Men’s health

In general, New Zealand men live on average four years less than women, and yet still remain much less likely to talk to a GP about their health. Maori and Pacific men have even shorter life expectancy.

Men in NZ are not in great shape: 6 out of 10 New Zealand males are overweight, nearly one in four smoke (again, much higher for Maori men and women) and 40 are diagnosed each day as having diabetes.

Men’s health is something that needs to be talked about. If you have any concerns about your health, come in and see one of our friendly, approachable doctors today.


Heart disease

Heart disease is the biggest killer in New Zealand, and accounts for one third of all deaths each year. 1 in 5 men will die from a heart attack.

Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. It can be caused by correctable problems, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking.

Risk factors for developing heart disease include:

  • Age. Aging increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle.
  • Sex. Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease.
  • Family history. A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease
  • Smoking. Heart attacks are more common in smokers than in non-smokers as nicotine constricts your blood vessels.
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Poor diet. A diet that’s high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol can contribute to the development of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood flows.
  • High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.
  • Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise also is associated with many forms of heart disease and some of its other risk factors, as well.
  • Stress. Unrelieved stress may damage your arteries and worsen other risk factors for heart disease.
  • Poor hygiene. Not regularly washing your hands and not establishing other habits that can help prevent viral or bacterial infections can put you at risk of heart infections.

Heart attacks

Our heart muscle needs oxygen to keep working. It gets oxygen in blood that is pumped to the heart through the arteries. A heart attack happens when arteries become blocked, stopping oxygen from reaching parts of the heart. An artery spasm from smoking or drug taking can also interrupt the blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack. Minutes later, parts of the heart start to die. The sooner the blocked artery can be opened and the blood flow restored, the better our chances of survival.

Who gets them?

Heart attacks are rare in men under 45 (although it’s rising for that age group), and chances of having a heart attack increase as you get older.

People who are overweight, smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or have diabetes are more at risk of a heart attack.

Heart attack risk can run in your family. So, if someone in your immediate family has had a heart attack, then your chances on having one are higher.

A heart attack is a life-threatening medical emergency. People need to be aware of the symptoms and call 111 immediately;

Symptoms can include: chest discomfort lasting 10 minutes or more; pain that spreads to the jaw, shoulders or back; excessive sweating; shortness of breath; and nausea.

Anyone who thinks they are having a heart attack should immediately stop what they are doing and call 111 for an ambulance or ask someone to do it for them.

Any delay in calling an ambulance can increase the risk of death or permanent damage to the heart. Staunching it out won’t cure you.

How to reduce your risk of heart disease:

More information

For more information on heart disease and heart attacks in New Zealand, including how to reduce your risk, visit the Heart Foundation here.


Testicular cancer

Cancer that develops in a testicle is called testicular cancer. When testicular cancer spreads, the cancer cells are carried by blood or by lymph, an almost colourless fluid produced by tissues all over the body. The fluid passes through lymph nodes, which filter out bacteria and other abnormal substances such as cancer cells.

How to examine your testicles

To do a testicular self-exam, stand unclothed in front of a mirror. Then:

  • Look for swelling. Hold your penis out of the way and examine the skin of the scrotum.
  • Examine each testicle. Using both hands, place your index and middle fingers under the testicle and your thumbs on top.
  • Gently roll the testicle between your thumbs and fingers. Look and feel for any changes to your testicle. These could include hard lumps, smooth rounded bumps, or new changes in the size, shape or consistency of the testicle.

While you’re doing the testicular self-exam, you might notice a few things about your testicles, such as bumps on the skin of your scrotum, that seem unusual but aren’t signs of cancer. Ingrown hairs, a rash or other skin problems can cause bumps on the skin.

You might also feel a soft, ropy cord, which is a normal part of the scrotum called the epididymis. It leads upward from the top of the back part of each testicle.

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?

  • A lump in either testicle
  • Any enlargement of a testicle
  • A significant shrinking of a testicle
  • A change in the consistency of a testicle (hardness)
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts

See your doctor if you have:

  • a lump in your testicles – this can be a sign of testicular cancer. It is easier to treat if it’s found early
  • red or swollen testicles
  • a change in the shape or feel of your testicles
  • ongoing aching, pain or discomfort in your testicles.

What happens at my GP appointment?

To find out what is causing your testicular lump or swelling, your doctor may:

  • look at and feel your testicles
  • shine a light through the skin of your scrotum, to check for fluid build-up and see the size and location of any lump
  • request a urine sample and/or blood test
  • refer you to have an ultrasound scan. This is a painless test that uses sound waves to create images of organs and structures inside your body.

What is the treatment for testicular lumps and swelling?

The treatment will depend on the cause:

  • If there is a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • Viral infections, like mumps, are usually treated with rest, ice and pain relief medication.
  • Non-cancerous lumps might be left untreated or surgically removed, repaired or drained.
  • Testicular cancer requires urgent treatment. This may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
  • Your doctor will discuss your diagnosis and any treatment required with you.

More information

For more information on the symptoms and treatment of testicular cancer, visit Testicular Cancer New Zealand here.


Prostate cancer

In New Zealand, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, around 3,000 registrations each year and about 600 deaths from prostate cancer each year.

Men who develop prostate cancer are mostly over the age of 65. It rarely occurs in men younger than 55. About one in 13 men will develop prostate cancer before the age of 75. In very elderly men, prostate cancer often grows very slowly and may cause no symptoms.

Symptoms of prostate problems

Many men begin to have problems with their prostate as they get older. Most problems are caused by simple enlargement of the prostate, but a few are caused by cancer. To get checked for prostate cancer consult with your GP.

Usually the first sign of trouble is with passing urine. A man may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • trouble getting the flow of urine started, especially if in a hurry
  • trouble stopping the flow of urine (“dribbling”)
  • the stream of urine is weak, or it stops and starts
  • needing urgently to pass urine at any time
  • feeling a need to pass urine more often during the day, even though not much comes out
  • getting up at night to pass urine more than once
  • pain and/or burning when passing urine; this may be a sign of infection

More information

For more information on the symptoms and treatment of testicular cancer, visit Prostate Cancer Foundation New Zealand here.


Erection troubles

Having occasional trouble getting an erection or keeping an erection hard is nothing to worry about. Sometimes our trouble is caused by tiredness, alcohol, or mood.

But having erection troubles more than 50% of the time is a sign there’s a problem that needs treatment.

The most common reason for erection trouble is poor blood flow to the penis. This is most often a result of damaged arteries caused by heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Being unable to get an erection
  • Only getting soft or partial erections
  • Losing hardness sooner than normal
  • No morning erections

Getting tested

It is important for your health, and for the health of your relationship that you seek help and advice from a doctor. The Doctors at the Silverstream Health Centre deal with this stuff every day, so there’s no need to be embarrassed.

The longer you let it go on, the more strain it will place on you and your partner. Talk openly with your doctor about it so they can identify what’s causing your erection troubles and prescribe the correct treatment.

More information

For more information on symptoms, causes and treatment, click here.


High cholesterol

25% of men over 55 have high cholesterol.

What is it?

Cholesterol is a type of fat that helps our organs and cells function. Our livers naturally make all the cholesterol we need, but we get extra cholesterol from eating certain foods like butter, pies, some meats, processed foods, and fried foods. This extra cholesterol goes straight into our bloodstream and too much of it can block our arteries and cause a heart attack or stroke.

How to lower your cholesterol

Making healthy changes to your lifestyle will help you manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. Your doctor may suggest medications as an option that can lower your cholesterol and risk of heart attack and stroke.

The thought of making changes may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that even a small change can have a positive impact. You can choose to work on as many or as few risk factors as you would like. The more you change, the better the result.

  • Quit smoking
  • Move more
  • Eat and drink for a healthy heart
  • Reach a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Take medications

More information

For more information on how to manage high cholesterol, click here.


High blood pressure

By the age of 55, one in three men will be taking medication for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called Hypertension. It can cause your blood vessels to harden and narrow, and increase your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.

Your blood pressure is the pressure at which your heart pumps blood around your body. Your blood pressure reading is made up of two measurements: the pressure when your heart is pumping, and the pressure when it’s resting.

It is normal for your blood pressure to vary during the day. It might be higher after exercise for example or after taking some medications. But if it doesn’t return to normal after a short time, then you may have a problem.


Hair loss

Historically, a full head of luscious locks has been associated with strength, power, virility and youth. So if you’re starting to notice bald spots or a thinning crown, it might serve as something of a blow to your masculinity. But why exactly do many men go bald?

Factors in balding

There are three factors that play a crucial part in the speed and progress of a balding scalp – genetics, age and androgens. Androgens are male sex hormones like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.

A huge number of men will experience some degree of baldness – it’s estimated around 70% of men will see some form of male pattern baldness over the course of their lifetime. The three factors – age, genetics and male sex hormones – interact with each other to create conditions that make it difficult for hair to regrow, eventually leading to a balding scalp.

Hormones, DHT and baldness

According to scientists, androgens are always involved in the progression of hereditary hair loss – especially dihydrotestosterone. Also known as DHT, this distant cousin of testosterone attacks hair follicles and shortens the hair cycle very gradually.

With a shorter hair cycle, each strand spends less time in the ‘growing’ phrase before it falls out. This means that hair will become thinner and shorter, and might even begin to lose some of its pigment. Eventually the follicle shuts down and can’t produce any new hair at all – which is what leads to balding in men. Over time testosterone breaks down into DHT – and if your genetics dictate that you’re particularly sensitive to this hormone, you could start to see male pattern baldness or general balding much earlier in your life.

Treatments

There are treatments available for balding and hereditary hair loss – book an appointment with your Silverstream Health Center GP to discuss your options.


Weight loss and exercise

Keeping your weight within a healthy range isn’t just about living longer, it’s also about your quality of life – or how well you feel. For more information on calculating your ideal weight and how to lose weight, click here.