This week is Men’s Health Week.
Men's Health Week is all about promoting boys' and men's health and wellbeing by encouraging communities across Australia to reach out to men, boys and their families through education, activities, events and promotions.
So, why do we need a men’s health week?
Well, men have a set of unique challenges and issues when it comes to health. There are biological and genetic difference to women as well as the cultural and behavioural factors that affect health.
Men are more generally more likely to engage in riskier behaviour and less likely to seek professional health advice. These are among the reasons that in Australia men live on average of 5 years less than women. From before birth through every stage of life, men are more likely to die than women.
Men and heart disease
The genetic differences between men and women and the role this plays in heart disease prevalence are still be studied in the science world, including at the Heart Research Institute.
What we do know, is that many of the modifiable causes and behaviours that lead to heart disease and related illnesses are particularly prevalent in men.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, men:
- Are more likely to be current smokers
- Are more likely to be overweight or obese
- Are more likely to drink at levels considered risky
- Start drinking at an earlier age than women on overage
- Are less likely to eat the recommended fruit and vegetable allowance
- Are more likely to eat high calorie foods
- Are less likely to visit a GP
- Are less likely to discuss their health problem with a professional
But it's not all bad news!
While these statistics outline a challenge to men in relation to heart disease (and health in general) the good news is that it is possible to change these behaviours. By educating men on the effects of their lifestyle and the positive changes they can make, it is possible to reduce the risks that men take and improve their overall health outcomes.
Men at risk
While men are generally considered to have worse health outcomes, for a wide range of reasons there are groups of men whose outcomes are generally worse still.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who experience and die from cardiovascular disease at much higher rates than other Australians. In 2012-13, 11% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males reported having heart disease. Unfortunately, that rate is even higher among women (13%). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas are also significantly more likely than those in non-remote areas to have reported having heart disease (17% compared with 11%).
Men of South Asian origin
While research continues, it does appear that men of South Asian origin do tend to be at heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, particular premature coronary heart disease.
Men in rural and regional areas
People living outside our cities have worse health care outcomes, and generally the more remote you are the worse your health is. One in four people living in regional and rural areas is suffering from cardiovascular disease compared with one in five metropolitan areas. These differences are largely preventable, resulting from unequal access to medical care, good quality affordable food, and community networks and supports.
It has generally been acknowledged that prisoners have relatively poor health outcomes when compared with others. With men making up the vast majority of prisoners (93%) in Australia, this is an area of health that affects men greatly.
Migrants from foreign cultures, particularly those with poor English have particular difficulty accessing Australian health services. There may be a lack of knowledge about available services, communication barriers arising from language differences, varying cultural attitudes to health and interaction as well as a minimal knowledge about the health-care system in Australia.
Men with disabilities
A number of barriers prevent people with disabilities from accessing timely and effective health care. There are physical and organisational barriers, including inadequate transportation, failure to provide assistance with communication and discriminatory attitudes among healthcare staff.
Doctors say, in general, the three most commonly reported symptoms when men have a heart attack are:
- Chest pain
- Chest discomfort
- Chest pressure
However, that same study found that 10 percent of men experienced no chest pain at all. And diabetics can have heart attacks without feeling pain.