Health screening tips for men

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iol lif july 19 blood pressure AP Most at risk are those with a family history of high blood pressure, those who smoke, drink alcohol, follow a bad diet high in unhealthy fats and salt, and do little exercise.

Men die on average six to eight years earlier than women – and mostly from preventable health conditions.

After the age of about 16, males disappear from the health care arena.

However, they do come back… years later, most often on a stretcher or severely ill.

Professor Ridwan Shabsigh, president of the International Society of Men’s Health and professor of urology at Cornell University, New York, who is in SA this week to help set up the initial structures for the SA arm of the International Society of Men’s Health, talks about the necessary screening all men should have:

Cholesterol

If you are older than 40, it is generally recommended that you have your cholesterol tested annually.

If you smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease in your family, talk to your doctor about monitoring your cholesterol more closely.

Unfortunately, we are seeing increasing numbers of young people with obesity, in which case you must also test your cholesterol levels. In SA it is due to communities adopting a Western diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Cholesterol tests use a simple pin prick.

High blood pressure

This is a condition without symptoms. High blood pressure is just a number in a machine; however, it can be a early sign of a number of more serious illnesses which is why you should get it checked annually.

Colon cancer

Unless you have a history of colon cancer in your family, you can wait until 50 to begin colon cancer screening. If you do have a history of colon cancer in your family, talk to your doctor about scheduling a colon cancer screening. A colon cancer screening could involve a colonoscopy. It's not a fun test, but it's a lot better than having to undergo chemotherapy and other treatments for advanced colon cancer if you don’t catch it early.

Diabetes

If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you should also be regularly tested for diabetes. This is a simple blood test. We consider those with a large belly as being at risk of diabetes.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is an important issue in sunny SA, especially for those with fair skin. Use sun screen and avoid tanning, especially UV light methods, as this can have significant risk for the skin.

You can do a lot by just paying attention to the moles on your body and their changes.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer when small has a number of treatment options, not all surgical. If you are older than 50 you should have the test, in which case the doctor examines the rectum.

Better the test than an advanced illness.

Depression

Forget the taboo, communicate openly about how you are feeling and if you are averse to medication, know that help doesn’t have to be in a pill; there are other methods, such as counselling.

HIV

There are special situations in certain countries; in Africa and SA HIV is a public health concern. Men are known to take chances and not practise safe sex.

HIV testing should be carried out if you have had unprotected sex with multiple partners, used drugs via an injection (past or present), or had sex with a partner who is HIV-infected or who used injection drugs.

HIV screening can be done with a simple blood test. Results are confidential and many resources exist for people living with HIV, including new medications and therapies.

If you have HIV, be compliant with medication.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward. This is linked to heavy smoking.

Research shows that those who start smoking before the age of 20 have a much more difficult time trying to quit, so parents, ensure that youngsters don’t get addicted. - The Mercury

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