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Men's Health Week: 10 checks men MUST make today

Men's Health Week aims to encourage men to ensure they check themselves for any health problems regularly

Men in Britain visit the doctor 20% less than their female partners.

That's according to new research, by Boots, showing men are more reluctant to seek help when it comes to health problems.

In fact they are less likely to lead a healthy lifestyle and more likely to smoke, drink too much and be overweight – increasing their risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Yet early intervention with almost every health condition means a far higher chance of a full recovery.

GP Dr Tony Steele says: “You wouldn’t ignore the warning light on your dashboard telling you that there’s no petrol left, so why do that with your body when you experience symptoms which could be a warning of something more serious?”

Take these 10 tests that will help you on the road to a healthier life:

1. Monitor your mood

Why? Men suffer from depression just as much as women do, but are more than a third less likely to seek help for it. This may explain in part why suicide was the leading cause of death for men aged between 20 and 34 in 2014, and is now increasing among men over 45.

Symptoms: Feelings of hopelessness, extreme sadness, exhaustion, loss of interest in everyday life, low sex drive and sleeping problems are all common signs.

Get it checked: Don’t try to tough it out. Talk to someone at the first signs of depression – ideally your GP. Your doctor will discuss whether medication, therapy or a combination of both could help.

Reduce your risk: Studies show that exercising four times a week can be as effective as anti-depressants at warding off and treating mild to moderate depression.

More advice: depressionalliance.org

2. Check your blood pressure

Why? Persistent, untreated high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart disease and kidney problems.

Symptoms: High blood pressure is symptomless, so the only way of knowing whether you’re affected is to be tested every three years after the age of 40, or yearly if it’s high or someone in your family has it.

Get it checked: A cuff is fitted around your upper arm and inflated so it becomes tight, which painlessly measures blood pressure. If it’s too high (140/90 or more) your heart is having to work harder than it should to pump blood.

Reduce your risk: Increase your exercise levels to 30 minutes four times a week, lower your salt and alcohol intake, and lose weight if you need to.

More advice: bloodpressureuk.org

3. Have an eye test

Why? Glaucoma, a condition that causes increased pressure in the eye, is more common in men. If left untreated it can lead to blindness. If you suffer from diabetes, a high degree of short-sightedness or migraines, then you’re at higher risk.

Symptoms: The pressure build-up in this condition is very slow, meaning visual loss is gradual and people often don’t notice any problem until they experience severe sight difficulties.

Get it checked: During a routine eye test, an ophthalmologist will examine your eyes looking through a special machine to measure eye pressure. It takes just a few minutes.

Reduce your risk: Have regular eye checks, especially if anyone in your family suffers from glaucoma.

More advice: glaucoma-association.com

4. Scan your body for skin cancer

Why? The number of men dying from melanoma has doubled in the last 30 years. While an equal number of men and women get this deadly form of skin cancer, men have twice the mortality rate of women after diagnosis because they typically seek help so much later. The most common sites are the chest and back.

Symptoms: As well as any changes in existing moles, other changes in your skin – such as colour, bleeding or scaling – can all be early signs.

Get it checked: See your GP, who will examine your skin and may refer you to a dermatologist to rule out cancer.

Reduce your risk: Use SPF15-20 in the sun and opt for shade or wear a T-shirt between 11am and 3pm. Check your moles regularly and see your GP straight away if there are any changes. Ask your partner or a friend to check your back for you.

More advice: melanomauk.org.uk

5. Measure your cholesterol

Why? Men have more heart attacks than women. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease because it leads to hardening and narrowing of the arteries.

Symptoms: High cholesterol is symptomless, so if you’re over 40, obese or have a family history of heart disease you should have yours tested.

Get it checked: Your GP uses a simple blood test to find the ratio of LDL (bad cholesterol) to HDL (good cholesterol) and triglycerides (other harmful fats) in your blood. High level – over three for bad cholesterol or over five once good and bad are added together – are considered a heart risk.

Reduce your risk: Research has found that swapping to a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, fish and nuts, can lower cholesterol.

More advice: heartuk.org.uk

6. Know your waist size

Why? The latest research shows that men who carry excess fat around their middle are more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. This is because abdominal fat is a particular kind of toxic “visceral” fat, which wraps around the neighbouring internal organs causing serious damage.

Symptoms: A pot belly.

Get it checked: Measure yourself – if your waist is 37 inches (94cm) or more, you’re at risk from the diseases mentioned above. Talk to your GP for advice on healthy weight loss.

Reduce your risk: researcher Dr Jean Pierre Després says: “Losing just 4cm from your waist will slash your risk of early death by 60%. As well as diet, exercise is key, with a brisk 30-minute daily walk enough to make the difference.”

More advice: nationalobesityforum.org.uk

7. Test for diabetes

Why? It’s estimated that up to 500,000 men in the UK may have Type 2 diabetes without realising it. Men are at higher risk of diabetes if overweight, have high blood pressure or a family history of the condition. Untreated diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and blindness.

Symptoms: Constant thirst, passing large amounts of urine, tiredness, weight loss, wounds that don’t heal and recurrent infections. Bear in mind that sometimes there are no symptoms.

Get it checked: Your GP performs a simple blood test to measure glucose in your blood. A high level often indicates diabetes.

Reduce your risk: Obesity is by far the biggest trigger, and shedding just 5-10% of your body weight can slash your risk by 60%.

More advice: diabetes.org.uk

8. Beware bowel cancer

Why? Bowel cancer is on the rise and is now the third most prevalent cancer in men, with around 23,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Symptoms: Bleeding from the bottom, a change in bowel habits lasting more than three weeks, chronic stomach pain and unexplained weight loss are all warning signs you need to investigate.

Get it checked: See your GP who will give you a rectal examination and may ask for a stool sample. After age 60, you’ll be invited to take part in free bowel screenings. if you’re over 60 and have never received a test kit in the post, call 0800 707 6060.

Reduce your risk: Cutting down on alcohol, and red and processed meats can slash your risk. There’s strong evidence to suggest regular exercise (150 minutes or more per week) can also lower risk.

More advice: bowelcanceruk.org.uk

9. Be prepared for prostate cancer

Why? It’s the most commonly found type of cancer in all men, with nearly 42,000 new diagnoses every year. The overall lifetime risk for men is one in eight, so it pays to be vigilant.

Symptoms: Difficulty passing urine, weaker stream, needing to go more frequently, especially at night. Also pain in the back or pelvis.

Get it checked: Your GP will do a short rectal examination, as well as a PSA blood test for raised levels of prostate hormones. All men over 50 are entitled to a PSA test, but it’s generally only given to those with symptoms, and then only together with a rectal exam.

Reduce your risk: Maintaining a healthy weight can offer some protection, as can a diet high in lycopene, the best source of which are cooked and processed tomatoes.

More advice: prostatecanceruk.org

10. Testicular cancer check

Why? It’s the most common cancer in men under 35 with around 2,200 new cases diagnosed every year. Crucially, testicular cancer is also one of the most easily cured if caught in time.

Symptoms: Swelling or pea-sized hard lumps on the testicles. A dull ache, feeling of heaviness or sharp pain in this area.

Get it checked: See your GP for a testicle check. If the lump requires investigation, you’ll be sent for a painless ultrasound of both testicles, and often a blood test to identify raised levels of hormones that may indicate cancer.

Reduce your risk: Check yourself regularly by feeling carefully for swelling, lumps or texture changes. This is especially important if you suffered from an undescended testicle as a boy or another member of your family has had testicular cancer.

More advice: orchid-cancer.org.uk

Men’s Health Week runs until June 21. For more info visit menshealthforum.org.uk/mhw.

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