Men's Health Week
By Medical Director Dr Luke Bradford
9 June 2023
If I had $1 for every time I heard the line, “My wife made me book an appointment” I would have enough for those hair transplants my kids tell me to get!
It’s Men’s Health Week, and a timely reminder to know a bit more about your health and emphasise that taking small steps now can help to turn around health issues and prevent them from becoming life impacting.
We want everyone to feel comfortable coming to see their GP, a nurse or another medical professional, but appreciate there can be the feeling of anxiety or fear that comes along with that – especially for matters of a more sensitive nature. The “she’ll be right” attitude, combined with some genetic issues with our Y chromosome, means that on average men die younger than women and suffer from more preventable and manageable long-term conditions.
Don’t let your fears stop you from coming to see us. We have seen it all before, and our priority is always making sure patients are supported and receiving the best care they require, as early as possible.
Being proactive, making an appointment when you notice something or have a concern is important – the earlier the better as wait times to see GPs are longer than they used to be. Be honest in your consultation – if something really hurts, don’t say “it’s just a niggle”. If something on your body has changed dramatically, tell us and show us. Get to know your GP so you feel comfortable discussing your concerns and answering any questions they might have.
If we break it down into ages, my advice on what to do and what to look out for would include:
20s – looking after yourself at this age will set you up for good health throughout your life – regular exercise, not drinking to excess, not smoking and wearing sunscreen – especially if you’re outside a lot for your job. Manage your diet and weight, but you don’t need to be coming to see us regularly.
30s – keep up with the above, ramp up the exercise a bit more. Here, life tends to get busier as we juggle kids, bills, and work commitments. See your GP for a blood pressure check and chat about having a healthy outlet to manage stress.
40s – This should be the time to start with more regular checkups. We want to understand risk factors through your family history. We’ll do blood pressure and diabetes checks and a screen for heart disease. Getting regular skin checks makes sense; melanoma is curable if found early, and it’s more prevalent in men. It's also time to start prostate screening and discussing the pros and cons of an examination. Look after your diet and nutrition, get enough sleep and exercise, and discuss ways to quit smoking or vaping.
50s – A good time to start bowel screening. Annual checkups here help build the relationship with your GP and address problems early. Medications become more common, and that’s OK. The aim is to manage any conditions you have and stop the risk of other more serious ones from arising.
60s – Making sure you’re set up for a good retirement by managing conditions like arthritis and adjusting exercise regimes to ensure you can stay fit and active as you get older. Be clear with your GP about what your priorities are for your health and any worries you might have, keeping up those skin and prostate checks, and the blood tests. Free bowel screening is available for people aged 60 - 74; and from 50 for Māori and Pasifika in some areas (currently just Waikato).
For more information visit www.timetobowelscreen.nz
70s and above – By now you should have an established relationship with your GP so now is the time to discuss what is important to you as you move through older age.
Alongside these physical steps, it is vitally important to keep an eye on your mental health. Recognising your triggers and having a sensible outlet to manage stress should be a priority. Also keeping an eye on your mates and checking in with them if they aren’t quite themselves.
There are many organisations offering a listening ear, counselling, and other services that can help you through this time – please use them if you need to. Your GP can also refer to you the most appropriate service based on your location and needs too.
So, guys, if you’re a bit guilty of letting your health take a back seat, let’s use this week to start taking those small steps. Book an appointment with your GP, check in on your mates, and get outside and get active. Future you will be grateful you did!
Men’s Health Week runs from 12-18 June: https://menshealthweek.co.nz/
Published on NZ Herald, Monday 12 June 2023