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Statistics show that men tend to be less healthy than women and are less likely to go to their GP or take up regular screening.
This is why it's vitally important that we all engage with Men's Health Week, which this year is themed around checks and challenges.
To help you feel more in control of your health - or to support your loved ones - the Men's Health Forum has produced a 20-page interactive booklet called 'Man MOT' which aims to get men more engaged with their health.1
Try these checks and challenges to get you started...
1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer according to figures from Prostate Cancer UK. It is the most common cancer in men but the earlier it is caught, the more treatable it is.
Check your risk with this 30-second test2 from Prostate Cancer UK and familiarise yourself with the common symptoms: needing to pee more frequently (particularly during the night); difficulty in starting to wee; straining to pee; a weak flow of urine or blood in your wee or semen.
You are also at an increased risk if you are over 50, are black, or if your brother or dad has had the condition.
A waist measurement of 37-40 inches or over puts you are at 'high risk' of heart disease, according to the British Heart Foundation.3 It also significantly increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.4 This is because accumulating fat around your middle is linked to excess fat inside your organs, putting you at greater risk of high blood pressure, high blood fat levels, coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Measure your waist using a tape measure, which will give you a more accurate reading than the size of your jeans. If you are in a high-risk group, aim to drop a few inches by:
As an added bonus, losing weight will also take pressure off your joints if you suffer with joint pain.
Having a simple goal, like eating an extra portion of vegetables every day, could help you reduce your waist measurement.
In England, 31 per cent of men have high blood pressure (compared to 26 per cent of women). Left untreated, it significantly increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, but it rarely presents with symptoms, so the only way of knowing if yours is high is to take a test.6
A blood pressure reading is measured using two numbers: systolic (which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats) and diastolic (which is the pressure between the beats). As a general guide, 90/60 up to 120/80 is ideal blood pressure. If it is inching towards 129/80, this suggests it is a little higher than it should be, and 140/90 signals it is probably already high.
Find tips for how to monitor yours on Blood Pressure UK7 then take the steps you need to get your blood pressure back on track by not smoking; eating a healthy balanced diet; reducing your salt intake (having too much disrupts the natural sodium balance in the body, which can increase high blood pressure); reducing your alcohol intake; maintaining a healthy weight; exercising regularly and keeping a lid on caffeine (drinking four cups of coffee a day or more can increase blood pressure for some).
A recent study even suggests just sitting in the sunshine can help lower blood pressure too.8
Around one in eight men in England has a common mental health problem. This can include anxiety, depression, panic attacks and OCD.
If you are struggling with your mental health, communicate how you are feeling by whatever means you feel comfortable with, to a person or organisation you feel you can trust.
For example, if you don't want to talk face-to-face with someone you know, speak to an expert online at a reputable organisation like MIND. There are also a range of free online de-stressing tools and resources that can help, like those featured on Calm.9
Regular exercise is also a well-documented way to reduce tension, manage stress and lessen depression. Research shows men are also more likely to anaesthetise their feelings of distress using alcohol or drugs, so if you feel you need it, there is helpful advice and a range of support services on the Turning Point website.10
Professor of Health Studies, Damien Ridge from the University of Westminster, says that if there was just one piece of advice he would give to men to help improve their mental health, it would be to "reach out to others and build connections, even if this seems difficult. Together we are stronger. In isolation problems get magnified in our heads."
Finding a way to relax is an important way to look after your health, and can impact everything from your blood pressure to your weight.
The way traditional masculinity is constructed (for example, being told to 'man up') can make it harder for men to ask for (or admit they need) help, for fear of it being seen as a sign of weakness. That said, there are a number of things that may make men feel more comfortable doing so:
Of course, not all men are the same and what works for one might not for another, but the more we keep raising awareness and encouraging dialogue (online or otherwise), the better the health of the nation's men should get.
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.
1 Men's Health Forum. Man MOT.
2 Prostate Cancer UK. Check your risk in 30 seconds.
3 British Heart Foundation. Why your waist size matters. Heart Matters.
4 Diabetes UK. Diabetes Risk and Waist Measurement.
5 Sperry SD, Scully ID, Gramzow RH, Jorgensen RS. (2015). Sleep Duration and Waist Circumference in Adults: A Meta-Analysis. Sleep 1;38(8):1269-76.
6 NHS. Diagnosis: High blood pressure (hypertension).
7 Blood Pressure UK. How to measure your blood pressure at home.
8 Weller, R. B., Wang, Y., He, J., Maddux, F.W., Usvyat, L., Zhang, H., Feelisch, M., & Kotanko, P. (2020). Does incident solar ultraviolet radiation lower blood pressure? Journal of the American Heart Association 9(5).
9 Calm. Find your calm.
10 Turning Point. Welcome to Turning Point.