Awareness and men’s approach

Getting men talking about their health

In this article, Mel Lacey, one of the Blue Ribbon Foundation’s founders, talks about how men often fail to take care of themselves, and how the Blue Ribbon Foundation aims to change this culture.

It seems to be a sad fact of life that men, unlike women, are less willing to monitor their own health, take note of changes or potential problems and then discuss those issues with doctors or medical advisors. Perhaps there is a belief that if signs and symptoms are ignored, they will go away. Or maybe some consider it is not macho to keep bothering GPs about little aches, pains, lumps and bumps. This thought process can be worse if a man’s concerns are about his private parts and how they are working – or not working as the case may be. Ignoring developing problems in this area, as well as other parts of the body, can become very serious.

One example is prostate cancer.  “It’s ok, it is only prostate cancer, they can treat that very easily these days” is a common misconception. It is true that the treatments for this disease are improving all the time and, when caught early enough, the success rate is very good indeed – but we need to help more men to catch it early enough!

Every year in the UK, there are more than 40,000 men diagnosed with this particular disease, and more than 10,000 of men die from it. The sad thing is, many of those deaths could have been avoided – though prostate cancer can often have no symptoms, there are risk factors that men should be aware of, as outlined in our information pages.  Worse yet, men who do have symptoms and ignore pain in the genitals, peeing and erection problems, or passing blood in the urine may be dramatically shortening their lives.

There are many other conditions, both specific to men and more general, that men either do not know about, or fail to take action on.  While many men look after their health and wellbeing, there are many of us who ignore established health wisdom about eating healthily, not drinking too much, and staying active, leaving ourselves open to a myriad of conditions including heart disease, stroke and cancers.

Don’t believe me?  Check out these important, but worrying male health facts:

  • Men are much more likely to die for potentially avoidable causes than woman – for example, 28% of men die from avoidable conditions like heart disease compared with 17% of women in England and Wales
  • Coronary heart disease kills far more men than women (1 in 6 men, compared with 1 in 10 women), and on average men develop it 7-10 years earlier.
  • One-third of men in England do not achieve recommended levels of physical activity.
  • Men are more likely than women to drink alcohol above recommended levels, smoke cigarettes and eat a poor diet.  More than a third of men drink over the recommended alcohol limit.
  • The proportion of men who are overweight (including obese) is 65% in England, compared to 58% of women.  Just under a quarter of men are obese, which is associated with a whole range of health problems.
  • Men visit their GP far less frequently than women – some research suggests men go only half as often as women.

All of these problems can be improved!

We feel the solution is two-fold – raising men’s awareness of health conditions, risks and symptoms, and encouraging them to take positive action about them. Working with other charities and providing links to their sources of information, we aim to make the Blue Ribbon a rallying point for male health problems and a first step for men to get the positive push they need!

So, come on men, women, wives, partners, family and friends, we are all in this together! Let’s all do our bit to improve these statistics. Ignoring any health concerns of any individual, male or female, can have a devastating effect on lots of people. Burying heads in the sand and hoping things will improve by themselves is not an option!