Men’s health: you probably don’t want to talk about it but you should
For a variety of reasons, men’s health is a tricky topic. For a start, men are more likely than women to be backwards in coming forwards when they have a health complaint. They’re also less inclined to chat about health-related concerns and less likely to pursue preventive approaches to disease. Instead, they prefer to be reactive; they usually see a doctor when they’ve reached a crisis point. However, there are some major risks that men need to know about and some issues that they should discuss with their doctors sooner rather than later.
Below are some common questions relating to men’s health that I’ve been asked during my years in practice. You or someone in your life may want to use them as a starting point for a discussion about men’s health with your GP.
What are the major risks when it comes to men’s health?
Men have quite a high incidence of heart disease that may be attributable to smoking, diet or genes.
Prostate cancer is another legitimate and common concern. Prostate cancer affects a large proportion of men at some stage of their life, particularly as they’re getting older.
Smoking and smoking-related diseases, such as emphysema and lung cancer, are still a primary cause of ill health for men.
Sadly, accidents are another primary cause of health problems for men, particularly for men who work in industrial occupations. In light of this, my practice does a lot of Workcover-related work. This includes pre-employment medicals for assessing whether a person is suitable to do a particular job. We also treat patients who have been injured and then determine when they are fit to return to work.
When should men start talking about these issues with their GPs?
Prevention is better than cure, so it’s always better to start talking about these issues at a younger age and before they present as a problem. For instance, a lot of men are affected by testicular cancer from about 25 onwards, so I’d love to see patients talking about it with their doctors starting in their twenties. On the other hand, heart disease tends to hit men in their fifties onwards, so men should start talking about the topic with their GPs from then on.
My husband is a very private man. It’s difficult for him to discuss health issues. What do you recommend?
I understand! Although it’s a broad generalisation, many men find it difficult to talk about anything that has the prospect of becoming emotional. That said, men are generally quite happy to talk about existing problems, such as heart issues or cancer, but emotional issues and the preventative side of the fence are very different ballparks.
The best you can do is to encourage him to pop in for a check-up. I’ve had years of experience dealing with men’s health and will sensitively approach any topics of concern. Usually, when men can be persuaded to make an appointment, they’re quite often relieved to find that we have a lovely, broad conversation about health. Nothing too intimidating!
See also: Chronic disease
How frequently should a man get a check-up?
That depends on a range of factors, such as age and general health. For an otherwise healthy man (and especially those on the younger end of the spectrum), an annual check-up would be ideal. However, if someone has a condition, such as heart disease, we have a recall and reminder system. This means that we will send the patient a reminder to have his cholesterol and weight, among other things, checked on a regular basis. It also gives us the opportunity to see how the patient is travelling generally.