The best thing New Zealand men can do about their health is to get proactive. By taking preventative action, you can reduce the danger of major health risks including stroke, testicular cancer, cardiovascular problems and depression.
Every positive change is a step towards better and longer lasting health and happiness. Men’s Health Awareness Week runs from June 8-14 – check it out at www.menshealthweek.co.nz
There are a few simple steps men can take to actively promote and protect their health:
Visit a GP and know your family history
One of the easiest and most effective ways men can take care of their health is by getting to know a GP and having a check-up once a year – think of it like a ‘warrant of fitness’ for your body or taking a time out for a men’s health “Pit Stop”.
A GP will be able to check for all age appropriate health risks, answer any questions you may have about your health and outline what steps to take to make sure you stay healthy for the future.
You can also visit a pharmacy as your local pharmacist is an easily accessible first step towards looking after your health.
They are open long hours, late nights and weekends, and can offer you free health information and advice. Participating Life and Unichem pharmacies are also offering free blood pressure checks throughout the month of June www.menshealthweek.co.nz/events
Detection is in your hands
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer affecting men between the ages of 15 and 35, but the disease also occurs in other age groups, so all men should be aware of its symptoms.
Most testicular cancers are found by men themselves, by accident or while doing a testicular self-examination. The testicles are smooth, oval-shaped, and rather firm. Men who examine themselves regularly (once a month) become familiar with the way their testicles normally feel. Any changes in the way they feel from month-to-month should be checked by a doctor, preferably a Urologist. www.testicular.org.nz
Measure your pressure
Blood pressure can be a key indicator for a range of illnesses, such as stroke.
Each day, seven New Zealanders die from stroke, with a further 5,500 strokes occurring and often resulting in disability. A third of these strokes are attributable to high blood pressure. Therefore, having your blood pressure regularly monitored is a good preventative measure.
Participating Life and Unichem pharmacies are offering free blood pressure checks throughout the month of June. www.stroke.org.nz
The benefits of regular exercise can be huge for physical, mental and sexual health. By getting into a routine that includes 30 minutes of physical exercise a day, you can be well on the way to ensuring your health for the future.
Research shows that higher levels of physical activity can reduce cardiovascular disease, help fight depression, help prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes and improve sexual function. Take control of your health with 30 minutes of daily exercise.
Just as important as regular exercise to making sure you maintain a healthy and balanced life is healthy eating. Eating well is important for both mental and physical health, so you need to know what foods to eat, in what quantities and what foods to avoid to minimise health risks.
A balanced diet means eating a wide variety of healthy foods including plenty of vegetables, fruit and cereals (like bread, rice and pasta), some lean meat, chicken or fish, dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese) and lots of water. It’s a good idea to avoid fatty foods and foods with lots of sugar in them.
A nutritionist can offer advice and support and design a personalised nutrition and fitness programme for you.
Stress, isolation and depression
Stress and isolation are far bigger factors in overall health than many of us realise. To our detriment, we often tend to prefer to think something that is obviously wrong, will come right or will pass.
Recognising the symptoms of depression in yourself and others can be the first step to beating it. Symptoms include tiredness, irritability, sleep disturbance, and loss of interest in work or other activities. Other things to look out for as risk factors include family history of mental illness, excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, stress, unemployment and chronic illness.
Serious depression affects one in eight men at some time in their lives. It’s real and it’s important. Everyone can struggle with day-to-day experiences, but the challenge facing men is to realise when they are getting overwhelmed and knowing when and how to get help. Don’t try to deal with depression on your own. Tell someone you trust how you are feeling. Talk to a health professional you trust.
Remember that there are services out there to help you or you can chat with your GP. For more information: www.depression.org.nz
Stop smoking – it’s the only healthy option
Smoking causes more deaths every year in New Zealand than road crashes, suicide, skin cancers, drowning and homicide combined. It is no secret that if you are a smoker, it increases your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and a range of cancers and other diseases.
Quitting is the only healthy option. There are a number of services available for those who want to quit – speak to your GP or nurse, call Quitline on 0800 778 778 for help or visit the website: www.quit.org.nz
Maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends and mates
Close relationships with family, friends and mates can form the cornerstone for a man’s whole life and wellbeing. They are the most important source of love, support and understanding and often underpin a man’s sense of self.
If you want more information about how to keep your relationship on track or if you need some help through a difficult time, contact Lifeline on 0800 543 354.
If you’re over 40, get an annual check for prostate cancer.
One in 10 NZ men will get prostate cancer. From age 40 get an annual prostate cancer check – starting with a simple blood test. Prostate cancer is curable if you get to it early enough.
For more information, support or advice visit the Prostate Cancer Foundation website www.prostate.org.nz