Boys to men - are you taking care of your health? - Preparing you for the future of work.

Boys to men - are you taking care of your health?

Fortunately many of these can be prevented by making healthier lifestyle choices. Men face different risks during their different life phases and says the biggest health risk for men in their 20s and early 30s is that they think they are invincible. Men in this age group are generally risk-takers. This is the time that they tend to play full contact and adrenalin sports. They may drink a little more than they should and may even engage in casual sexual relationships.

Jordan says this is exactly the time when they need to be pro active, as the health course they set for themselves at this age will give them a grounding for their future.

Heart disease

According to the South African Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer in South Africa. One in three men are estimated to have a heart condition before the age of 60. Lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, stress, smoking and an unhealthy diet can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. This can result in heart disease.

Statistics show that one in 20 men under the age of 40 are already showing signs of heart disease. Doctors have seen an increase within the last 20 years in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease in the 24 to 35 age groups. It's the young, highly-stressed Millenial professionals who are seemingly most at risk.

Heart attack signs to look out for: chest pain; discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; nausea; dizziness or impending sense of doom. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.


According to the Cancer Association, cancer is one of the main health concerns that men face, with one in 23 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer - considered to be the most common form of cancer among South African men. Testicular cancer is responsible for around 1% of all cancers in men and, surprisingly, is one of the most common in men between the ages of 15 and 39. The Association encourages men of all ages to take responsibility for their health. Jordan says regular self-examination and having blood tests can help detect male cancers. To reduce the risk of cancer, the Cancer Association recommends eating smart and making healthy food choices; exercising and managing stress; avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

All cancer survivors should go for regular screenings and follow ups, establish a support system and try and keep positive by finding daily inspiration.

Male menopause

A man's brain is wired completely differently to a woman's, particularly when it comes to emotions. Dr David Powell, president of the International Center for Health Concerns, says men are hardwired differently. The connection between the left brain (home of logic) and the right (seat of emotions) is much greater in women. Testosterone tends to dampen emotions in men, who are better able to compartmentalise and intellectualise and, says Professor Michael Zitsmann, clinical researcher at the Center of Reproductive medicine, testosterone is what keeps a man's brain firing. It is both directly and indirectly required for proper cerebral functioning.

"Testosterone levels and depressive disorders have been associated frequently," he adds. A lack of testosterone can shape a man's overall quality of life, affecting both brain power and basic emotional wellbeing.

This is why the loss of testosterone makes aging a more emotional and vulnerable part of a man's life. The physical, psychological, social and spiritual changes that occur in later life in men are not always understood, which causes a great deal of anxiety.

Signs of male menopause include reduced libido; infertility; decrease in strength and endurance; loss of height and thinning bones; loss of sense of wellbeing, increased feelings of apathy; sadness, anger and irritability; weakened and less spontaneous erections; hot flushes and sweats; increased fatigue; joint aches and stiffness, and anxiety, depression or burnout.

To keep men safe from any of these key health risks, here are some suggestions one can follow:

Routine check-ups

18 to 39 years

Every year: Dental exam.
Every two to three years: Blood pressure, height and weight measurements and a brief physical.
Every five years: Cholesterol check.

40 to 65 years

Every year: physical exam for cancer (skin, thyroid, lymph nodes, prostate and rectum); dental exam.
Every one to two years: Height/weight measurements; blood pressure check; stool sample check for blood; vision and glaucoma check.
Every three to five years: cholesterol check; blood sugar check; sigmoidoscopy after 50 for colon cancer.

Over 65

Every year: Height/weight measurements; blood pressure check; physical exam for cancers (skin, thyroid, lymph nodes, prostate and rectum); stool sample check for blood; dental exam.
Every one to three years: Thyroid hormone check; blood count; cholesterol check; blood sugar check; hearing check; vision and glaucoma check; lab tests or urine sample.
Every three to five years: Sigmoidoscopy for colon cancer.

Peter Jordan is the Principal Officer of Fedhealth.


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