Men have a reputation for making a fuss when they are ill, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, men are far less likely than women to go and see a doctor, unless it’s something really serious. But in some cases, putting off a visit to the doctor can mean the difference between getting well quickly and becoming seriously ill or even dying.
Staying physically healthy
Not all the factors that determine our health are within our control, such as the genes we inherited and our past medical history. Having said that, there are lots of easy, practical ways of improving your health:
* Diet – to be a healthy man it’s best to eat a sensible balanced diet. If you are overweight, then losing it can take a lot of effort. The effort is worthwhile, however – carrying too much body weight makes you feel uncomfortable, get breathless very easily, and makes you less attractive to women. It also makes you vulnerable to high blood pressure, gallstones, varicose veins, osteoarthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and strokes.
* Getting fit – getting more healthy or losing weight involves increasing the amount of exercise you take, as well as changing what you eat. Choose something you enjoy doing, otherwise you won’t keep at it. You could start by going swimming before work or taking a brisk walk once a day, or you might like to join a recognised sports club with qualified instructors who can monitor your progress and help you work out attainable fitness targets. Joining a group also means there will be other men trying to do the same as you – it’s often easier to stick at it when you’ve got others to judge your progress against.
* Cut down on the alcohol – while there’s nothing wrong with having a drink, having a lot of alcohol a lot of the time is likely to put your health at risk. Be aware of what, when, and how much you drink and try and have two or three “dry” days a week. Help your body cope more easily by frequently eating fruit, vegetables, and wholemeal bread, and try taking vitamin C and B complex supplements daily to replace what the alcohol destroys.
* Smoking – the leading cause of death in the Western world, it can also cause impotence among other things. If you are planning to start a family, smoking can also adversely affect your sperm, making it more likely that you will have difficulties getting your partner pregnant and increasing your baby’s chance of being handicapped, dying of cot death, or suffering a childhood cancer, such as leukaemia.
D.I.Y. health checks
The best person to spot changes in your body is you. If you are not used to looking at your own body, now is a good time to get to know it. Regular self examination is important – with most diseases, the sooner you spot them the sooner you can be treated, and the higher your chances of a speedy recovery without further complications. So:
* Check your testicles – most men know more about breast cancer in women than they do about testicular cancer. While you probably won’t ever have anything to worry about, checking yourself regularly is the best way to prevent serious problems from developing – ask for Patient Support Sheet Testicular Cancer for guidelines.
* Check your skin – keeping a check on changes in your skin is particularly important, especially if you have pale skin and go abroad for a sunny holiday once or twice a year.
* Check your stress levels – stress is not always a bad thing, but stress that is out of control can be a huge problem. Recognising that you are under stress is the first step, and then you will be able to take steps towards coping with it more easily, or minimising it.
Most men have bodies that are remarkably well equipped to cope with the vast majority of problems that everyone experiences as part of daily life, but keeping an eye out for tell tale signs is sensible. You should consult a doctor if you notice any of the following, especially if they don’t clear up quickly:
* Coughing up blood
* A sore throat that will not get better after a week or two, even with standard over the counter throat remedies
* Unexplained lumps or bumps, wherever they are on your body
* Stomach pain that keeps coming back or won’t go away after a few days
* Difficulty with swallowing
* Unexplained constipation or diarrhoea that hasn’t cleared up after a week
* Bleeding from your anus, particularly if blood is mixed with your faeces
* Blood in your urine – or if it is foul smelling
* Unexplained weight loss
* Recurring severe headaches
* Changes in your testicles – in the shape, size, or feel of one or both
* Bruises – when you haven’t been bashed or bumped into anything
* Moles that change colour, shape or size, or that bleed or itch
* Scabs or ulcers that haven’t healed after three weeks
* White patches on the inside of your mouth that won’t go away