The issue of men’s health in Australia has grown remarkably in visibility from humble beginnings in Castlemaine in 1995, writes Dr Adrian Leung.
Men have a reputation for ignoring medical symptoms, often to their detriment.
Now, there is concrete evidence it is no myth.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that for the 2021-22 financial year, women were nearly 10 per cent more likely to visit their GP for a medical issue than men.
Some 88 per cent of women but only 78.9 per cent of men visited a GP in those 12 months.
The results did not surprise me but they are concerning.
We say it often but men’s health is best maintained by:
- living a healthy lifestyle
- finding a GP that you can have open and honest conversations with about your health
- maintaining regular check-ups
- remaining vigilant for any emerging health issues, including being aware of any risk factors
It’s really just about having a proactive attitude towards your health and investing in your own wellbeing.
Here’s a checklist I’ve compiled to help you do just that.
Annual Physical Exams
Scheduling regular check-ups with your GP is a really important piece of your health puzzle because it may result in the early detection of illnesses that can lead to much better outcomes in the long run.
Annual exams help establish a baseline for your health which can be used as a guide for future visits.
Schedule your next visit when you leave and depending on your age, ask your doctor if your check-ups need to become more regular.
Your GP may recommend particular cautionary screenings depending on your age and family history.
These may include blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and certain cancers such as bowel and prostate.
Remember, early detection may well save your life.
Healthy lifestyle choices
Diet – “You are what you eat” rings fairly true. So eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats. Keep processed foods and sugars to a minimum. And read labels closely. You may be ingesting a lot more sugar or salt than you think.
Alcohol – Don’t drink to excess. Avoid exceeding 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four in any one day. Excessive drinking can lead to liver disease, hypertension and other problems.
Smoking – Smoking is inherently worse for your health than alcohol. If you smoke, try to quit. If you can’t, seek one of the many support networks available or talk to your GP. It is a major risk factor for multiple diseases.
Exercise – Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity per week. Try to incorporate strength training for muscle health.
Weight management – Maintaining a health weight rather than being overweight or constantly fluctuating in weight is important to ward off conditions like heart disease, diabetes and joint problems.
Cholesterol – Men’s health is closely tied to heart health. Check your cholesterol levels via a simple blood test and make recommended changes to your diet.
Calcium score check – This non-invasive and inexpensive test is a CT scan of your heart and reveals how much calcium has built up on the walls of your major blood vessels, allowing you to take appropriate action if necessary.
Blood pressure – Another simple test performed in just a few moments by your GP or at many chemists. It should be monitored regularly as hypertension is a leading cause of heart disease.
We all deal with stress at various stages in our life whether related to our job, personal relationships or even external factors.
Dealing with it using techniques such as meditation, yoga and mindfulness helps reduce it, allowing you to maintain not just a healthy mind but also a healthy body. The two are closely related.
Being able to talk about your problems is key.
Maintain strong relationships with family and friends.
Maybe seek out one trusted person who you can turn to in need. Keeping your problems bottled up inside has a negative effect on your health.
If you continue to feel depressed or anxious, seek help from your GP or a mental health professional.
Mental health no longer carries the stigma it sadly once did. There are multiple avenues you can consider.
Screening – It’s a conversation men over 50 must have with their GPs. While there remains no definitive test to detect prostate cancer, a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test can provide a useful guide and baseline and is worth considering based on your family history and personal preference.
Symptom awareness – Be vigilant for any obvious changes, primarily involving urinary habits, and be sure to have them investigated if they present.
Safe sex – Use condoms if you are sexually active with multiple partners and and get tested for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) regularly.
Erectile dysfunction – See your GP if you notice any unusual changes as it can be an indicator of an underlying problem such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Calcium and Vitamin D – Ensure you maintain adequate levels of both to support bone health as you age. Gain them through diet, supplements or the sun for Vitamin D (although not at the risk of skin cancers).
Weight-bearing exercise – These are important to maintain bone density and guard against osteoporosis. Men aged 70 should have a bone density test or by age 50 if they carry risk factors (smokers, heavy drinkers, inactive).
Australia has the highest melanoma rate in the world. Always have any new or changing mole on your skin checked by your GP and maintain a comprehensive annual check-up of your body.
Keep recommended vaccinations such as flu shots up to date. Talk with your GP about the merits of a pneumococcal and shingles vaccine which are normally only advised for patients over 70 years, unless there are other risk factors.
About Dr Adrian Leung
The great Australian dream was extremely attractive to Dr Leung, who left Hong Kong to join AHA Seaford in 2022, settling into our beautiful region nicely with his wife and two sons.
With family front of mind, Dr Leung is passionate about men’s health as well as holistic care, preventative medicine and chronic disease management.