Men’s Health: 9 conditions SA men should not ignore

Possible causes of the continuing decline of men’s health across the globe are a lack of awareness; inadequate health education; and unhealthy work and personal lifestyles.

Heart disease and stroke: 1st and 2nd leading causes of death

Heart disease and stroke are the first and second leading causes of death worldwide, in both men and women.

Heart disease manifests in many forms, all of which can lead to serious, fatal complications if undetected.

In cardiovascular disease, cholesterol plaques block the arteries in the heart and brain over time. If a plaque becomes unsteady, a blood clot forms, blocking the artery and causing a heart attack or stroke.

Routine check-ups are essential. Doctors can calculate the risk for cardiovascular disease based on risk factors like cholesterol levels, blood pressure and smoking habits.

  • Have your cholesterol checked every five years.
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol if they are high.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week.
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables and less saturated or trans fats.

COPD: 3rd leading cause of death globally

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is the third leading cause of death globally.

Many respiratory diseases start with a “smoker’s cough” that can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as lung cancer, emphysema, or COPD.

If you have smoked for more than 30 years, a low-dose CT scan may be advisable to screen for lung cancer.

Alcohol: The cause of a variety of cancers

Men binge drink twice as much as women.

Alcohol consumption increases the risk for cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.

It interferes with testicular function and hormone production. This can result in impotence and infertility.

Depression and suicide: Millions worldwide suffer

Millions of men worldwide suffer from depressive disorders and have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives.

Some ways to combat depression include:

  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Discussing with friends and family.
  • Seeking professional help.

Liver disease takes a variety of forms

The liver helps digest food and absorb nutrients as well as ridding the body of toxins.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is linked to overweight or obesity. Possible causes are insulin resistance, in which the cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin; high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), indicating prediabetes or actual type 2 diabetes; and high levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.

Alcohol and tobacco use increase the chance of developing liver disease.

Liver disease includes conditions such as:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Autoimmune or genetic liver diseases
  • Bile duct cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Diabetes still growing

Four times as many people have type 2 diabetes today as 36 years ago, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In South Africa, 7% of adults between 21 and 79 – 3.85 million people – have diabetes. A large proportion of these remain undiagnosed.

If left untreated,  diabetes can lead to heart disease, blindness, amputation, kidney disease and erectile dysfunction or impotence.

Men with diabetes face a risk of lower testosterone levels and sexual impotence. This can lead to increased depression or anxiety.

Eating healthy and exercising helps manage the disease.

Skin cancer: SA 2nd highest incidence

South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) urges all South Africans to be SunSmart.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in South Africa with about 20 000 reported cases every year and 700 deaths. The WHO reports that between two and three million non-melanoma skin cancers and approximately 132 000 malignant melanomas occur globally every year.

The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented by respecting the sun.

The three most common types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and malignant melanoma.

Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can also lead to inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye, and may cause and accelerate the development of cataracts.

Prostate cancer: Go for a simple screening test

The prostate gland behind the penis secretes fluids important for ejaculation. It is prone to problems as men get older.

Men should go for a simple screening test to detect prostate cancer. Screening results in early detection, enabling more effective treatment and a better chance of recovery:

  • Routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing, annually, from age 40 for all men at high risk of prostate cancer. This includes men with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age (younger than 65 years).
  • Routine PSA testing, annually, from age 45 for all males who are at risk of prostate cancer. This includes men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than 65 years).
  • Routine PSA testing, at least once every two years, for all males from age 50.

Erectile Dysfunction may signal cardiovascular disease

Erectile dysfunction (ED) may not be life threatening, but it may signal other health problems.

It is often caused by atherosclerosis that causes heart attacks and strokes. Doctors consider erectile dysfunction an early warning sign for cardiovascular disease.

If you have ED see your doctor and find out whether you are at risk of having a heart attack or stroke.


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