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Now more than ever, men need to start taking their health seriously

17 June 2021 Profmed Medical Scheme

It’s not uncommon for men to ignore their health, especially when they fear coming across as weak and vulnerable.

Factors such as poor lifestyle choices, finances and lack of health literacy have seen more men at risk of illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. The good news is that life expectancy for South African men has increased from 54 years in 2009 to an estimated 61 years in 2020, according to the latest figures from World Bank. It is widely accepted that this is mainly due to advancements made in the treatment of HIV and so there is still room for men to improve their lifespan by further taking interest in their health.

Justine Lacy, Clinical Executive of Profmed Medical Scheme says the Covid-19 pandemic has created in people, a greater awareness of the need for a healthy body and mind. However, conditions such as diabetes, hypertension heart disease and depression, which in many cases are perfectly manageable conditions, may play a role in escalating severe and long-term illness in COVID-19.

Lacy says that women are encouraged to ensure that they pay attention to health checks such as monthly breast self-examination and regular smears, as part of measures to prevent disease or at the least, have this identified early to ensure effective treatment is received. Men do not necessarily receive the same level of encouragement and are more reluctant to go to the doctor for a health check. Educating men is just as important, to create awareness about health issues prevalent in men.

Lacy says that we need to normalise speaking about men's health, as this will remove the stigma that men may experience when seeking advice for health concerns. “Not all men are comfortable discussing symptoms, especially those they find disconcerting. Men need to make their health a priority by ensuring an optimal lifestyle. Regular exercise and cutting down on drinking and smoking, if not eliminating this completely is a good place to start.”

Lacy maps out some of the more common health problems men may experience and the symptoms associated with each of these:

Diabetes
In South Africa, diabetes is the second biggest killer after tuberculosis (StatsSA, 2017 Mortality and Causes of Death in South Africa). However, many men don’t know what the symptoms are, and only seek medical help after they have experienced chronic complications such as kidney disease, impaired pulmonary function or neurological deficits.

“One’s blood sugar should be tested annually or on the advice of your doctor and be aware of increased thirst, frequent hunger, urinating more often and blurred vision which may indicate a problem,” says Lacy.

Heart disease
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, ten people suffer a heart attack, every hour. Unfortunately, not all people experience the same symptoms during an attack. That why it is important to do a checklist to establish to symptoms of a heart attack as stated by the Heart and Stroke foundation.

Prostate cancer
According to CANSA prostate cancer is one of the five biggest cancers affecting South African men. "Prostate cancer is a genuine concern for men over the age of 40, and you should have your prostate examined regularly," reminds Lacy. “Pain during urination or difficulty urinating may be an early symptom of a more serious problem.”

Colon and rectal cancer
It’s the second-most common cause of cancer-related death in South African men, with an incidence of 1 in 75. Related symptoms may be rectal bleeding, changes in bowel movements, pain in the stomach, weakness, and weight loss. Seek medical advice if there is any cause for concern.

Throat and lung cancer
Coming in third, lung cancer affects 1 in 76 SA men. Lung cancer may be prevented by reducing smoking or quitting the habit completely.

Mental and Suicide
In South Africa, men are four times more likely to die from suicide than women, this according to a report published by the World Health Organisation. “Many men have difficulty expressing emotion and don’t do this as openly as women do. Vulnerability in men is frowned upon and as a result, many don’t talk about their feelings and this may cause a cycle of depression,” warns Lacy.

If you are feeling ‘empty’, ‘numb’, hopeless or worthless, Lacy strongly advises that you seek professional help. “Depression is a common mental health disorder that can be treated and managed with therapy and the right medication.”

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms in the medical guidance provided in this article, please be proactive and make an appointment to see your doctor. “Be savvy about your health. Have a health plan and ensure that you work time into your calendar to stay active and connected with your support system. Book those annual preventative checks that Profmed provides benefits for, so that you can live with the comfort of knowing you have a clean bill of health. Regular health screening also accommodates early detection of a deviation from normal in order that treatment can be sought timeously when necessary,” concludes Lacy.

Quick Polls

QUESTION

Healthcare brokers have long complained about inflation-plus medical scheme contribution increases; but pandemic may have changed things. What will pandemic-induced changes in hospital utilisation do to medical scheme contribution increase patterns?

ANSWER

Below inflation increase for 2022, then back to inflation-plus
Long-term trend of below inflation increases
Inflation-linked hikes for 2022, then back to inflation-plus
This is a 2-year hiccup, inflation-plus increase trend remains in place
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