Mens unique biology means that they face unique health issues: heart disease, stroke and prostate disorders as the most prevalent, particularly as men age.
Heart disease, atherosclerosis and stroke in men
Men, in general, are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to premenopausal women. A positive family history of early cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all early warning signs for men to reduce their risk factors for a number of life-threatening diseases.
These diseases can be defined as follows:
- Heart diseases are medical conditions of the heart and the blood vessels (arteries) supplying it, which impair the normal functioning of the heart and blood vessels. These diseases include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks and angina.
- Atherosclerosis is a disease of large and medium-sized muscular arteries. A build up of plaque in the arteries, leads to changes in the blood vessels, it can also obstruct blood flow and reduce the oxygen getting to some organs.
- A stroke is a sudden blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, which may result in loss of consciousness, difficulty with speech, confusion, paralysis on one side of the body and partial loss of movement.
Heart disease and stroke are linked, as the one may lead to the manifestation of another. For example, if a patient has heart disease, the blood flow to the rest of the body may be reduced or impaired. The reduced blood flow to the brain in particular, could result in a stroke.
Some risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke:
- Age - the risk of heart disease and stroke increase with advancing age
- Gender - strokes are more common in men, although men live longer than women following a stroke. More men than women die from heart disease.
- Race - Africans have twice the risk of stroke compared to whites
- Genetics - people in the same family tend to suffer from the same conditions
- Physical inactivity
- Previous stroke attack may lead to stroke recurrence
- A diet high in saturated fats and salt increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such a high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Diabetes mellitus - patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease
Key lifestyle changes which could dramatically improve your health and life expectancy and reduce your chances of developing these disorders include:
- Quit smoking
- Undertake some form of aerobic exercise
- Eat a balanced diet high in fibre and low in saturated fats and salt
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Maintain a healthy weight
There is also a place for medication in managing existing health risks and your doctor and healthcare professional will advise you of the best options.
Problems with urination in men increase as men age. Often these urinary disorders aren't serious, and can be managed. However, men from the age of 45, should be encouraged to undergo prostate cancer screening, particularly in the presence of any urinary symptoms.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
A common 'ageing disorder' in men is called BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) - benign meaning not cancerous and hyperplasia means the growth of too much prostastic tissue. At 60, men have a 50% chance of BPH, at 85 that risk increases to 90%.
BPH occurs because as men age, there is a slow enlargement of the prostate gland, putting pressure onto the urethra (the tube that removes urine from bladder and out of the body), resulting in the discomfort and typical symptoms of BPH.
The signs and symptoms for both BPH and prostatic cancer are similar, but if you experience any of the symptoms you will need to visit your doctor as soon as possible to exclude the possibility of prostate cancer.
One in six men are likely to be diagnosed with prostatic cancer in their lifetime.
Signs and symptoms:
- Frequent need to urinate especially at night
- Difficulty starting or stopping the urinary stream
- Blood in urine and semen
- A painful sensation during urination or ejaculation
- Loss of weight and appetite
- Fatigue, nausea and vomiting
- Chronic pelvic pain syndrome
While many men may be predisposed to certain diseases because of genetics and gender, a lot can be still be done to prevent their onset. Recognising the risk factors and making positive lifestyle changes as early as possible can go aid in prevention, management and reversal of some of the disorders.
Have regular preventative health checks and visit a doctor if you feel that there are any issues. Contact your employee wellbeing programme for: advice on positive lifestyle changes; dietary adjustments you can make; suitable exercise options; help finding resources, and support in any positive lifestyle choices you make.