While men are arguably getting better at opening up, the stereotype of the stong silent type persists for some. And experts say it’s getting in the way of them getting health problems treated early.

That could be one of the reasons why, according to the Men’s Health Forum, one man in five in the UK dies before he reaches the age of 65, and the men’s health charity Movember, which tackles three of the biggest health issues affecting men – mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer, says men die on average four-and-a-half years earlier than women, for reasons that are largely preventable.

Sarah Coghlan, Movember’s global director for men’s health promotion, said: “Whether it’s mental or physical, there is a cultural problem rooted in the damaging masculine stereotype that conflates strength with silence, and this can prevent men from presenting for formal healthcare, or from just speaking to trusted friends or family, perpetuating a cycle of undiagnosed and untreated health conditions. Men who take action, look after themselves, and engage with their health, can significantly improve their own lives, shift cultural narratives and positively influence the lives of those they care about.”

To mark Men’s Health Week (MHW June 10-16), a GP and men’s health experts suggest what men can do right now to help protect their health.

Eight things men can do right now for their health

Be more open and seek help if necessary

Movember says three out of four suicides in the UK are by men, and stresses that it’s important men stay in touch with their friends and talk more, as this can really help mental health.

Coghlan says: “Stay connected – spend time with the people who make you feel good. Your mates are important and spending time with them is good for you. Catch up regularly, check in and make time.

“Talk more. You don’t need to be an expert and you don’t have to be the solution, but being there for someone, listening and giving your time can be lifesaving.”

And Dr Niaz Khan, a GP at HCA UK Primary Care, says: “In addition to being open and fostering good communications about emotional wellbeing with trusted friends and family, it’s also advisable to liaise with existing appointments.” This could be cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) appointments, making use of employee assistance programmes, or seeking the support of your manager if your workload has increased, he says.

Make sure your prostate’s OK

Jim Pollard, head of content at the Men’s Health Forum, and author of the new guide, P For Prostate, advises white men aged over 50 and black men aged over 45 to get to know their prostate. “About half of men don’t know where it is or what it does,” he says, “yet prostate cancer is the UK’s most common cancer in men, affecting one in eight white men and one in four black men. Find out more.”

As well as frequently needing to urinate, Khan says reduced urinary stream and blood in the urine are main symptoms to think of in relation to prostatism.

Start eating a healthy diet and keep an eye on your weight

Dr Khan says men should try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day as well as two portions of oily fish per week, and limit salt to 6g per day or less: “Keep a close eye on the intake of dietary saturated fat, and substitute high-calorie snacks with lower calorie and healthy snacks such as fruit.”

And if you need to lose weight (if your body mass index is above 25, or 23 if from an ethnic minority), as well as doing 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week and maintaining 8,000-10,000 steps per day, he suggests a low-calorie diet of approximately 2,000 calories per day. “In most cases, this should lead to a 500 daily calorie deficit, which can help facilitate 1-2lb of weight loss per week.”

Measure your waist

More than two-thirds of UK males are overweight, says Pollard, who explains that the easiest way to check for yourself is to forget BMI and body fat, and simply focus on your waist measurement. “This isn’t your trouser size but the measurement round the widest part, usually round your belly button,” he says.

If the measurement is 37 inches or more, you need to watch your weight, and you’re at increased risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. “Don’t assume you already know whether you’re overweight or not,” he warns. “Most men underestimate how big they really are.”

Check your testicles

Testicular cancer is the number one cancer in young men, although Coghlan says the good news is that if it’s caught early, it’s highly curable. “Get to know what’s normal for your testicles,” she advises. “Give them a check regularly, and go to the doctor if something doesn’t feel right.”

Don’t ignore problems with erections

Increasing numbers of men of all ages are suffering from erectile dysfunction, says Pollard, who points out: “More and more younger men appear to be affected. Of course, we can’t always magic up an erection when we want one – what we’re talking about here are regular problems getting an erection or keeping one.”

He says erection problems can be an early warning sign of many health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety, high cholesterol, low testosterone, excessive drinking or drug use, and addictions. “Don’t just buy tablets, talk to your GP,” Pollard advises. “They’ve heard it all before and it’s a genuine win-win: you’ll get your sex life back and get any underlying conditions sorted.”

Be more active

Being active is essential to prevent and reduce the risks of many diseases, including cancer, and improve physical and mental health – yet Movember says one in four adults isn’t active enough, and in high-income countries like the UK, 41% of men don’t get enough exercise.

It should be relatively easy to add more activity to your day if you’re fairly sedentary at the moment, and Coghlan advises men to do more of what makes them feel good. Try taking a walking meeting, park further away from the station, get off the bus a stop or two earlier, take the stairs instead of the lift, or cycle to work instead of driving or taking public transport.

Book an NHS health check

Pollard suggests that men over 40 should ask their GP for an NHS health check. This is a free check of your overall health and can determine whether you’re at higher risk of certain health problems including heart disease, diabetes and kidney problems

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