Life Health & Wellbeing

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Doctor's Orders: It’s not a man’s world when it comes to health

Dr Ciara Kelly

Published 15/06/2014 | 00:00

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The rate of obesity here is higher than in most other European countries

Today is Father’s Day — didn’t forget this year and bought the socks ahead of the rush — and it’s Men’s Health Awareness week too, so it seems fitting that this week’s column is devoted to all things male and the health of our lovely men. Irish men have a life expectancy of 78, a full five years less than Irish women at 83. They’ve a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. They’re more likely to take their own lives. And they have a greater risk of getting and dying from cancer. Yet they attend the doctor far less frequently than women and in the main don’t engage with health services unless they have to. So what is going on with our men and why are they dying younger?

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Traditionally, men have been brought up to not express fear, pain or their feelings — only recently has it become acceptable for this to change — Boys don’t cry’. This might go some way to explain why they don’t like attending, especially as doctors used to be mostly male and it’s been found that men find it easier to be open with female medics. So perhaps there’s still an element of them trying to remain strong and uncomplaining. But it does them no favours.

Heart disease is the number one male killer, and one in six men will die from it. It’s largely a modifiable disease with smoking, cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and inactivity all being contributory factors. These are all things you can do something about, but ever increasingly we see men dividing into two camps with one lot out jogging, playing five-a-side and running triathlons, and the other drinking in front of the telly and waiting for their bellies to be large enough to balance their cans on. You know which camp you should be in!

Irish men are gaining a stone a decade and to stop that you need to cut your portion sizes. (Yes, you do). Increase your fruit and veg intake and get out and get active for thirty minutes a day. Also, never, ever smoke — it kills every second person who does.

Mental health and suicide is a genuine men’s health crisis that needs addressing, with men being almost three times more likely to take their own lives than women, and suicide being the number one cause of death in younger men. The recession has increased rates, but we cannot ignore the fact that alcohol plays a role in 50pc of suicides, and the Irish relationship with alcohol is dysfunctional at best.

We speak out of both sides of our mouths when it comes to booze; becoming irate at drunken Irish’ stereotypes but lauding nights out on the tear. Our young men are drinking too much, not sleeping enough and see suicide as an acceptable solution to disenfranchisement. We need to change that situation and need to create channels of communication so men can talk openly. And men, you need to recognise when you’re struggling and look for help — it’s there.

Cancer is the other main men’s health issue, with prostate cancer being the big one. It mainly arises in older men but can occur younger. If you’ve any difficulty passing urine or find yourself getting up more frequently at night to pee — especially if you’ve a family history — you need to see a doctor for a blood test and an examination. Again don’t ever smoke. The other thing you can do is increase your frequency of ejaculation. Far from the old idea that masturbation is bad for you, men who ejaculate more than 21 times per month enjoy a 33pc decrease risk of prostate cancer — something you don’t hear very often. You’re welcome.

Happy Father’s Day

@ciarakellydoc

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