
The other common condition is testicular cancer which mainly afflicts men in their 20-30s. Again, when detected early, the survival rate is high. Peter advises all men in their 20s to do regular self-examination, although he says that often it’s the partner who notices something’s amiss.
So where does this leave our modern-day gladiator?
The Complete Book of Men’s Health (Mitchell Beazley) urges a change of mind-set: “Think of your doctor as a coach taking you through the game of life,” advising you on techniques and strategies to keep you on top form. When it comes to this particular game, winning is everything.