Man up! Our essential health tips for men

All too often, men put off going to the doctor or worse, won’t go at all. In fact, studies show that three times more men than women say they haven’t visited a doctor in the last 12 months, while 25% claimed they’d wait as long as possible before getting help with a health problem.

Unfortunately, feeling fine is not the same is being healthy. High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can silently affect your health and difficulties urinating may seem small at first but should be checked out early to avoid potentially serious health problems in the future.

If you or a mate is putting off seeking health advice for fear of finding out about potential prostate issues, diabetes or heart disease it’s time to man up. Just like losing weight, changing to a better diet or getting some exercise, it’s about taking responsibility for your own health. Here are a few signs it’s time to see your GP:

1. Be proactive about prostate checks. If you’re over 50, you should get your prostate checked every 12 months. Many men’s prostates get larger as they get older due to a non-cancerous condition known as ‘benign prostatic hyperplasia’ or prostate enlargement, so instead of worrying yourself sick it’s best to see your doctor for peace of mind.

Also, if you’re experiencing the following symptoms it’s important to make an appointment as soon as possible:

  • You need to urinate more frequently or passing smaller amounts
  • You need to rush to the toilet more often
  • You’re having difficulty starting to urinate (hesitancy)
  • You feel like you’re straining or taking a long time to urinate
  • You’re experiencing a weak flow
  • You feel like your bladder isn’t completely empty once you’ve urinated.

Don’t be tempted to diagnose yourself. Your doctor should investigate these symptoms but – don’t panic – they don’t necessarily mean you have prostate cancer.

2. Is your mate feeling blue? Nothing is more likely to bring a man out in a cold sweat than asking him to talk about his emotions. So how can you spot if your mate’s depressed?

  • Does he seem moody? Men often disguise bigger, personal problems by complaining about life’s little nuisances. If he’s going on and on about the weather or last night’s TV, and if you’re worried about him already, it could be a sign that something deeper is wrong. Don’t try to talk in your local pub if other mates are around.
  • Has his routine changed? Is he missing footy when he used to be on the pitch every Sunday? Has he stopped coming out to the pub or suddenly started going clubbing three times a week? Radical changes in behaviour are often a sign that something’s up.
  • Is he acting strangely? See how he talks to other people. Does he snap at co-workers? Has he suddenly become more shy or more confident? Is he drinking much more than he normally does or sleeping less? What’s his appearance like?

Everybody suffers from these symptoms from time to time, so it’s important not to go to mattresses, as the Godfather would say.

However, if you feel these symptoms are starting to affect your mate’s health it may be time to have a serious conversation. You don’t have to say anything clever or have all the answers, but you do need to listen. Here are some tips for helping a friend through difficult times:

  • Get him talking. The biggest hurdle can be getting on to the subject in the first place. Let your mate know you want to help, but do it in a non-confrontational way.
  • Don’t wade in. Don’t start off by asking him directly what the problem is, whether it’s work or women. You’ll make him defensive.
  • Try a stealth approach instead. Ask him whether he’s OK. Tell him you’ve been a bit worried about him recently. Ask him if you’re able to lend a hand or if he wants to grab a coffee and talk about it.
  • Go somewhere discreet. Don’t try to talk in your local pub if other mates are around. And definitely don’t try to talk seriously if you’ve both had too much to drink.
  • Be a listener not a talker. Ask open-ended questions rather than offering answers. One psychiatrist’s trick is to let the patient do the talking. Ask about how whatever is bothering him started, how the problem has made him feel or if he’s spoken to anyone else about it.
  • The hardest part is remembering not to offer advice. Don’t tell your mate what to do, just ask more questions. It’s the talking that’s the therapy, not anything you suggest. If you start lecturing or judging him, he’ll be defensive. And your advice could be wrong.
  • Keep it serious. It’s tempting to make the situation into a joke because it will help you avoid an awkward conversation. But this isn’t a good time to joke. It might seem like you’re not taking his problems seriously.
  • Make sure you’re OK yourself. Sharing someone else’s troubles can be stressful. Be sure you’re fit enough for the job before you get involved.
  • Don’t overpromise. It’s important not to promise solutions. Instead, let him know you’re there to support him and also check if there’s anyone you can contact for him.

Getting help. If you or the person you’re worried about is expressing suicidal feelings, contact your doctor, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 for confidential support and advice and referral where appropriate.