6 Common health problems affecting men today

South African men need to prioritise their health. Regular check-ups and medical screenings will help reduce your risk of developing life-threatening conditions. An early diagnosis will lead to a treatment plan and a higher recovery rate. June is Men’s Health Month, the purpose of which is to create awareness about preventable or treatable health problems and diseases affecting men. Bloom, along with their partner, Momentum Health4Me, have taken this opportunity to discuss the six leading health problems that are affecting men today and what they should be doing to take better care of themselves.

The most common men’s health concerns

1. Prostate Cancer

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting men’s health on a global scale. The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland located between the bladder and the penis that is responsible for producing seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. If left untreated, prostate cancer can spread quite aggressively throughout the body.

Symptoms associated with prostate cancer include:

  • Bone pain
  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force of the urine stream
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Blood in one’s urine

There are various risk factors that can make a man more susceptible to developing prostate cancer. Some of these could include:

  • Age, the disease is more prevalent in men over the age of 50
  • Family history of the disease
  • Obesity/high body mass index

Early detection will help keep prostate cancer confined to the prostate area, which helps with a recovery and treatment plan. Men are advised to have a regular prostate exam with their local GP or by a urologist. This can be done by either a digital rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen test. A prostate biopsy will confirm whether one has prostate cancer.

2. Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular (CVD) disease is a term used to describe diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, it is one of the leading causes of death after HIV/AIDS in South Africa. There are various types of cardiovascular diseases affecting men’s health, which come with their own set of symptoms. Some of the more common CVD conditions include:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Arrhythmia
  • Agina

Some of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of the disease
  • Smoking

Men can keep a check on their heart health by having regular blood pressure screenings as well as weight, cholesterol and blood sugar checks.

3. Lung Cancer

Lung cancer begins in the lungs and can spread throughout the body if left untreated. It is a leading cause of death, worldwide and affects men in particular. Smoking tobacco can greatly increase your risk of developing lung cancer because smoking damages the cells that line the lungs. There are two types of lung cancer: small cell cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

Some of the symptoms associated with lung cancer include:

  • A persistent, chronic cough
  • Bone pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fluid in the chest

Risk factors associated with lung cancer include the following:

  • Family history of the disease
  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to radiation therapy or treatment
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Exposure to asbestos or carcinogens

Men can help prevent their risk of developing lung cancer by quitting smoking or avoiding secondhand smoke. They should also take care to avoid exposure to carcinogens at work or in the home.

4. Depression and Suicide

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, there are approximately 17 million South Africans suffering from depression or anxiety, many of whom are men. The World Health Organisation confirms that men are more likely to commit suicide than women and yet many men face a great deal of stigma and discrimination if they are seen to be suffering from depression. Male depression is often downplayed or overlooked, but some of the symptoms associated with depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness
  • Feeling fatigued or tired
  • Sleep disturbances (too much or too little)
  • Receiving little pleasure from activities previously enjoyed
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Physical ailments, like headaches, digestive complaints or body pain

Mental health should be a top priority. If you are feeling overwhelmed or are struggling to cope, then ask for help. You may need to visit your GP to get a referral to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist who can prescribe certain medication or assist you with therapy.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. This means that the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, which is the hormone required to regulate your body’s sugar levels. Without insulin, blood sugar continues to rise and, if left untreated, high blood sugar will damage organs like the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and/or blood vessels.

There are various types of diabetes with some of the symptoms being: 

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Constant thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Poor or decreased vision
  • Fatigue

Those men most at risk for developing a form of diabetes include:

  • Those with a family history of the condition
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Men can assess their risk for diabetes by having an annual health assessment check-up at a participating clinic, which is covered by Momentum Health4Me member benefits.

6. Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a condition where a man is unable to keep an erection long enough to engage in sexual intercourse, or experiences a decreased sexual desire. The causes of which can be either physical or psychological, or both. Certain medical conditions can contribute to erectile dysfunction. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure/cholesterol
  • Low testosterone levels
  • Stress/depression
  • Prescription medication
  • Kidney disease

Men suffering from erectile dysfunction can get help from their GP or a men’s clinic. They could be prescribed certain medication or be advised to undergo therapy. In some cases, they can make use of an aid, like a vacuum pump or even undergo surgery where they could receive a penile implant.

Momentum Health4Me offers health tips for men

Men can start prioritising their health by making a conscious decision to live a healthier lifestyle.

  • Eat a balanced diet from all the major food groups. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables and keep a close eye on the amount of refined sugar, alcohol, high sodium and trans-fat foods that you’re consuming.
  • Start a regular exercise routine. Find something that you enjoy and keep moving for at least 20 minutes each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. You should also be aware of your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Get an annual health assessment check-up with Momentum’s Health4Me benefits plan at a participating pharmacy clinic.
  • Talk to your GP about medical check-up and screenings. You should let your doctor know about any symptoms you may have recently developed or if you have a family history of a certain disease or condition.

Making men’s health a top priority with Bloom

Bloom and Momentum Health4Me strongly support a healthy lifestyle and encourage men to take charge of their physical and mental well-being by being proactive when it comes to prioritising their health. Make the time for regular check-ups and medical screenings. Get a health insurance plan so that you will have access to top-quality healthcare facilities and benefits if you need it by contacting our offices to speak to a trained consultant about the Health4Me medical insurance options.

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You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.

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