Compared to women, men are less likely to visit their local GP for a general check-up or when their illness is in its early stages. Instead, they tend to opt for shorter visits and often only wait to go to the doctor when their illness is advancedi. Alarmingly, Australian men are more likely to die from almost every health problem (affecting both genders) than women, including from coronary heart disease, trachea and lung cancers, blood cancers, and colon canceri. Being proactive about your health can help lower the risk of developing a range of illnesses.
Ischaemic heart disease
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), ischaemic heart disease, also known as coronary heart disease, is the leading cause of premature death for Australian menii. Ischaemic heart disease occurs when the arteries which supply blood and oxygen to your heart slowly become narrowed by a build-up of fatty deposits. If a lot of this fatty material accumulates and your arteries become too narrow, you may experience chest pain and could even suffer from a heart attackii. It's important for everyone to be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack, such as pain or pressure in the chest, as well as how to perform CPR.
Although there is an increased risk of developing heart disease if you have a family history of it, there are also many risk factors that you have control over. These include smoking, having high blood pressure or cholesterol levels and being overweight or physically inactive. It's important to do a heart disease risk assessment with your GP to see which areas of your health may need improvement to avoid ischaemic heart diseaseii.
The statistics surrounding mental illnesses like depression are particularly alarming. According to the ABS, depressed men are twice as likely as women to resort to destructive behaviors to cope with their depression, like drugs and alcoholi.
The ABS has also found that, throughout all age groups, men commit suicide at a higher rate than women. 78 per cent of deaths through suicide in Australia are male. Depression is actually more common in women than men but these sad statistics surrounding suicide rates stem from the fact that men are less likely to seek helpiii. If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, help is available. You can call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 at any time and you can also find help through your GP.
One in eleven Australian men will be affected by prostate cancer and a majority of these will be over 65. Prostate cancer is not a fast growing cancer, so - if caught early - it's often not life threateningiv. Typically, in its early stages prostate cancer has no symptoms, but when symptoms do occur they often include difficulties starting and stopping urination, pain during urination, irregular urination or blood in the urine or semen. These symptoms can also be caused by benign enlargements of the prostate and may not be cause for concern, but it's best to schedule an appointment with your GP or an urologist to rule out the risks. If prostate cancer is detected, it can be treated in a variety of ways including radiotherapy, hormone therapy or surgery and sometimes it may simply require careful monitoringiv.
Testicular cancer is a quite uncommon cancer that mainly affects men between the ages of 25 and 44. Those with a family history of testicular cancer need to be especially vigilant in monitoring the symptoms of testicular cancerv. These symptoms may include a swelling or lump in the testicle which is usually painless, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, or a persistent ache in the lower abdomen or the affected testicle. However, the vast majority of testicular lumps are not cancerv.
If caught early enough, testicular cancer can usually be cured. Treatment for testicular cancer usually involves surgery to remove one or both affected testicles and may also include radiation therapy or chemotherapyv.
Over one million Australians are currently diagnosed with diabetes, with 120,000 people suffering from type 1 diabetes and over 950,000 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetesvi. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition which occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes is linked to lifestyle choices - in particular diet and inactivity - and is on the rise in Australia.
Both men and women are at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes if they are inactive, overweight or obese, smoke, have a family history of type 2 diabetes, have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels or are from certain ethnic backgroundsvi. However, more men than women are overweight or obese in Australia, meaning that men have a higher incidence of diabetesvii. Diabetes is diagnosed with a blood glucose test which your local GP can order for you. To take preventative measures against developing type 2 diabetes, it is necessary to maintain a healthy weight and active lifestyle.
Taking control of your health
Although some men may be more at risk of developing certain illnesses due to their genetic disposition, lifestyle and diet, or access to services, there are still many ways all men can take control of their health. By seeing the GP before you are seriously ill, whether it's to access preventative care, to ask about something that's bothering you, or just for a checkup, you increase your chances of having better health overall.