Nutrition Expert editorial team June 07, 2016

What better time than Men’s Health Week for men to take a long hard look at their health. GP Dr Sarah Brewer pinpoints the symptoms that should never be ignored.

A survey by the National Pharmacy Association revealed many men regard check-ups as a ‘waste of time’, while nine out of ten avoid their GP in the hope that symptoms will just go away of their own accord.

Often they do, but sometimes they can be a warning of something more serious. The trick is to know what’s serious and what’s not and never be too embarrassed to seek medical advice. Your doctor won’t mind and a visit could be a real lifesaver.

Below, Healthspan’s Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer details some of the symptoms it’s wise to get checked out.

1. ‘I need to pee all the time’ - Straining, a weak stream, urgency and frequency – especially at night – can be a result of prostate gland enlargement. Known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), it is common over the age of 50, but is not something you should diagnose yourself. Prostate cancer also needs to be ruled out.
PROTECT YOURSELF: Saw palmetto is a traditional herbal remedy used to relieve urinary frequency (especially at night), weak or interrupted urinary flow, or a feeling of not emptying the bladder completely.

2. ‘I feel tired all the time’ - This could be linked to lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, poor diet, or stress, but it is also a common symptom of many health conditions; some of which are potentially serious.

PROTECT YOURSELF: If lack of energy is associated with lifestyle issues, a natural form of caffeine (guarana) and B vitamins may help.

3. 'I have noticed a change in my bowel habits’ - It’s embarrassing to discuss, but this is one of the few ways your intestines can show that something is wrong. This could mean opening your bowels more or less frequently than usual for you, or a change in consistency. See your doctor if this continues for more than a week.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Increasing your fibre intake and taking probiotics can help improve a sluggish bowel.

4. 'I don’t feel like having sex’ - If your energy levels are also low this could be a symptom of testosterone deficiency, which affects one in 12 men in their 40s to 60s, and one in five men aged 60 and over. Testosterone deficiency is linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart problems, so you need to see your doctor as soon as you can.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Some researchers believe that L-arginine is one of the best all-round supplements for men who are experiencing performance problems.

5. ‘I feel low, especially when I wake up’ - You could be depressed, especially if you are also experiencing mood swings, loss of appetite and sleep problems. You should see your GP as soon as you can. They may suggest counselling or prescribe antidepressants if they think your mood could be linked with low levels of brain chemicals.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Fish oils appear to have a protective effect against depression. St. John’s Wort is a traditional herbal remedy used to treat low mood.


WATCH OUT FOR...

Some symptoms require immediate attention. See the doctor straightway if you experience any of the following:

An unusual thickening or lump in the body: While most lumps are not serious, it’s difficult for even a doctor to tell different lumps apart so a biopsy may be needed for an accurate diagnosis.

Unexplained weight loss: This can be a sign of an undiagnosed illness and is not always accompanied by loss of appetite. Your doctor will want to give you a full MOT.

Sudden blood loss: A frightening symptom you’re unlikely to ignore, but let your doctor know as soon as possible. Do not assume bleeding from the back passage is due to piles - always get checked to rule out other causes of intestinal bleeding, including inflammatory bowel disease, ulceration and bowel cancer.

A skin blemish that changes: See your GP if it’s getting bigger, darker, scaling, itching, weeping, crusting or developing a raised, rolled edge, or if you develop an ulcer/sore that fails to heal within three weeks. It may turn out to be harmless, but skin cancer is on the increase.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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