This time of year around the Father's Day weekend has become a time for men to reflect on their health. Men's Health Week was actually last week but here at Nottingham Trent University we are taking additional time to reflect on the issues surrounding men's health and encourage staff and students to take up new challenges, try out different sports and activities and make changes to their lifestyle that will help them to live longer.
Part of my role as Head of Fundraising for the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre is raising awareness, not just of the amazing work being done at the centre, but also of this incredibly complex disease. We know that a few changes to lifestyle can not only help the body's capability in preventing cancer developing, but when it does sneak through the body's defences, that change can also increase a patient's chances of combating the disease in the longer term.
The immune system is adept at spotting the subtle anomalies in cell formation, abnormal cells are being destroyed daily, however we know that its effectiveness is reduced if our immunity is compromised by poor diet, lack of regular exercise, and other factors like stress, smoking and excessive alcohol.
We all know the theory and long before I began to work in the sector, I tried to have a balanced diet, occasional no alcohol days, early to bed on a 'school night' etc - but even when the spirit is willing, more often than not the flesh is weak. I am very much an impulsive live for today person by nature so my dichotomy is maintaining a healthier lifestyle so I can live longer to enjoy saying yes to everything! As for my husband, well don't let's go there: a typical male, he finds it hard to ask for directions or help with finding a shirt in his size in the clothing department, so he is definitely not going to find it easy to ask his doctor what the problem is because he is feeling 'under the weather' - even if he does adopt the 'man-flu' approach at home, where clearly he is dying and needs his every whim attending to.
In the developed world we take this particular difference between the sexes as standard and it is much parodied in the media. But there is a serious side to it; men are far less likely to visit the doctor with a new ailment, preferring to ignore it. The majority of men feel unable to discuss health issues with anyone else, even their own partner or spouse. So invariably a serious illness can take longer to be diagnosed and this leads to higher rates of mortality and at a younger age than is necessary.
This is especially true for cancers, which can often be treated if detected early enough, even something like Prostate Cancer which is still killing 11-12,000 men annually in the UK alone. Worse than that, the aggressive (Tiger) Prostate Cancer can develop in men from the African -Caribbean population as early as their mid 30's, at an age when the last thing they are thinking about is going to the doctor to ask for a PSA test.
So all menfolk out there, if you didn't get round to it last week, ask yourselves - is there something I could do this week to help my health? Your loved ones will thank you for it.... Trust me!