FATHER'S Day is all about recognising and celebrating the men in our life – and what could be more important than their health?
Chances are your partner, dad or brother are reluctant to visit the doctor, even if they’re in pain. If so, they’re not alone – it’s estimated that more than 4.7 million men in Britain don’t go to the GP, even when they have worrying symptoms.*
Petr Holy, a consultant urologist at Men’s Health Clinic Kingston, tells Fabulous: “Some men feel uncomfortable with the idea of talking about intimate personal health problems with their doctor, and some may fool themselves into thinking serious illnesses only happen to other people.
"The fact is, many of the most serious conditions have better treatment outcomes if detected early enough, so burying your head in the sand until it’s too late can literally cost you your life.”
Facing the unknown can be scary, but that’s where you come in. Petr adds: “If you believe a loved one is dragging his heels, nagging rarely works and can end up making the issue worse. Instead, reassure him he has a support network to help him deal with whatever might come down the road, good or bad.”
There are also practical steps you can take. Here’s how to perform a DIY health check that could save his life…
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Spot the difference
Summer’s a good time to give your skin a quick once-over. Blokes are generally less aware of the dangers – according to a survey by the American Academy of Dermatology, only 56% of men agree with the statement: “There’s no such thing as a healthy tan,” compared with 76% of women. What’s more, only 1% of sun protection ads are directed at men.
So help by checking his moles – and ask him to return the favour. “Standing in a well-lit room, check each other’s hard-to-reach areas and take photos of your moles so you can keep track of any changes,” says Dr Adam Friedmann, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics.
“Don’t forget to check less obvious places, such as your scalp, soles, palms, between fingers and toes, and even nails. Look for any changes to the size, colour, shape, itching, bleeding or crusting of moles.
"Any mole changing in size, shape or colour should be seen by a dermatologist straight away.”
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One in eight men will suffer anxiety or depression in their life time, while suicide is the biggest killer of blokes under 40.*** For the large part, it’s because men struggle to talk about their mental health. You can help by watching out for the tell-tale signs, says Dr Jeff Foster, founder of H3Health.
“Everyone has down days, but what you’re looking for is consistent and repeated patterns of change in behaviour. They might have trouble getting out of bed because they don’t see the point, or they may stop looking after themselves or socially isolate. The first thing you can do is be supportive.
"Simply being there and encouraging them to engage in things, even if they say they don’t need or want to, can reduce a lot of stress. If weeks have passed and nothing’s changed, they should seek medical advice.
"Likewise, if they self-harm, or express a wish not to be in the world any more. But you can’t force someone to see a doctor against their will. All you can do is provide them with as much information and support as you can.”
Call Samaritans for free on 116123.
If your partner is DIY obsessed, this one should be a doddle. It turns out a tape measure can help predict if your man is at risk of one of the biggest killers worldwide. Of 7.6 million people living with heart disease in the UK, 4 million are men** – and a major risk factor is obesity.
Sindy Jodar, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says: “You can’t do anything about your age, ethnicity or family history, but you can manage contributing factors by quitting smoking, reducing stress, cutting down on alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and doing at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week.”
Not sure if the man in your life is at risk? That’s where the tape measure comes in. “A good indicator of obesity is to measure your waist circumference,” says Sindy.
“If it’s more than half your height, it indicates visceral fat around the middle, which is linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease.” Other symptoms to watch out for are chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, swollen ankles and feeling dizzy.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of the disease in young men – those aged 18-34 are at highest risk. Yet, 62% of that group don’t know how to check themselves.†
Sam Gledhill, global director of testicular cancer for Movember, says: “Regular self-examination’s something men should do from early adulthood. Roll each testicle between your thumb and fingers, feeling for anything out of the ordinary. Showering helps the testicles relax, so do it then.”
A warning sign is a hard lump that isn’t painful but aches mildly, says Robert Huddart, professor of urological cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research.
“Your GP can refer you to a specialist for a scan. Tumours can grow quickly and spread, so the earlier you detect something, the less treatment will be required. If it hasn’t spread, nearly everyone is cured.”
Go with the flow
Prostate cancer affects one in eight men in the UK, but it can be cured if caught early. Dr David Bull, a spokesman for Prostate Cancer UK, lost his dad to the disease 13 years ago.
He says: “As the prostate enlarges, it causes symptoms such as a frequent or urgent need to urinate, difficulty starting to go, and an inability to completely empty the bladder. Though these symptoms can be caused by non-cancerous enlargement, it can also be an early sign of prostate cancer.”
While you can’t check for the disease at home, you can keep an eye out for symptoms. Does your partner pee a lot, often in the night? Are they always needing to go, and complain of hesitancy or taking a long time to pee? A weak flow can be a tell-tale sign, as can blood in their urine or semen.
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“Most men with early prostate cancer don’t have symptoms, so it’s crucial to know if you’re at higher risk – visit Prostate Cancer UK’s 30-second online risk-checker,” says David.
“If you’re worried, get them to see their GP. They will do an exam and a PSA test, which can help indicate if they have a problem. Some men may feel embarrassed, but it could save their life.”
You’re Not Alone
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
- Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk, 03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-8pm
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