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Updated 02 June 2014

Men's health: staying on top of your game

Hiding your head in the sand is not going to protect you from any potential health problems in the future. Here's what you need to know.

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June is Men's Health Month. Why is it that men are so stubborn when it comes to their health? We're all busy and no-one likes to think about illness, but not paying attention to our well-being can come at a high price.

A survey has shown that men are twice as likely as women to avoid going to the doctor, even if they are feeling ill. It has also found that most men don't do self-examinations and have no idea what their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are. Sound familiar?

Hiding your head in the sand is not going to protect you from any potential health problems in the future. However, being proactive by following a healthy lifestyle and going for regular check-ups can make all the difference. With early diagnosis, many illnesses (including testicular and prostate cancer) can be treated with great success.

Boost your health and increase your longevity by making the following lifestyle changes:

Get enough sleep.
Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Too little sleep has been associated with a number of chronic conditions. 

Stop smoking. It's never too late. Quitting smoking immediately improves your health and lowers your risk of heart disease, lung disease and cancer.

Get moving. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Combine aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking, running or swimming) with moderate weight training for a complete workout. If you have not been exercising for a while, visit your GP first for a check-up.

Eat healthily. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and limit your intake of sugar, salt, fat and alcohol. If you are overweight, shed the extra kilos by increasing your energy output (exercising more) and reducing your energy intake (eating less). Obesity has been linked to a number of diseases including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Manage stress. We all need a certain amount of stress to motivate and help us achieve our goals. When it gets out of hand, though, it can have a serious impact on our health. Make time to relax, connect with your family and friends and stay active.

Check your family medical history. Many medical conditions including heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease have been shown to be passed down through families. Some diseases also have ethnic roots. Knowing your risks can help you to manage and possibly avoid health problems later in life.

Know your numbers. Have your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels tested at least once a year. Hypertension and high cholesterol can easily go unnoticed as there are initially no symptoms.

Do a self-exam. Check your testicles every month to make sure there are no unusual lumps or bumps. If you do find a lump or swelling, have your doctor check it out, as it could be a first sign of testicular cancer. Don't panic! Testicular cancer is almost always curable if it is caught and treated early.

Go for a prostate screening. Once you turn 50, go for a PSA blood test and/or a rectal exam every two years. Black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should get tested from the age of 40 as they have a higher risk of prostate cancer. Don't delay; the momentary discomfort or embarrassment is totally worth the health and peace of mind in the long run.

 - (Photo of healthy man from Shutterstock)

 
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