Men often take their health for granted. Most of the time, preventable health problems can be treated and cured if detected early. This is why it's important for men of all ages (including boys and youths) to go for regular check-ups. Men who are over 40 are advised to go at least once a year.
The latest statistics for the 5 leading natural causes of death among men in the Western Cape was published in 2018 by Statistics Sout Africa (STATSA). Statistics show that the 5 leading causes for men in the Western Cape were:
- Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) also known as coronary artery disease (CAD), a disease characterised by the reduced blood supply to the heart.
- Tuberculosis, a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects your lungs. Its spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.
- Diabetes, which occurs when your body either doesn't make enough insulin or it can't use the insulin it does produce, or it is a combination of both. Since the cells can't take in the glucose, it builds up in your blood and could potentially damage your kidneys, heart, eyes, or nervous system.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a virus that spreads through certain body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, destroying cells that are needed to fight off diseases. If untreated, HIV turns into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases, which are chronic diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung.
Most of these diseases are lifestyle diseases that can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Poor lifestyle choices include,
- overuse of alcohol,
- poor diet,
- lack of physical activity, and
- inadequate relief of chronic stress.
Making daily healthy choices will improve your health and quality of life.
- Eat healthily. Nutritious foods give you energy and may lower your risk of certain diseases. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk products.
- Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Eat healthy foods, control portion sizes, and be active to keep your weight in check.
- Be smoke-free. Smoking is linked to many of the leading causes of death, and disease including cancer, lung disease, and stroke. Also, avoid second-hand smoke.
- Know your family history to determine whether you’re at risk of getting cancer. The Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) advises men between the ages of 40 and 50 to visit their doctor annually.
- Get routine exams and screenings. You should have your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checked regularly, and every year if you’re over 40. You should also go for regular screenings for prostate cancer. These sorts of screenings help to pick up any potential problems even before symptoms appear.
- Get regular check-ups and be on the lookout for prostate and testicular cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in South African men. An estimated 1 in 23 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. This form of cancer is life threatening if left untreated. It is important for men to go for regular check-ups as many men do not notice the symptoms during the early stages.
- The symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
- Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 35 years old. Testicular cancer starts as an abnormal growth or tumour that develops in one or both testicles. There are several types of testicular cancer, but the most common is the germ cell tumour.
- The symptoms of testicular cancer include:
- A lump or swelling in the testicle.
- An increase in the firmness of a testicle.
- A difference between one testicle and the other.
- A dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go.
- A feeling of heaviness in your scrotum.
- Have an HIV test done. It’s essential to go for an HIV test if:
- you’ve never had one before,
- you’ve changed your sex partner since your last test,
- you had unprotected sex,
- you and your partner want to have a baby,
- you have TB,
- you’re on treatment for an STI, or
- if you've had more than 1 sexual partner at the same time.
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor. Thousands of deaths could be prevented each year by taking medication as prescribed. Make sure to follow your doctor's instructions for all medications, including those that help control conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Avoid heavy drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to many problems, including high blood pressure, various cancers, psychological problems, interpersonal violence and accidents. For men 65 and younger, drinking in moderation means no more than 2 drinks per day. Men older than 65 should have no more than one drink a day.
Manage stress. Balancing work and family obligations can be challenging. But it's important to protect your mental and physical health.
- Get moving. Regular exercise is 1 of the most important things you can do for your health. You should do at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. You can wash your car, you can walk with your kids, or you can take up a sport.
- Know your risks. Learn how your lifestyle and work environment affects your risk of health problems.
- Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood and your health. See your doctor or visit your clinic if you think you have a serious problem. Sleep apnoea, a common problem in which your breathing stops briefly can increase the risk of accidents and certain health problems.
Western Cape Department of Health Men's Health campaign