KATHMANDU, Nov 7: Women live longer than men do, generally speaking. And there are several health risks that only men face or are more prone to because of biology as well as their lifestyle.
“The concept of men’s health as a separate specialty is only in its infancy, although men have very pressing health issues,” says Dr Gaurav Bhattarai who is currently working at the Manmohan Memorial Community Hospital in Thamel. “Men are generally more inclined to drinking and smoking. They also tend to downplay their symptoms and aren’t quick to seek medical help,” adds Dr Bhattarai.
Many health risks can be treated, or prevented altogether, with changes in the lifestyle and regular medical checkup. Below are some major health risks that men in Nepal face and the younger ones need to keep these in mind.
Coronary heart disease
Heart disease ranks as the topmost threat to men’s health. “Heart disease occurs more in men than women because, in their menstruating years, the female body produces hormones which are cardio-protective to a certain extent. Therefore, the threat starts early for men. It is mostly common in men aged 40 and above but nowadays the incidence of heart disease is starting to frequently appear in young men as well. Typical history of heavy chest pain (radiating to upper jaw, left arm, back) on exertion or at rest are ominous signs of advanced coronary heart disease and require urgent evaluation,” explains Dr Bhattarai.
Men should screen for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes earlier and more frequently so if there is a positive family history of heart disease. Managing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking and limiting the consumption of alcohol will help prevent heart diseases.
This type of cancer which develops in the testicles is most common amongst men in the age bracket of 20 to 39 years. “This disease is mostly asymptomatic and hence self examination for painless testicular swelling is very important, especially if there is a record of positive family history for testicular cancer,” says Dr Bhattarai. “This cancer type has one of the highest cure rates, especially if detected early,” he adds.
Generally occurring in men aged 50 to 60 years and above, prostate cancer is the cancer of the prostate gland which is a small structure that makes up part of a man´s urogenital system. The symptoms of this cancer include difficulties during urination, sexual dysfunction or metastatic manifestations (commonly lower backache).
“These symptoms are very common in the 50 and above age group due to a benign condition called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH). That is why people tend to neglect it, thinking it is just old age,” puts Dr Bhattarai. Since these symptoms can also point to prostate cancer, it is important to get a physical examination and cancer screenings. Dr Bhattarai adds, “This is a slow growing tumor, and if detected in time, it may not be fatal.”
Colorectal cancer is the cancer occurring in the parts of the large intestine such as the colon and rectum. It occurs mostly in men aged 50 and above, and positive family history as well as a record of ulcerative colitis are amongst the possible risk factors. Screenings such as stool test every year, sigmoidoscopy every five years and colonoscopy every 10 years are recommended for those with risk factors.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Seen mostly in men of 18 to 39 years, sexually transmitted diseases such as Human papilloma virus (HPV), Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis and gonorrhea can be major public health issues if not screened for and treated early. The best way to stay safe is to maintain a monogamous relationship with one’s partner who has been tested as well as the use of barrier contraceptives.
Depression is a bigger issue than we generally think, and research has shown that men’s attempts at suicide more often lead to death than that of women’s. Depression is multi-factorial in cause (including genetics, stressful life events, social upbringing) and may have symptoms such as feeling ‘blue’ all the time, loss of interest in things one used to enjoy, insomnia or hypersomnia and loss of libido
“Counseling is a must when it comes to depression, along with medications, and it is especially important to assess suicidal tendencies in a person.” Dr Bhattarai also says that the most important thing to do in the case of depression is to seek help. “The people close to the patient and their support also plays a huge role in curing depression,” he says.
The list may seem short but it is crucial to be aware of these risks and work to reduce them. The habit of consulting one’s doctor and taking regular screening tests is a must as they can find diseases early, and most diseases in their early stages are relatively less fatal as well as easier to treat.
Grow a ‘mo’ and be a ‘Mo Bro’!
With the start of November, men around the world grow their moustaches to participate in the ‘Movember Movement’ which is an annual month-long charity event where men grow moustaches to raise awareness about men’s health with a special focus on male cancers, especially prostate cancer.
Movember originated as the brainchild of Australians Luke Slattery and Travis Garone who just wanted to revive the fashion trend of sporting a moustache, or a ‘mo’ in Australian slang. The two convinced some of their friends into growing a moustache for a month. It was only a year later in 2004 that the idea was linked to a cause after the previous year’s moustache growth stimulated a lot of conversation amongst the circle of the moustache-growing men.
Hence, the Movember Foundation was born and it was decided that it would be apt to divert the popularity of the movement to the cause of men’s health. After coming across the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), the founders decided to represent this health risk, as not many were aware of it.
In 2004, 450 participants or ‘Mo Bros’ took part and helped raise an impressive US$55,000 for the cause of prostate cancer. The number slowly grew and spread across the globe, inspiring more than 1.9 billion people in different countries, including the USA, Canada, the UK, South Africa, Russia, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Hong Kong and India.
Sunir Shakya, 24, who was in the UK for four years, was convinced by his friends in Australia and the US to grow a moustache this November. Although he had heard about this movement in the UK, it was only after coming to Nepal that he found out what it was all about in depth.
“My friends are growing their moustaches and they have publicized it on Facebook,” says Shakya. He himself isn’t aware of men’s health risks such as prostate cancer. “I don’t have much idea about it,” he says, adding, “I focus on eating healthy and staying fit and only visit the doctor in case of illness.”
The whole point of Movember is to get men around the world, like Shakya, to be interested and more cautious about their health with the hope that the movement can eventually help “change the face of men’s health.”