The health issues affecting Australian men

21.07.2020
What coping mechanisms do men really use to stay mentally healthy?

The leading cause of death for men in Australia is coronary heart disease. The good news is that men can reduce their risk of developing coronary heart disease through simple lifestyle changes.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

More men suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD) than women. Coronary heart disease (and ischaemic heart disease) is a term used to describe what happens in the body when a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries blocks the blood supply to the heart.

In Australia, men account for four out of five heart disease deaths before the age of 65.

Being overweight or obese carries significant health risks for cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes all increase the risk of contracting CHD.

Symptoms
Symptoms of CHD include chest pain (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

Lower your risk
It’s never too late to decrease your risk of coronary heart disease.

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Take regular exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress levels

Visit our heart health guide for more on this topic.

Obesity

Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Three quarters of Australian men were overweight or obese in 2018.

Most of the fat in our bodies is stored beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat) but some fat is stored deep inside our belly and around organs like the liver and intestines. This is known as visceral fat, and it tends to make your stomach stick out. Too much visceral fat is linked with an increased risk of some cancers, dementia, type 2 diabetes, CVD and osteoarthritis to name a few.

The good news is that losing as little as 5% of your body weight can significantly reduce the health risks associated with being overweight or obese.

Check your body mass index (BMI) to find out if you’re at risk.

Visit our weight management health guide for more on this topic.

Prostate cancer

The most common cancer in Australian men is prostate cancer. Most cases develop later in life. If you’re over 50 or have a close relative who has had prostate cancer, you should discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor. Your doctor may suggest an annual screening blood test. Depending on the results of the blood test and your medical history, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Certain risk factors increase your chance of developing prostate cancer.

  • Age
  • Close family history of prostate cancer before the age of 60
  • Certain breast cancer in female relatives
  • African-Caribbean men are more at risk, Asian men are less at risk
  • High fat, low fibre diet

Symptoms

  • Passing urine frequently
  • Feeling like your bladder hasn’t emptied
  • Having to pass urine urgently
  • Dribbling urine
  • Having to wait before urine flows
  • Weaker stream

Prostate cancer often develops slowly and survival rates are high if caught early. You can find out more at the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

Treatment

In some cases, prostate cancer may not even need treatment. However, aggressive cases can spread to other parts of the body and may need surgery, hormonal therapy and/or radiotherapy or chemotherapy. The longer you delay the start of treatment, the less chance there is of treatment being successful.

If you’re expecting a hospital admission, contact CBHS, your hospital and your doctor to obtain informed financial consent (the likely cost of treatment) and to find out how much will be covered, how much you will have to pay, and any other expenses.

Speak to our Member Care team on 1300 654 123 or email help@cbhs.com.au to find out more.

Visit our cancer health guide for more on this topic.

Mental health

Depression and anxiety are not uncommon in men. Statistics show that suicide is the leading cause of death in Australian men aged between 15 and 44.

Traditionally, men are less likely than women to reach out for help when they’re experiencing problems. Men with mental health issues are 50% less likely than women to access services. Men can instead turn to alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger or suicide instead of tackling more complex emotions such as grief, anxiety or depression. Read more about both healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms men use.

Men don’t experience mental illness at greater levels than women, yet they commit suicide at much higher rates. Most male suicide is likely to be linked to a distressing event, such as a relationship breakdown, financial stress, bereavement or unemployment.

The Men’s Shed movement encourages men to share activities in an atmosphere of mateship that echoes the old backyard shed and offers men the opportunity to open up about personal issues in a non-confrontational way.

Beyond Blue: Call 1300 22 4636, 24-hours/7 days a week.

Lifeline: Call 13 11 14 for 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services.

Visit our mental health guide for more on this topic.

Sexual health

From puberty onwards, men should check themselves regularly for any unusual thickenings or lumps in the testicles. If you notice anything strange, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

It’s estimated that erectile dysfunction or infertility may affect around one million men in Australia. It becomes more common with age and can be linked to other health problems such as prostate disease, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity and psychological factors like stress, anxiety or depression.

Consult your GP for treatments. These could involve sex therapy, counselling, medication or surgery, and you should only seek medication for erectile dysfunction from your GP or health professional. Medication obtained over the internet is likely to be of dubious quality and could interfere with other medicines.

Urethral problems

Urine from a man’s bladder flows out through the urethra. This can sometimes become narrowed and restrict the flow of urine. If that happens, it may also reduce the force of ejaculation. Other symptoms might include straining, spraying, dribbling or pain on passing urine.

Injuries or infections which may leave residual scar tissue are often to blame. Very rarely, the cause may be related to cancer. Treatment to relieve symptoms includes widening the restricted area or surgery.

Bleeding from the urethra could be caused by infection, trauma or cancer. See your doctor immediately if you notice any blood in your urine.

Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the top ten causes of death in men. Diabetes is more common in men (5.5%) than in women (4.3%) and, if left untreated or poorly managed, it can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, amputation, depression, anxiety or blindness.

Type 1 diabetes usually presents first in children, type 2 is more commonly associated with being overweight.

You could be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are over 40
  • are overweight or obese
  • have a family member with type 2 diabetes
  • are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • were born in Asia
  • are not physically active

Your doctor can tell if you’re pre-diabetic with a simple test for blood sugar levels. One in three people who are pre-diabetic will go on to develop diabetes.

Following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can all reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Visit our diabetes health guide for more on this topic.

Drinking and men’s health

Men are more likely than women to drink alcohol every day and to drink to excess. Regularly drinking alcohol can increase the risk of injuries and accidents, deplete energy levels and sexual performance and increase the risk of heart disease, gout, liver damage, depression and cancer.

Energy drinks are popular with men, especially young men, but excessive consumption may be associated with anxiety, raised blood pressure, elevated heart rates and problems sleeping.

Mixing alcohol with energy drinks that contain caffeine caries even greater health risks.

 

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 healthcare professional.


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