7 Factors men should know that will affect their health

Men often neglect their health because they are “too busy” or “strong and healthy enough”. They also sacrifice their own health to ensure their spouses and children are cared for.

Remember, however, that your wife and children will be far worse off if you are no longer here to take care of them.

This month is Men’s Health Month. So, let’s take a look at 7 factors men should always be aware of when it comes to their health.

1. The Big C – Cancer

Men sometimes erroneously believe that cancer affects more women than men. Not so. In fact, indiscriminate of gender, cancer kills more South Africans than HIV/AIDS, TB (tuberculosis) and malaria combined.

Speaking at the YPO conference held in Cape Town earlier this year, Adrian Gore, MD of Discovery Health, noted that the average South African male is far more likely to die from cancer than a botched hijacking.

The four most common types of cancer are breast, prostate, lung and colon. Lung cancer, for example, which is dramatically increased by smoking, kills almost 150,000 Americans every year, while there are 250,000 new cases of breast cancer in the US annually. Prostrate and testicular cancer are the types that men need to be especially aware of.

Research is varied as to what exactly triggers cancer, but genes, poor diet, high levels of stress and environmental factors can play a role. Cancer is a difficult disease, but it can be beaten. Listen to your body, nourish yourself with good food, lots of water and enough sleep, and visit your doctor for regular check-ups.

2. Erectile dysfunction

This is a very touchy subject, but it’s more common than what most men believe, and it’s one of the reasons why a little blue pill called Viagra is still popular. As men age, so the blood flow can be restricted and it can be harder to reach erection, which can put untold strain on a relationship and may induce feelings of inadequacy.

It is important to know, however, that the problem may be linked to other diseases, so it should never be left unchecked. Blood pressure tablets, for example, which are designed to lower the pressure of blood being pumped through the body, may be a significant contributing factor.

3. High blood pressure (hypertension)

High blood pressure is age-related and is when an increase in blood pressure is usually brought about by hardening and narrowing of the artery walls which restricts the flow of blood in the blood vessels. The heart has to work harder to pump the blood through the body, which increases the pressure in these vessels.

It may seem like nothing, but elevated blood pressure levels above 120/80 carry with them quite a list of health problems, from heart attack and stroke to kidney disease and eye disease. Factors that cause this problem include being overweight, smoking and drinking too much.

Blood pressure testing is inexpensive and pain-free, so get yours tested regularly (especially if you’re over 40), and seek medical help immediately if elevated.

4. Stroke

While we’ve mentioned this above, stroke needs its own point. Known together with high blood pressure throughout the world as The Silent Killer, most men are blissfully unaware of the danger of having one until it’s too late.

A stroke occurs when the blood vessels in the brain have become so constricted that there is either a blockage that cannot pass through the vessels, or they burst. The blood flow to the brain is affected and causes brain tissue to die from lack of oxygen, which leads to mental and/or physical disability (like loss of speech or permanent paralysis).

High blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol are leading contributing factors of a stroke. Medication and lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and regular exercise are the best preventative measures.

5. Diabetes

As delicious as those sugary drinks and chocolate bars are, there is more and more evidence to suggest that we are becoming less and less tolerant to the enormous amounts of sugar that we consume – one of the main reasons the government introduced the sugar tax. Diabetes is the inability of the pancreas to adequately process sugar using insulin.

Again, as with blood pressure, diabetes is now lumped with a whole slew of diseases collectively known as metabolic syndrome, and Type II has been strongly linked to several lifestyle factors such as being overweight and consuming excessive sugar. Again, the best cure is a lifestyle change, especially as we age.

6.  Stress

Stress can be defined as the inability to cope with feelings of pressure brought about by several factors such as work or home environment, the death or illness of a loved one, and even crime.

When men stress, the usual emotional coping mechanisms include an increase in drinking and smoking, eating comfort food, junk food and excessive take-aways, and in some cases, promiscuity, all of which can damage health.

As un-manly as they sound, Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi have been found to lower stress levels, while good old-fashioned exercise or even something as simple as taking a walk outside in the garden can also be of benefit.

If you find that you’re not coping, then always remember that a problem shared is a problem halved. Take it up with a really close friend or see a psychologist if need be.

7. Depression

The rigours of modern living, from constantly living on a smart device to facing the traffic, together with unfulfilled desires and dreams, can all lead to unhappy states that cause depression. Some research even suggests that not following your dreams can create such negativity that the body manifests as disease.

It is important to have emotional and creative outlets, to equilibrate the pace of modern living. Singing in the shower, painting, keeping a journal, cooking, going on holiday with family, parties, visiting friends, hiking in beautiful spaces, exposure to lots of green (both to see and eat), and pursuing meaningful careers and hobbies are all antidotes to depression.

If the problem becomes acute, it is important to see a health professional about the possibility of taking medication, or about redressing psychological imbalances that are making you unhappy.

Life is short, and you have so much living to do. This Men’s Health Month and beyond, make the changes you need to care for yourself.

For more information please contact:
Dr. AT Kongolo (General Practitioner)
MBChB H. Dip Surg
Kathu Private Hospital
+27 (0) 53 723 1848

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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4 Things You Need to Know About Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure is when the blood pressure in the arteries is higher than it should be. It forces the heart to work harder to circulate the blood through the vessels.

Hypertension is a very common medical condition which can become chronic. In old age, most of us are at risk of getting it. If left untreated the condition can lead to other chronic, even life-threatening, health issues like heart disease and stroke.

The good news is that high blood pressure can be easily detected at a routine doctor’s appointment. And, once you know you have it you can work with your doctor to treat it and get it back under control.

But, in order to deal with hypertension, we first need to understand the truth about the condition. Here are 4 common myths that we need to dispell:

MYTH 1: If high blood pressure runs in the family you will get it

You are at a bigger risk of getting high blood pressure if it runs in your family but, armed with this information, you can do certain things to lower this risk. The most important of all is to live a healthy lifestyle by focusing on the following 5 areas:

  • Eat healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t over-use salt - no more than 1,500 milligrams a day
  • Don’t smoke tobacco and limit your intake of alcohol
  • Avoid stress as much as possible
  • Exercise regularly

MYTH 2: Only one of the blood pressure numbers has to be normal

If you have had your blood pressure tested at the doctor, you will have noticed that the result shows one number over another number.

The top number is called your systolic blood pressure and normal reading is 119 or below, 120-129 is elevated, and 130 or more is high blood pressure. The systolic number represents the force of blood through your blood vessels during your heartbeat.

The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure and represents the force of blood through your blood vessels in between heartbeats. Seventy-nine or below is considered a normal diastolic blood pressure while 80 or more is high.

Most people believe the top systolic number is the only one to watch but this isn’t altogether true because the heart can actually better manage a higher systolic number than a high diastolic number. The only problem is when we age our systolic blood pressure tends to rise considerably more than the diastolic blood pressure, which may even decrease as we get older.

Ultimately, it is best to keep an eye on both numbers to make sure they are always sitting at a normal reading. If they are both consistently elevated you should discuss with your doctor how to decrease the numbers before you end up with hypertension and other chronic diseases relating to the condition.

MYTH 3: Once the blood pressure is high there is no real treatment to get it back to normal

Actually, if you work with your doctor to develop a comprehensive program for managing your high blood pressure, you can get it back to normal. However, this means sticking to the plan and changing your lifestyle to do this. The following are steps you will most likely need to take as part of your treatment:

  • Regular blood pressure checks - your doctor will tell you how often.
  • Keep on your treatment plan no matter what. And communicate with your doctor the moment you have issues sticking to the plan.
  • Go to all your doctor’s appointments. If you have to miss one, immediately make another one to replace it.
  • Change to a healthy lifestyle and stick to it.
  • Radically reduce your salt intake
  • Read about high blood pressure and learn everything there is to know about decreasing the systolic and diastolic numbers.

MYTH 4: One can always tell or feel it in the body if blood pressure is high

This isn’t necessarily true. High blood pressure can build up over many years without you knowing it because most people won’t show any symptoms.

This is why it is so important to live a healthy lifestyle and keep a check on your health especially if you are at a higher risk of getting hypertension. If this is the case, you should get regular check-ups at your doctor.

Even though there are often no real symptoms, if you start suffering from headaches, shortness of breath and nosebleeds, you may have high blood pressure. Then do go get it checked with a very simple, pain-free and accurate test at your doctor.

When your blood pressure has reached a dangerously high reading you may present with any of the following symptoms. At this stage, you should immediately see your doctor.

  • Sudden severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sudden issues with vision
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing, a feeling of a tight chest
  • Heartbeat feels strange and irregular
  • Blood in the urine
  • Persistent throbbing sensation in the neck, ears or chest
  • Swelling of feet

When are you most at risk?

Get your blood pressure read every two years from as early as 18 years of age. Once you turn 40 you should get a reading once a year. Your risk of hypertension increases with age. By the time you are in your mid-60s, you should be getting your blood pressure checked at least two or three times a year.

Other reasons you may be at higher risk are:

  • If you are of African heritage
  • If it runs in the family
  • If you live a very stressed lifestyle
  • If you are obese
  • If you eat badly and particularly if you eat too much salt
  • If you live an inactive lifestyle
  • If you have diabetes, snoring at night or kidney disease
  • If you smoke and drink too much

The simple answer to living a long life is to be healthy and to lower your risk of getting hypertension by having your blood pressure read at your routine doctor’s visits.

For more information please contact:
Dr E Kabuzi (Specialist Physician)
MBChB (MUK) DTM & H (WITS) Dip. HIV Man (SA) Dip. Diabetes Man (UK)
Randfontein Private Hospital
+27 (0) 87 087 2746
info@lenmed.co.za or thato.sello@lenmed.co.za

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Lenmed High Blood Pressure Quiz

How much do you really know about high blood pressure? Here's a short 'TRUE or FALSE' quiz to find out.

  1. High blood pressure is a result of your heart beating too fast. True or False?
  2. High blood pressure is caused by eating too much spicy food. True or False?
  3. High blood pressure is known as the 'silent killer' because some people don't know they have it. True or False?
  4. High blood pressure makes you cough blood. True or False?
  5. High blood pressure only affects white people True or False?
  6. High blood pressure only affects old people. True or False?
  7. High Blood pressure only affects people who are overweight. True or False?
  8. Children never suffer from high blood pressure. True or False?
  9. Only people who have a bad temper suffer from high blood pressure. True or False?
  10. People who are physically fit don't suffer from high blood pressure. True or False?
  11. In South Africa, high blood pressure is responsible for 1 in 2 strokes. True or False?
  12. In South Africa, high blood pressure is responsible for 2 in 5 heart attacks. True or False?
  13. In South Africa, 1 in 3 adults live with high blood pressure. True or False?
  14. Lifestyle changes alone can reverse high blood pressure. True or False?
  15. Only medication can control high blood pressure. True or False?
  16. You only need to take high blood pressure medication for a short time. True or False?

Here are the answers:

1. False     2. False       3. True       4. False
5. False     6. False       7. False      8. False
9. False     10. False     11. True    12. True
13. True    14. False     15. False    16. False

So, how did you do?

Are you an expert on high blood pressure or have you realised that what you know may be nothing more than myth? If you are concerned that you may have high blood pressure please make an appointment with your doctor today.

For information please contact:
Dr T Kathawaroo
(Specialist Physician)
MBBCh (Wits), FCP (SA)
Daxina Private Hospital
Tel: +27 87 087 0644

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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