Men – give yourself a health MOT!

By Dr Niruban Ratnarajah

10/6/22

As a GP, I know just how reluctant men of all ages are to talk about their health or contact their GP practice when something isn’t right.

For a start, they are less likely to attend health checks or screening appointments. This is important for two reasons: these checks can flag up problems early, which makes them more treatable; or they can prevent problems developing in the first place.

Men are also more reluctant to discuss their mental health. This is worrying, because around one in eight men in England has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and three times as many men as women die by suicide.

All too often men take the attitude that, if something is wrong, they will take a couple of painkillers and “push on through” - or simply ignore it. But while many minor conditions do clear up after a couple of days of treatment at home, or with advice from a pharmacy, there are things that you must get checked out.

Men’s Health Week, which runs from June 13 to 20, is an ideal opportunity to remind men that they need to give their bodies – and minds – the ‘once over’.

Why not visit the Men’s Health Forum website and take a DIY Man MOT? Unlike servicing a car, it’s free, and you don’t need any tools!

This MOT could help to identify issues that people don’t know they have – because, unlike a broken leg, the problem may not be immediately obvious! For instance, your blood pressure may be too high. You’re not alone: millions of people in Britain have high blood pressure and don’t know it, which raises the risk of stroke or heart attack.

The MOT could also pick up warning signs of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

While the Man MOT is a good starting point, I’d encourage all men – and women – to contact your GP practice if you develop any new or worrying symptoms such as:

  • Tummy trouble, such as discomfort or diarrhoea, for three weeks or more
  • Blood in your pee - even just once
  • Unexpected or unexplained bleeding
  • Unexplained pain that lasts three weeks or more
  • A cough that persists for three weeks or more

Although it’s unlikely, these could be a sign of cancer, so it’s important to speak to a GP so they can investigate.

Please attend your health NHS Health Checks, which should be offered to most people aged 40 to 74 in England, when you are invited. These have now restarted after being paused during Covid.

If you are over 50, make sure that you complete your simple bowel cancer screening test when it arrives in the post.

And don’t feel awkward about talking to your GP about things such as erectile dysfunction or prostrate problems. Your GP won’t be embarrassed, and neither should you!

Remember: much of the focus over the last couple of years has understandably been on coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean that other health conditions have gone away. They haven’t, but we are always here to help.

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