Why we still need to talk about men’s health
Conversations around men’s health are changing. Gone are the days when we were limited to only discussing prostate problems or sexual function. In today’s world, men are being increasingly encouraged to talk about all aspects of their health – from physical to mental to emotional. As such, we must take a holistic approach to men’s health.
The way we approach men’s health has changed dramatically in the last few years. For too long the concept of men’s health was limited to either prostate problems or sexual function, but increasingly, men are being encouraged to focus on all aspects of their health. As such, we should approach men’s health holistically. I strongly believe that a decline in sex drive, muscle mass, concentration, or energy, is not something men should accept as “normal for age” anymore. As such, I am passionate that we encourage and support men to take their health seriously.
Men need testosterone for many aspects of healthy living. Not only is it the male sex hormone, responsible for facial hair, muscle mass, and sexual function, it also provides men with energy, motivation and protects them from heart disease and brittle bones. For a long time testosterone deficiency has been seen as a normal part of the ageing process. However, it is now estimated that it could affect more than 1 in 10 men over 50. Acknowledging this as an issue is the first step, with testing and treatment easy and relatively non-invasive.
Prostate problems are extremely common in men over 40, while prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men. Currently there is no national screening plan in place for detecting this disease as tests we have are not sensitive or specific enough. However, much can be done to reduce the risk of missing prostate cancer, and also improving treatment options and survival by catching it early. It is therefore vital that men begin to feel more able to discuss such issues.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is estimated to affect one-third of all men at some point in their lives, but for many doctors and patients, it can still be a taboo subject. In addition to the relationship problems, stress, and depression having ED can cause, the condition itself is often an underlying marker of other, more serious medical conditions. Treatment for ED is far more complex than little blue pills, and I believe by making patients feel at ease and giving them the time it need not be the difficult topic it can be for so many.
Prevention is better than cure. Health screening is designed to prevent ill health and to detect disease early enough so that it can be treated properly, giving you a better quality of life. Over the age of 30 men start to decrease their natural testosterone production, become subject to the effects of heart disease, and can start to develop risk factors for many other illnesses. We are encouraged to service our cars regularly, and we should the same about our bodies and minds too. It is much easier to manage or correct a small problem before it becomes a big which may be irreversible.
Many patients ask what is different about our health checks?
It is easy for patients to attend doctors and get a series of “tick box” screening tests, broadly classed as a health check, but this assumes we are all the same. My aim is to tailor a health check to meet individual risk factors, lifestyles, age, stresses, family history and past medical history. By doing so, we can construct a health check specific to the health needs of each patient. After all, all men are different, so why should their tests be the same? Specific elements of a male health screen include history, examination, mental wellbeing assessment, blood tests, prostate and hormone profiles, cardiovascular risk, ECGs and X-rays or scans where appropriate. There are hundreds of screening tests available, often marketed as vital to your health. But not all are appropriate or even needed. Therefore, it is important we select tests based on evidence, assessment, and the best indicators of potential health problems. Finally, should any illnesses be diagnosed that require specialist care, we work closely with a range of specialist hospital consults that we can discuss cases with and refer the same day.