Throughout the world, women live longer than men, and this gap varies tremendously in less developed countries
According to the CIA World Factbook, in Bangladesh, the average life expectancy for women is 76.5 years and 72 years for men - a four-and-a-half-year gap. When it comes to their health, many men have the mindset of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!” - so unless there are clear indications of them falling sick or being unwell, they will think there is nothing wrong. A majority of men are just not aware of what they can do to improve their health and live healthier and happier lives.
An internationally recognized campaign Movember was established by the International Movember Foundation and is observed annually during the month of November. It is the leading global organization committed to changing the face of men’s health. Every November, men around the world grow a mustache and women step up to support them, to raise awareness and funds for men’s health-specifically problems, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention.
Men around the world and in Bangladesh suffer from a number of health conditions that often lead to fatality:
Stroke (Hemorrhagic and Ischemic): This is the number one cause of death in men in Bangladesh. Controlling blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, cholesterol level, cessation of smoking, regular physical activity, can help to reduce the risk of stroke.
Heart Disease: This is also one of the leading causes of death in men in Bangladesh. Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, eating foods low in sodium and Tran’s fat, exercising often, and not smoking, can all significantly lower the chances of heart disease.
Diabetes Mellitus: Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in men. To reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes - check your risk of diabetes, manage your weight, exercise regularly, eat a balanced, healthy diet, limit takeaway and processed-foods, quit smoking, and control your blood pressure.
Mental Health: While mental health has always been a big taboo and mostly ignored in Bangladesh, particularly among men, about 16.8% of men in Bangladesh report poor mental health. This leads to most not seeking help, often even in dire conditions. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, it is important to talk to a professional counselor or psychotherapist.
In Bangladesh, 12.9% of men are at risk of developing cancer and 10% are at risk of dying before the age of 75 years. Some common cancers seen in men are:
Lung Cancer: 11.1% of men in Bangladesh suffer from lung cancer. Lung-cancer is one of the most common cancers in men and diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is fatal to men. The main symptoms of lung cancer include:
● a cough that doesn’t go away after 2 or 3 weeks
● a long-standing cough that gets worse
● Chest infections that keep coming back
● coughing up blood
● An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
● Persistent breathlessness
● Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
● Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
Keep your lungs breathing better - toss tobacco, avoid secondhand smoke, and watch out for irritants like air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust.
Prostate Cancer: This is the second most common cancer in men in Bangladesh. About 13.5% of men have prostate cancer with a 6.7% mortality rate. Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis. When this happens, you may notice things like:
● an increased need to pee
● straining while you pee
● a feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied
The best way to prevent it is by getting screened. Talk to your doctors to see if you should get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening.
Testicular Cancer: Although this is not very common, testicular cancer is seen increasing in young men. Typical symptoms are a painless swelling or lump in 1 of the testicles, or any change in shape or texture of the testicles. Testicular cancer can also cause other symptoms, including:
● an increase in the firmness of a testicle
● a difference in appearance between 1 testicle and the other
● a dull ache or sharp pain in your testicles or scrotum, which may come and go
● a feeling of heaviness in your scrotum
The best way to prevent testicular cancer is to learn how to do self-examination and knowing risk factors such as family history, race, and ethnicity.
For men starting at the age of 20 and beyond, the best things you can do to promote a long, healthy life are:
● Get an annual physical exam by your primary care provider, including blood pressure, and height/weight checks
● annually screen for testicular cancer that includes monthly self-exams
● Have cholesterol tested every six months
● Screen for diabetes, thyroid disease, liver problems, and anemia
● Depending on risk factors, screen for skin cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV infection, and alcohol and drug misuse
● At 30, screen for coronary heart disease, especially with a strong family history of the disease and/or risk factors
● At 40, screen for thyroid disease, liver problems, anemia, and prostate cancer
● At 50, screen for cholesterol every six months; annually screen for Type II diabetes; lipid disorders; and skin, colon, and lung cancer.
● At 60, screen for depression, osteoporosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.
● At 70, depending on previous findings, some screenings may be done every six months.
For all men, regardless of your age, the following is recommended:
● Laughter increases endorphins, thereby increasing longevity. Get a sense of humor and engage with others with whom you can laugh.
● Don’t become a workaholic; it increases stress and can lead to health concerns such as hypertension and weight gain. Get a hobby that helps you decrease stress, exercise in the manner you prefer, and seek help with diet to maintain a desirable weight.
● Avoid illicit drug use and high alcohol consumption
● If sexually active, get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections. You might think you are safe if you engage in sexual activity with only one person, but that person might be having sexual relations with others, a concept called serial monogamy.
Everyone needs immunizations to stay healthy, no matter their age. Even if you were vaccinated as a child, you may need updates because immunity can fade with time. Vaccine recommendations are based on a range of factors, including age, overall health, and medical history. You can get your vaccine shots you want at Praava or talk to your family doctor via video consultation about the recommended vaccinations.
Let’s raise more awareness this November about men’s health and encourage the men in our lives to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
The author is a Family Doctor at Praava Health