Men's Health Week
"Prevent and Protect: if you won’t do it for yourself, then do it for those who love you." Dr Duncan Jefferson
I remember walking through a Cemetery in France that commemorated the British troops who died in the D Day landings. We were the only people there on a glorious sunny morning: it was so beautiful and so sad at the same time. Many of the headstones had messages from loved ones and one stuck in my mind. It was on the gravestone of a 27 year old member of the Gordon Highlanders and said, “My Darling, thank you for so much happiness, I will always love you”, and his wife’s name was written below.
If we men realized how precious we are in the lives of those around us - wives, children, parents, friends and workmates then perhaps more of us might take better care of ourselves. No matter how old or how young men are, we do impact on the lives of others and it should be for the better and not for the worse. And if we don’t take care of ourselves, then how can we possibly hope to take care of others!
Good, healthy habits are created in the early years. Our sons are our future and we should aim to “skill” them with habits and ideals that will help them face the future in the best possible way, and that means creating an environment where they learn how to eat good food and cope with life’s normal stresses and strains without resorting to bullying or violence. And this all starts in the home. Parents will be in the “front line” but extended family have their part to play too when marriages breakdown or when teenage years create impossible tensions between parent and child. If a young man learns to cope with stress and distress at an early age, it will save him a world of suffering later on in his life.
Growing young men will tend to rebel and will tend to take risks and perhaps not all of this is an “unhealthy” thing: these traits can develop into positive habits that could lead to greater things, but this will only happen with an environment of support and encouragement - and not constant criticism and power struggles. One of the areas that these maturing men need guidance with is in the use/abuse of alcohol - an area where we men have notoriously let ourselves down! A mantra we should perhaps pass on to young men is that “One is fun, more is a bore” in order to counter the pervasive culture of binge drinking that sadly has now spread to young women too.
Being drunk and vomiting is not only “Boring” but potentially lethal too, and this needs to be “caught and taught” in the home environment. So Dads need to lead if we are to roll back this awful tradition of drinking till drunk. The same can be said of smoking too. Even though we should take great pride in the fact that we have greatly reduced the rate of smoking in our community, there are still too many young people smoking. Disturbingly, there seems to be a Hollywood trend of more and more actors smoking in the latest films - perhaps these films should come with health warnings and plain packaging too!
But as our young men mature and accept responsibility for their own behaviour, it’s good to encourage them with positive health messages and to create a positive environment so that they can improve their own fitness and wellbeing - and the recent HBF Run for a Reason is one such great idea.
If the ideal circumstances have prevailed, then what was the little boy will have grown up to manhood having reduced the risks of developing environmentally related health problems to an absolute minimum: and by “health problems” I mean many Cancers, most cases of Type II Diabetes and many Heart attacks too. Added to this list would be the enormous reduction in alcohol related issues such as domestic violence and other drug dependent problems that often ensue from alcohol abuse, such as road trauma and suicide.
Assuming that a man arrives healthily in his 40’s, the time will have arrived when he needs to accept that things will go wrong with his body and yet many of these problems can be picked up early and can be managed in such a way as to minimize their effect on longevity. Here one should think of:
Heart related issues: cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.
Vision: we often forget our eyes but Glaucoma and Macular Degeneration can be checked for and managed well before blindness literally “turns the lights out”.
Skin: Older men tend to neglect their skin and not use sun-protection as well as our female companions. Skin cancers can still disfigure if left too long.
Arthritis and Posture: Although exercise is one of the best things we can do for ourselves incorrect usage of a joint can lead to early arthritis, so get painful joints checked early. Today we spend so much time in front of “screens” we often forget our posture and that can lead to arthritis of the spine - and you definitely don’t want that!
There are other areas to consider too and the best placed person to help you with your ongoing reviews is your family Doctor.
Prevent and Protect: if you won’t do it for yourself, then do it for those who love you.
The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.