It’s men’s health week, to raise awareness and encourage men to take care of their health, seek help when they need it and pay attention to their needs - as much as they do the rest of their family members and friends. And after the last few years of a pandemic, where the health concerns may have been pushed onto the back burner, it’s so important to check back in with your health - so go get your MOT with your GP.
Covid upheaved our lives for what maybe felt like an eternity, and while it’s by no means gone, we are beginning to live alongside it. But to do this we need to do our best to maintain good health, both physically and mentally. Leading a healthy lifestyle will keep our health in check, but of course we can’t prevent everything so it’s important to seek help when something’s askew - or even before!
During the pandemic, other medical conditions, illnesses, and mental health concerns have been overlooked. We all know how much pressure the NHS has been under, and the effects are still present, so many of us have overlooked our own health, be it milder or more serious.
Early stage cancer diagnoses fell by a third in the first lockdown and that shortfall has continued, it’s thought that around 50,000 men have missed a cancer diagnosis during the pandemic. For example prostate cancer diagnoses were down 29% between 2019 and 2020 - not because it’s getting rarer (sadly) but because men weren’t seeing their GPs, and male GP visits fell more than female visits. Meanwhile, NHS health checks - usually offered to most people over 40 - were paused too, and if you didn’t know, they’re back on since April 2022.
So if you missed a health check, didn’t make an appointment to not put more pressure on the NHS, or ignored anything unusual it was totally understandable for the time. But not anymore, it’s time to make that appointment!
MOT for your health
Men’s Health Forum are encouraging the DIY Man MOT - a quick, easy health check you can do from home. It’s a series of tests to check in with yourself, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the GP or professionals. So what are we looking for?
Test 1: Check in with your heart
Find your pulse and work out your resting heart rate, this is a good guide to the efficiency of our heart. If you’re an athletic man, you likely check this regularly anyway - how low can you go? But if not, there’s more information on their website, or alternatively the NHS heart age tool.
Test 2: Are you overloaded?
A potentially sensitive topic - particularly post-lockdown where many of us saw some extra pounds around the waist (totally ok and again, understandable). But we do know that being overweight can increase your risk of health issues and complications. A simple way to check your risk levels, without considering your height, is to measure your waistline. Again, you can find out more on their website, and they’ve got some useful tools for weight management to check out too!
Test 3: Lookout for dashboard ‘warning lights’
“Check yourself before you wreck yourself” is such a logical term. Keep an eye on your body so you can notice changes, new moles, strange lumps, a pesky persistent cough, pains, different bowel habits, blood where it shouldn’t be. The slightly more gory details, and get them checked out if you are worried.
Test 4: Wobbly gear stick?
Yes, it’s a euphemism, and we don’t want to be awkward or anything but problems ‘down there’ are common and nothing to be ashamed of. Every once in a while is nothing to worry about, but if it becomes regular speak to your GP. It’s not just our sex lives that take the hit, erectile dysfunction can be early signs of a number of serious health problems including heart disease, diabetes and depression.
Test 5: Check the water
Changes in urination, frequency or how easy it is to go, can be a warning sign. Now with age, these things naturally get challenged, like having to get up in the night more often. But they can also be signs of more serious issues, so don’t use it as an excuse to fulfil your dream of ‘grumpy old man’ - be grumpy either way - but get it checked!
Test 6: Day-to-day performance
How are you feeling? How are you really feeling? The pressure for men to be ok is not ok, because we all face challenges, difficult life events, stress… you get the picture. So it’s totally ok not to be feeling ok all the time, or even for a period of time. It’s not ok to ignore it though or pretend you’re ok. Speak to a professional if things are feeling difficult or you find yourself struggling.
Test 7: Check your pressure
Yep, just like your tires, get your blood pressure checked. Pop to your GP, or even grab a home-tester (they’re a little less accurate but a good indicator). High blood pressure causes a number of issues and can increase the risk of other issues developing so don’t ignore it.
Last but not least: oh balls!
Remember to frequently check your testicles too, give ‘em a good look and maybe a squish around, or go to your GP if you prefer. But don’t forget as it’s important for those early diagnoses and can be life saving - while you're at it, remind your mates (maybe not literally though).
Too many men: we don’t need more girls here, but we need to encourage our men, as partners, sisters, mother’s, colleagues, mates to check in with themselves physically and mentally. Men, remind yourselves, your colleagues, your mates, brothers, fathers, sons. It is so important to take care of our health, now more than ever as so many have missed routine check ups, and ignored concerns during the pandemic. Don’t just book an MOT for your car, lads.