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Four men's health issues to watch out for

20 March, 2020
Common men's health problems

According to the Better Health Channel, Australian men are more likely to get sick from serious health conditions than Australian women. They’re also more likely to die from these conditions than Australian women. Some of the common conditions affecting Australian men include coronary heart disease, prostate cancer, depression and diabetes. With this in mind, it’s important to watch out for the signs and symptoms of these conditions and learn how to reduce your risk where you can.

  1. 1. Coronary heart disease

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death for men and women in 2017. Coronary heart disease and ischaemic heart disease are terms that describe what happens in the body when a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries blocks the blood supply to the heart.

Understand your risk

There are certain risk factors that raise a person’s likelihood for developing coronary heart disease. You can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by making healthy lifestyle choices such as:

  • avoiding smoke or smoking
  • eating a healthy diet
  • exercising and staying active
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • managing stress levels

It’s best to visit your doctor to discuss lifestyle choices that can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. You can also ask for advice about regular check-ups to look for signs of the following:

  • high blood cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes

If you have concerns about your heart health, it’s best to see your doctor. If your doctor thinks you’re at risk of developing coronary heart disease, they can assess your heart health. This can include assessing your medical and family history, lifestyle factors and requesting a blood test. They can also offer suggestions for lowering your risk factors.

If you’re 45 years or older (or over 35 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), you should have a heart health check up every two years. To find out more, read heart health checks at the Heart Foundation.

Know the signs and symptoms

It’s important to remember that not everyone experiences the same symptoms with coronary heart disease, and some people don’t experience any symptoms at all.

Angina (chest pain)

If your arteries have a partial block, you could experience chest pain. This is also known as angina.

The most common symptoms of angina can include:

  • pain or discomfort in the middle of the chest
  • pain with breathlessness and sweating
  • pressure or a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • radiating pain to the neck, jaw and left arm, or both arms
  • sometimes, radiating pain in the upper back and shoulders

Heart attacks

If there is a complete blockage in your arteries, you could experience a heart attack. The warning signs for a heart attack differ from person to person.

When having a heart attack, you may experience pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in one or more parts of your upper body including your chest, shoulders, neck, arms, jaw or back.

You may also experience the following symptoms:

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • cold sweats
  • shortness of breath

If you experience warning signs of a heart attack, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance

To learn more, read heart attack symptoms at the Heart Foundation.

  1. 2. Prostate cancer

After some forms of skin cancer, Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men. Around 3,500 Australian men die each year from the condition.

Prostate cancer causes abnormal cells to develop within the prostate gland. These cells grow and multiply, creating a tumour.

Understand your risk

There are several risk factors for developing prostate cancer. These include:

  • increasing age
  • family history – you have a higher risk if your brother or father had the condition
  • eating a diet high in fat and with not enough fruits and vegetables
  • being overweight

While you can’t control your age or family history, you can manage your weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Know the signs and symptoms

The symptoms of prostate cancer don’t usually appear until the cancer has grown quite large. When this happens, symptoms can include:

  • feeling a frequent and sudden need to urinate
  • discomfort when urinating
  • finding blood in your urine or semen
  • pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips

These symptoms alone don’t mean you have prostate cancer, it could just be that you have an enlarged prostate (or benign prostatic hyperplasia).

Get help now

For immediate help in a crisis:

Seeing your GP

If you have concerns about your mental health, it’s best to see your GP.

When you see your GP, they can:

  • assess your mental health
  • prescribe some medications for anxiety or depression
  • refer you to a mental health professional if necessary
  • refer you to other support services
They can also put you on a mental health plan, and this means Medicare may subsidise up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional. You can learn more about the different types of mental health professionals at Healthdirect Australia.

  1. 3. Depression

According to Beyond Blue, one in eight Australian men will experience depression in their lives and one in five men will experience anxiety. Depression is more than a passing low mood. It can be feeling sad for weeks on end, having low energy and low motivation. It can also be a feeling of numbness rather than sadness.  Depression is also a significant risk factor in suicide. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suicide was the leading cause of death for Australian men aged between 15 and 44 in 2015-2017.

Some men can be reluctant to seek help for depression or other mental health issues. But it’s a serious condition and one which requires help and support in recovery.

Understand your risk

Some risk factors for men developing depression can include:

  • physical health problems
  • relationships problems and breakdowns
  • employment problems
  • social isolation
  • change in living arrangements (separation and divorce)
  • pregnancy and birth of a baby
  • drug and alcohol use

Know the signs and symptoms

Some of the symptoms of depression in men can include:

  • moodiness and irritability
  • hopelessness and helplessness
  • loss of appetite or over-eating
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • acting out of character
  • increase in alcohol or drug intake
  • suddenly becoming shy or more confident
  • withdrawing from close family and friends

You can find out more about the symptoms of depression in men at MensLine. If you think you might be experiencing depression, it’s important to get help.

Get help now

For immediate help in a crisis:

For general mental health support:

Seeing your GP

If you have concerns about your mental health, it’s best to see your GP.

When you see your GP, they can:

  • assess your mental health
  • prescribe some medications for anxiety or depression
  • refer you to a mental health professional if necessary
  • refer you to other support services

They can also put you on a mental health plan, and this means Medicare may subsidise up to 10 sessions with a mental health professional. You can learn more about the different types of mental health professionals at Healthdirect Australia.

  1. 4. Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the biggest challenges confronting Australia’s health system. According to Diabetes Australia, 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. This works out at one person every five minutes. Diabetes is the name given to a group of conditions where the body can’t maintain a healthy level of glucose (type of sugar) in the blood. The three types of diabetes are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Understand your risk

Type 1 diabetes risk factors can include:

  • family history of Type 1 diabetes
  • having a virus at an early age may trigger type 1 diabetes
  • living in a colder climate

It’s unclear if there are lifestyle related risk factors for Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is often lifestyle related. Lifestyle risk factors can include:

  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy diet

People are also more likely to experience Type 2 Diabetes if they have high cholesterol, hypertension, or high triglyceride levels.

Know the signs and symptoms

When glucose levels in the blood rise, it can trigger a range of symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • feeling thirsty
  • urinating frequently, especially at night
  • feeling very tired
  • weight loss and loss of muscle bulk

Seeing your GP

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of diabetes, or have concerns about your risk, it’s best to see your GP. They can assess any symptoms and make a diagnosis if necessary. To find a GP in your area, use the find a health service tool. 

Sources

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/coronary-heart-disease-and-atherosclerosis

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/what-causes-coronary-heart-disease

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death

https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/men%E2%80%99s-and-women%E2%80%99s-health-side-by-side

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/mens-health

https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/know-your-risks/heart-health-check

http://www.choosingwisely.org.au/recommendations/racgp

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/prostate-cancer

https://www.prostate.org.au/awareness/general-information/what-you-need-to-know-about-prostate-cancer/

https://www.healthymale.org.au/mens-health/prostate-cancer

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/men

https://mensline.org.au/signs-and-symptoms-of-depression/depression/

https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/diabetes-in-australia

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.

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