As much as we don’t want to admit it, we 40-plus guys have been using the classic cliché for years: “Kids, everything you’ve done (whether it be partying hard, drinking or drugs), your dads have done it all before.” And now, from a health perspective, we are starting to pay the price for those experiences!
In the perfect Westernised ideology, neologisms there is the image of the wife, husband and 2.4 children. Throw in a white picket fence and a Volvo parked on the drive, maybe even a dog, and you have urban utopia. But what happens when the kids leave the nest, your wife’s left you for a younger bloke and she’s taken the dog with her and, to be honest, you’re only really missing one of them?
There you sit, in your big house, work’s gotten too stressful, you’ve put on some weight from the daily KFC and McDonald’s regime. Life’s tricky, and we at M2 want to help you out, as anyone would do for their friends.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that when you hit your naughty 40s, everything goes south. As obesity and its associated health problems are on the rise, the importance of check-ups regarding prostate cancer, heart disease and general wellbeing become more important with the passing of the years.
New Zealand has nothing to proud of when looking at men’s health, with alarming statistics in all of those fields. We have one of the highest suicide rates in the world for older men. According to a concecus written by the University of Auckland, the highest drivers of suicide in over-40s are physical difficulties and relationships.
Remember back to when you were a 20-something guy: fit, full of adrenaline, ideas, dreams and aspirations for the future? Remember when that dream was so within reach? You’d even planned it out. You’d go to university, passing your exams with flying colours; score a well-paid ‘Boss’ job; own your own businesses; get that ‘perfect girl’; you could almost taste the home-cooked meal the wife would be making in the house with the white picket fence… all with no thoughts of it being given to the dog. You had it all planned out. It was going to happen!
Fast-forward 30-odd years and you find yourself in the same ol’, tired town, doing the same lame nine-to-five job in the local supermarket (the same one you were doing 30 years earlier when you were trying to pay off university debt), and preaching to the same ‘corporate man’. You’re tired, fed up and deserve a holiday, if only you could afford it.
Forty-plus-aged men are statistically less likely to talk to their GPs about ongoing or suspected health issues than similarly aged women. This behaviour is a contributing factor in New Zealand men having a life expectancy four years less than women. Put simply, we men need to start taking better care of ourselves! Did you know that 6 out of 10 of us are overweight? That 1 in 4 of us smoke? And that 40 of us are diagnosed with diabetes every day?
In the US alone, prostate cancer is the biggest cause of death in males aged 40 years and over. In New Zealand, a shocking 30 percent of deaths in males is due to this type of cancer. Men are often too busy with work commitments, other personal problems or maybe they’re just too worried to go get checked by their local GP on such a personal issue. Luckily, with the amount of support put in place for men’s health, the word is out there. We want to make sure this issue is something you are comfortable with and would really consider approaching a doctor about. We all know that cancer can be a very scary thing for those touched by it. We just need to give that last push to make sure all men get their prostate checked for cancerous tumours. Far better that you go through a five-minute procedure at the GP than your friends and loved ones go through hell because ‘it was too embarrassing’.
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, 1.1 million cases of prostate cancer were recorded in 2012, accounting for around 8 percent of all cancer cases and 15 percent of cases in men. In New Zealand alone, prostate cancer is one of the biggest killers in men over 40, with 3000 cases diagnosed each year.
Little is talked about the gland; the prostate is the size of a walnut, found inside the body just before the rectum and below the bladder and produces semen. When malignant cells grow around the prostate – namely a tumour – the area is cancerous and can lead to other issues. Symptoms can include an increased need to urinate, a weak flow when peeing, painful ejaculation and blood in the urine or semen. Family history also may heighten your chance of developing prostate cancer.
Ways to prevent getting cancer in your prostate include changing your diet (eating more fish and less fat), stopping smoking and cutting down alcohol consumption. Go to your GP if you have any worries or concerns or just want to get checked for peace of mind. Prostate cancer is a serious thing to have happen to you and can drastically affect you in many areas of your life, including interest in sex, effects from hormone therapy, urinary problems, fatigue and mental health.
Worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organisation. Here in New Zealand, almost one in three males is classed as obese. A further 35 percent of adults are classed as being overweight. This is a serious problem, with possible risk factors surrounding cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disease, diabetes and/or cancer. Obesity can often be multi-layered and caused by personal problems or based on genetic or behavioural factors
The Body Mass Index is a value derived from the mass and weight of a person. Men should average a BMI reading of between 18 and 25 (20-22 is considered as the healthy range within the scale). According to the NZ Ministry of Health, the mean average of New Zealand men is currently 29.8, with an average waist size of 99.1 centimetres; this is increasing year on year. Causes of the increase may be eating excessively due to stress at work, stress at home or mental issues. It is fair to assume the increase of energy-dense, chemically heavy foods being available on the market is having a detrimental effect on many New Zealand men. Losing just 5-10 percent of your weight can have a significant impact in lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels and helping protect against diabetes and cancer.
Binge eating is a major problem in New Zealand for the over-40s. Defined by NHS Choices, this excessive eating may be attributed to anxiety and low self-esteem and may lead to sufferers feeling easily fatigued with difficulty in concentrating. The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. Sufferers can experience panic attacks, a fear that they are losing control, going crazy or having a heart attack with the thought that they are going to die.
Every 90 minutes, a New Zealander dies from heart disease, and cardiovascular disease accounts for 30 percent of deaths every year.
Heart disease is a broad term that is usually used to describe reduced blood supply to the heart muscles, normally caused by the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries supplying the heart.
The cause and associated tell-tale signs of heart disease (such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol) can develop over long periods of time and, without regular check-ups, be hard to spot. It’s not uncommon for a heart attack to be the first sign that you have an issue.
It is important to remember that a heart attack is a medical emergency and should be treated as such; you should urgently seek medical advice if you experience prolonged or worsening chest pains; pain or discomfort in your arms, jaw and back; shortness of breath; nausea; feel faint; or cold sweats.
A variety of pharmaceutical options are available to help treat and manage heart disease. These medicines are generally taken long-term and help reduce high blood pressure and levels of cholesterol; they can also be used to help prevent harmful blood clotting or to facilitate the dilating of blood vessels feeding the heart.
Some factors leading to heart disease, such as age and family history, cannot be changed. However, there are a number of lifestyle improvements to reduce the risks; these are aimed at maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes quitting smoking, reducing foods that are bad for cholesterol, increasing physical activity, reducing your weight and managing your alcohol intake. In addition, a balanced diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, oily fish, healthy fats such as olive oil and lean meat can help lay a solid foundation to fighting heart disease. Eating lots of processed foods, especially those high in fat, salt and sugar, could spell trouble for your future.
Don’t think you can go from zero to hero overnight when it come to your health; make sure you consult a health professional, get regular check-ups and get agreement from them before making any significant changes to your diet or exercise regime, then create a plan and make sure you stick to it.
If you need motivation to get off the couch and make a difference, remember the words of Larry Winget, (professional motivational speaker, author, television personality and social commentator): “emotion leads to motion.” Larry explains that: “you will not change until you first become uncomfortable with where or who you are.”