There are a number of contributing factors, one of the largest of which is the culture surrounding men’s health.
Men are generally less proactive in seeking help for any health concerns. Women tend to be far more health conscious and are more likely to seek help earlier, meaning that their symptoms can be caught sooner rather than later.
However, unfortunately the majority of men persist in neglecting their own health and ignoring signs and symptoms until they become debilitating.
At First Aid for Life, we want to stress that if illnesses are spotted early, the prognoses and treatment is invariably so much easier and more positive.
Get regular health checks and visit your GP promptly if you have concerns. Men’s health must be more widely promoted.
This article highlights the major contributing factors to the alarming statistics and offers practical advice to help.
Mental health factors
Sadly, in the UK 3 out of 4 suicides are men and approximately 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem like depression, stress or anxiety.
It has been suggested that colloquial language such as ‘man up’ or ‘grow a pair’ contribute to the perception that it is ‘unmanly’ to show feelings and ask for help in times of crisis. This leads to men not wanted to share how they are feeling, with 40% of men syaing they wouldn’t talk about their mental health with their friends or family.
Thankfully, in the last ten years, attitudes towards men’s mental health has massively shifted and campaigns like Movember have made extraordinary efforts to change societal outlook on this issue and encourage more men to get help earlier.
Men die earlier than women. Currently a shocking one in five men will die before they are 65.
Many of these deaths could be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes. Statistically men are more likely than women; to drink more alcohol, to gain weight, to smoke and to fail to eat a healthy balanced diet.These factors are reducing the quality of men’s health and therefore their health and life expectancy.
Moreover, men are generally far more likely to take risks.
67% of men are overweight or obese but this figure is just 25% for the general population. This disparity is seriously contributing to the male morbidity and mortality increase. The increased risks associated with obesity range from Type 2 Diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer and strokes. Serious health conditions such as asthma, gallstones, liver and kidney disease become more common as the body mass index increases.
The NHS estimates that obesity contributes to at least 1 in every 13 deaths.
22% of men smoke versus 17% of women. Smoking increases the chances of various cancers and most notoriously it is the cause of 70% of lung cancer. Strokes, heart attacks, heart disease, lung diseases, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease are all at increased risk for smokers.
14% of men drink more than five days compared to 9% of women. Alcohol contributes to accidental deaths whilst drunk but is also responsible for liver problems and other associated health conditions.
The combination of alcohol and drugs has also been linked to an increase in suicide.
Men generally eat less fruit and vegetables than their female counterparts, which means they are more susceptible to disease and the problems that occur with premature ageing. Men need 2000 – 2800 calories per day depending on height, weight and activity level. However, it is not just the number of calories eaten that contributes to overall health. It is also the nature of the foodstuffs consumed.
The following is some guidance on men’s healthy eating:
- Choose wholegrain options (brown rice, pasta, bread, grains and oats) wherever possible which can prevent diseases
- Eat 30 – 38 grams of fibre each day
- Choose unsaturated sources of fats
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables each day
The NHS also advise to reduce meat consumption, particularly red meat. Excessive meat eating is a known cause of heart disease and colorectal and prostate cancers in men. It is not necessary to have meat every day. Substitute meaty meals with plant-based proteins to reduce risk of disease and to deliver fibre into your diet. Beans, pulses, lentils, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, tofu and tempeh are all good sources of plant-based protein.
For more advice on healthy diets, have a look at this useful page
Recommendations for improving men’s health:
The top actions for healthier living:
- Look after mental health – speaking about your mental health does not make you any less of a man! Telling just one other person how you’re feeling can make the world of difference.
- Do not smoke
- Drink moderately and sensibly
- Be active – physically and mentally
- Watch your weight
And vitally, men need to visit their doctor earlier and go for health checks. Men are often reticent about visiting the doctor’s which means that diagnoses are often made far later than they may otherwise have been. This has major repercussions in their prognosis.
NHS Health Check
The NHS offer a free check-up for all adults in England between the ages of 40 and 74. It has been designed to check for early signs of: stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Ageing increases the likelihood of adults developing these conditions.
A GP or local authority invite all adults over 40 for a free NHS Health Check every 5 years.
The aim of this check-up is to maintain health and spot signs early. Therefore, it is important that everyone attends this appointment even if they are not feeling completely healthy.
One in nine men suffer a cardiac arrest before the age of 70. This is a far higher statistic than for women, in whom just one in thirty suffer cardiac arrest. You can find here everything you need to know about heart health from cardiac arrest and CPR, to heart attacks and high blood pressure.
Men have a 11% lifetime risk of sudden cardiac death, however, the risk for women is calculated at just 3%. Many of the risk factors discussed above contribute to this difference.
Currently less than 10% of people experiencing cardiac arrests in the community survive. With speedy emergency treatment, chances of survival shoot up by a whopping 80%. The best treatment combines CPR with AED shocks given within the first four minutes.
As the average ambulance response time in an urban area is eleven minutes, many casualties are reliant on the public’s ability to perform CPR and indeed the availability of a defibrillator.
CPR alone can double the chances of survival. When you use a defibrillator in addition to quality CPR; the odds of someone’s survival can jump from around 6% to 74% – an incredible difference.
This is one of many reasons that first aid skills need to be taught to as many of us as possible. Here’s a link to our CPR posters
Getting checked – a personal story
My brother was extremely proactive when he was concerned about his prostate. He swiftly got checked out, even when his blood tests were only just in the abnormal range. It transpired he did have prostate cancer, but because he had caught it extremely early, his treatment was relatively simple and quick and his prognosis is now excellent.
Conversely, we have a friend who ignored early bowel cancer symptoms until they were causing significant problems. They ended up requiring complex radio and chemotherapy and have a long and complex operation that has resulted in him losing most of his bowel.
Often it is the more ‘embarrassing’ symptoms that men choose to ignore, desperately hoping they will resolve themselves. Doctors and nurses will always act in a professional manner and it is far better to ask about these things early and find out if there is anything that warrants further investigation. Often the perceived embarrassment factor is honestly not as bad as is feared.
What can all of us do for men’s health?
Ultimately, men need to feel comfortable enough to speak up about how they’re feeling, whether this be physically or mentally.
Please spread the word and encourage the men in your life to speak about health and to look after themselves without embarrassment. We need to ensure men are not suffering in silence or ignoring warning signs that could lead to earlier diagnoses and treatment. Men need to be aware of their bodies and feeling comfortable asking for help.