“People today are far more aware of the functioning of their bodies, thanks to the increasing popularity and promotion of health clubs and gyms, community events like Park Runs and even competitive sporting events like the Comrades and the Argus.” Said Anderson.
It’s more important than ever that men take their health seriously, as early detection can play a significant role in the outcome of treatment.
According to the South African Men’s Health Society, most women are taught from a young age to do health checks like breast examinations and go for regular check-ups, while men are more reluctant to address their health concerns.
“Not all men are comfortable discussing symptoms, especially ones they find disconcerting,” said Anderson. “Men need to prioritise their health: get enough exercise, drink less alcohol, drink more water and quit smoking.”
Most common health problems for men and their symptoms:
In South Africa, diabetes is the second-biggest killer after tuberculosis (StatsSA, 2016 Mortality and Causes of Death in South Africa). However, many men don’t know what the symptoms are, and only seek medical help when they experience kidney disease or vision loss. You should have your blood sugar tested once a year; look out for increased thirst, frequent hunger, urinating more often and blurred vision.
According to John Hopkins Hospital, the risk of heart disease rises steeply after age 45 for men, and obesity is a contributing factor, as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says more people die of cardiovascular disease in a year in South Africa than of all the cancers combined. Look out for tightness in the chest, dizziness, nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain.
More than 4 000 South African men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and the lifetime risk is 1 in 18, according to the 2013 National Cancer Registry. “Prostate cancer is a genuine concern for men over the age of 40, and you should have your prostate examined on a regular basis,” said Anderson. Look out for problems urinating as an early symptom.
Colon and rectal cancer
It’s the second-most common cause of cancer-related death in South African men, with an incidence of 1 in 75. The symptoms are rectal bleeding, changes in your bowel movements, pain in the stomach, weakness and weight loss.
In South Africa, 14 men die via suicide each day, according to AfricaCheck. Men are five times more likely to die from suicide than women. “Men don’t like to talk about their feelings,” warned Anderson, “Especially if he is struggling with unemployment and can’t support his family.” If you are feeling empty, numb, hopeless or worthless, you need to see a doctor. “The first step is acknowledging that depression is a disease like any other with clinical treatment options.”