Every year, the Oxford Dictionary publishes a list of new words that have made it into our vocabulary. I could happily do without selfies or moobs, but I'll make an exception for Movember - wearing a moustache in November to raise awareness of men's health issues.
Last year's strapline on the Movember Foundation page was simply but compelling - 'Stop men dying too young'. Movember started small - in Australia in 2003, a group of young men decided to grow their moustaches for a month to support a friend with prostate cancer. These days, it's an international movement, with the 'Mo Bros' (men) supported by their 'Mo Sistas' (yes, you've got it!). By 2014, it had raised £402 million and since it started, it has funded over 1200 men's health projects.
Prostate and testicular cancer
Movember all started with prostate cancer. The second most common cancer in men worldwide, about 35,000 men are diagnosed with it every year in the UK and 10,000 die from it. The main risk factor is age - the average age to get a diagnosis is 70 to 74 years-old - but like all cancers, catching it early hugely increases the chance of long term survival.
One of the problems with prostate cancer is that the early symptoms - needing to rush to the loo and going more often; having to wait once you get there before the stream comes; a poor stream when you do; getting up at night to pass water; and dribbling when you finish - are the same as the symptoms of a condition called BPE, which is almost an inevitable part of getting older. At the moment there's no national screening programme for prostate cancer. While a blood test called PSA can pick up prostate cancer, (link to PIL https://patient.info/health/prostate-specific-antigen-psa-test) it's not completely accurate - it misses quite a lot of cancers and most men with high levels don't have prostate cancer at all. However, the GP can get a lot more information by examining your man's prostate and doing the blood test together. So if he has any of those symptoms, nudge him along to get them sorted.
Testicular cancer usually affects men in their 20s and 30s , but it's worth being aware of, whatever your age. Any painless lump in the testicle should be checked out.
Heart disease isn't (yet) part of the Movember campaign, but it should be. Although women are by no means immune from heart disease , it's men who are at highest risk. Getting them to get their blood pressure and cholesterol checked on a regular basis is a great start - both can raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, but you won't know they're high unless you get them checked.
Healthy eating and weight management
Keeping weight within healthy limits is often a challenge for men - nearly three quarters of UK men are overweight or obese. With cancer, heart disease , stroke and type 2 diabetes risks all linked to weight, you can play a huge part here in looking after your man. And some foods with the same calories are healthier than others. If you do most of the cooking, can you start making small changes they may not even notice that would benefit their health? Try grilling rather than frying; using wholemeal or wholegrain rather than white flour products; adding more vegetables to every meal; sneaking some beans or pulses into that casserole.
Alcohol has almost as many calories gram for gram as fat - so cutting down will the men in your life to control their weight, as well as cut their risks of cancer and heart or liver disease. If your male partner or husband shares your home, look out for lower strength alcohol (beers vary from 3% to 8%) and buy a four-pack rather than a bigger slab of beer to keep indoors. Ask him to support you in your attempts to drink more healthily, by having two or three alcohol free days a week. It will help you both!
A final word: Don't ignore men's mental health. Older men are at high risk of depression - so encourage those in your life to talk about their feelings.
With thanks to 'My Weekly' magazine where this article was originally published.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.