Health and wellbeing are topics that are often overlooked by men, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of lockdown. However, it’s vital that men start to feel more comfortable talking about their physical, mental and financial wellness – and what better time to start that conversation than during Men’s Health Week 2021.
Read on as we discuss the various health issues faced predominantly by men, and why it’s so important to seek help as and when these problems arise.
Heart Health – According to the British Heart Foundation, there are 4 million men currently living with some form of heart or circulatory disease in the UK. Statistically, men are more likely to die from coronary heart disease than women, with 1 in 8 men versus 1 in 13 women ultimately passing from the condition.
The most common signs of heart issues are chest pains and shortness of breath, but other symptoms may also present themselves. These include pain that radiates from the chest to the arms, jaw, neck, back or stomach, light-headedness, sweating and nausea.
If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to seek medical advice as soon as possible. You can reduce your risk of developing a heart condition by quitting smoking, cutting down your alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a high-fibre, low cholesterol diet.
Cancer – The NHS reports that around 2,300 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year in the UK alone. Although testicular cancer tends to affect younger men, it is the most common type of cancer to affect men between 15 and 49 years of age.
Typical symptoms include swelling or a noticeable lump in one of the testicles, a change in shape or texture of the testicles, a dull ache in the abdomen or groin area or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
It’s important to be aware of what feels normal for you, so get to know your body through regular self-examination and see a GP if you notice any changes. You can find more information on how to check yourself for signs of testicular cancer here.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. It usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for many years. Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra). When this happens, you may notice things like:
- An increased need to urinate
- Straining while you urinate
- A feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied
Although these symptoms may not necessarily indicate prostate cancer, they should not be ignored as they may still signal a problem with the prostate. Always see a GP as soon as you notice any of these symptoms.
Diabetes – Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. If untreated or incorrectly managed, diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, sight impairment, depression and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Data collected by The Global Diabetes Community suggests that diabetes affects a higher proportion of men than women, with men accounting for 56% of UK diabetes cases compared to women at 44%. There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes – where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin.
There are many precautions you can take to decrease your chances of developing diabetes, including:
- Drinking less than 14 units of alcohol a week (equivalent of 6 pints of average strength beer)
- Quitting smoking
- Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Taking regular exercise
- Drinking at least 2 litres of water a day
- Carrying our regular cholesterol and blood pressure checks
The coronavirus outbreak has impacted everyone’s lives, causing many of us to feel stressed and overwhelmed. It’s great that restrictions are starting to ease across the UK and life is steadily returning to normal, but these changes may lead to you feel anxious about leaving the safety of your home. If you’re not feeling great, you’re not alone. Mental Health Charity Mind reports that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year in England, and 1 in 6 people will experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression in any given week.
Mind also found that “nearly 9 in 10 (87%) of emergency services staff and volunteers surveyed have experienced stress, low mood and poor mental health at some point while working for the emergency services.” While these figures are alarmingly high, emergency service workers may also be less likely to ask for help.
Stress and anxiety are normal, especially in these uncertain times. It’s what we do about it that matters. While different approaches work for different people, there are various steps you can take to cope with being under pressure:
Identify your triggers and take control – Working out what triggers your stress can help you anticipate and manage your stress levels in advance. Making some adjustments to the way you organise your time can help you feel more in control and able to handle the pressure you are feeling.
Be active – Exercise can help clear your head and enable you to deal with your problems more calmly. Go outside to exercise, as fresh air and spending time in nature can really help. Talk to friends, family and colleagues as they may be able to support you through the stress you are feeling. You might also want to consider talking to a professional counsellor.
Do something you enjoy – Spending time doing something you enjoy will take your mind off how you are feeling. Whether it’s taking a long bath or reading a book, everyone needs to take time for themselves to maintain their mental health.
Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms – Many people use alcohol, smoking, overeating or gambling to relieve the stress they are feeling, but none of these things will help in the long term. Instead, use healthy coping strategies like going for a run, listening to music or walking the dog.
Challenge yourself – Learning new skills and setting yourself new goals will help build your confidence and make you feel good about yourself.
Help others – People who volunteer in the community or for a worthwhile cause tend to be more resilient.
Address the causes – Where possible, try to improve or resolve some of the issues that are putting pressure on you. Learning to accept the things you can’t change will help you focus your time and energy elsewhere.
Worrying about money can be extremely stressful and may lead to mental and physical health conditions. According to the Police Federation of England and Wales Pay & Morale Survey:
- 1 in 8 said they sought financial support in the last year to cover day to day expenses
- 51% of respondents found themselves worrying about the state of their personal finances every day or almost every day
- 17% of respondents said that they had sought advice because of money issues in the last year
- 86% of respondent with mental health problems said that financial situation made their mental health worse
- 46% of people in problem debt also have mental health problems
- Individuals with multiple debt problems are at a ‘significantly high risk of suicide’ than those with just one problem debt.
If you need support and your employer offers Vivup’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) it is available 24/7, 365 days a year and here to help you. The 24-hour telephone helpline is responsive, confidential, and totally independent, acting as an invaluable support for advice and short-term low intensity support. To find out more about the resources available to you, visit vivup.co.uk