Men's Health - Key Risk Areas

The Prostate

The prostate reminds me very much of Kim Kardashian. They're both famous, but no one really knows why. You're more likely to come across the prostate's fame during Movember, the male equivalent of Walk For Life, where you'll see lots of men try and grow moustaches. I say try, because as I've come to appreciate over the last year, this requires a lot of care and affection...yes I did say affection! So what is the prostate and what does it actually do? Well, the prostate is a gland found only in men, it surrounds the urethra and is situated at the base of the bladder. Its main function is in the production of semen. So what, I hear you say, sounds pretty straightforward. Well in some men, it can cause problems. The two important ones are Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) and of course prostate cancer.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)

In some men, the prostate enlarges as they get older. This causes urinary problems, as it narrows the urethra, altering how urine passes through it. Symptoms include an inability to fully empty the bladder, increased urgency and the frequency in which it’s necessary to pass urine, difficulty starting urination and having to get up numerous times at night to go to the toilet.

Treatments include medication to allow more urine to pass through the urethra and to reduce the size of the prostate. Other treatments require minimally invasive surgery to "core-out" a larger passage through the prostate.

Prostate Cancer

Unfortunately, the prostate can sometimes enlarge due to cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.

Risk Factors

  • Men
  • Over 50
  • Black African and black Caribbean origin three times more likely to develop prostate cancer compared to white men
  • Asian and Oriental men have the lowest incidence
  • 5 times more likely to have if father diagnosed, 3.5 times more likely if brother has had it
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Selenium containing foods reduce the risk

The main symptoms of prostatic cancer are similar to those of BPH and therefore should not be ignored. These include: poor flow, hesitancy, frequency, urgency and blood in the urine. Diagnosis is firstly getting a blood test to measure your PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen), to see if this is raised and secondly a digital rectal examination (digital as in finger not as in iphone) as this is the only way a clinician can feel the prostate gland and thirdly a biopsy may need to be taken.

 

Testicular Cancer

Although not very common, testicular cancer if detected early enough, can be treated very well and the vast majority of men suffering can be completely cured. It is mostly common between the ages of 20 and 50. Risk factors are mainly undescended testes (or one that hasn't descended properly). Symptoms include a lump in the scrotum, an enlarged testicle, pain, backache and enlarged breasts. Tests include an ultrasound scan and blood test. Treatment may consist of surgical removal of the affected testicle and/or chemotherapy. So make sure you check your scrotum for lumps, or at least say that's what you're doing if you get caught!

 

Cardiovascular Disease

This is an umbrella term for diseases that affects the arteries of the body and includes heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and peripheral arterial disease. Although cardiovascular disease affects both men and women, the prevalence is higher in men.

Risk Factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Family History
  • Ethnic background

Although a lot of these risk factors may be something you're predisposed to, a healthy lifestyle can certainly reduce the risk of acquiring them, reduce the extent of their effect and some can even be eliminated completely, E.g. Smoking.

A healthy balanced diet, regular exercise and good stress management can go a very long way in preventing cardiovascular disease.

Dietary Key Points:

  • Low in High GI Carbohydrates (think porridge, beans, fruit)
  • High in vegetables and fibre
  • Eliminate trans-fats (bye bye donuts and cookies)
  • Swap out saturated fat for unsaturated where possible (try less butter and more fish, nuts and avocado)
  • Minimise processed and pre-prepared food

Standard Exercise Points:

  • Five times a week
  • 15-20 mins
  • Moderate to High Intensity

This is what I prescribe to my patients as a bare minimum exercise requirement. They are always surprised to hear "five times a week", but equally 15-20 mins is not that difficult to squeeze into even the busiest of schedules. The key however is the "moderate to high intensity" bit. By this, I mean your heart should be racing, you should be sweating and you should be unable to complete a full sentence without taking a breath.

 

Poor "Performance"

AKA - Erectile Dysfunction. This is a problem that many men have, but are usually too embarrassed to discuss. I find that in men under 40 years of age, the cause is nearly always psychological: either stress, low mood, depression or anxiety. In men over 40, although a lot of time the reason is psychological it may also be cardiovascular disease and is definitely more prevalent in men with diabetes. Either way, don't be afraid to speak to your doctor about it, as they will be able to help and provide advice.

For more information you can visit NHS Choices or patient.co.uk

 

This blog is written by friend of Neat, Dr Nick Ambatzis MB BS, MSc (SEM), MRCGP.

Nick is a General Practitioner specialising in Sports and Exercise Medicine. He completed his medical degree at University College London Medical School in 2002. Nick worked for almost ten years as a junior surgeon and spent three years in Trauma & Orthopaedics. He attained a Masters in Sports and Exercise Medicine and subsequently trained as a GP practising in Paddington.

From an early age, Nick has been both a keen cross-country runner and water-polo player, having competed at college level. Nick is also an accomplished ultra-marathon runner, having competed in many cross-country and cross-alpine races, ranging from 50-100 miles. He has also been a Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance coach.