Know Risk is a community education program designed by the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) to improve our understanding of insurance and how it relates to managing the many risks we all face in life.
Seven health risks for men
Did you know that men in Australia and New Zealand are more likely than women to become seriously ill from health problems?
If you asked most people what they thought the biggest health risk to men was, most would say prostate cancer, and with good reason. As one of the biggest killers of men in Australia and New Zealand a lot of work has been put into raising awareness of the illness through initiatives such as Movember but did you know that there are even deadlier things than prostate cancer?
Recent studies have shown that while awareness of men’s health issues is improving most men still don’t get regular check-ups or seek proper medical advice for illnesses they may already have or may be at risk of developing.
So what are the health risks men need to be aware of?
1 Heart disease
According to the Heart Foundation, almost 100 Australian men have a heart attack every day, and more worryingly, one in seven of them will die. Heart disease, which is the underlying cause of heart attacks, comes in many forms, all of which can be serious.
Unfortunately many men don’t realise they have heart disease until they have a heart attack, which often is too late.
If you’re over 45 make sure you talk to your doctor about assessing your risk of heart attack. Even if you don’t have heart disease it’s important to learn the warning signs of a heart attack in case you or someone close to you is experiencing one. There are things you can do reduce the risk of heart diseases and heart attacks such as:
- quitting or not smoking
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- exercising regularly
- controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
2 Lung Cancer
While lung cancer is only the fourth most diagnosed cancer for men, it has a higher mortality rate than any other cancer. Research shows that as of 2012, lung cancer accounted for almost 20 per cent of cancer related illness in men.
Despite smoking being the chief cause of lung cancer, a high percentage of sufferers develop lung cancer through exposure to secondhand smoke, environmental and occupational hazards such as asbestos or radon, or are simply more genetically disposed.
Lung cancer is more prevalent in men than women and around 13 per cent of men affected won’t survive.
Find out more about lung cancer from Cancer Australia.
While strokes are traditionally considered an illness affecting the elderly, younger men are becoming increasingly at risk. According to recent statistics, one in four men from the age of 45 onwards is likely to suffer from a stroke or brain haemorrhage.
Strokes generally happen in two ways, from either a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain or a blood vessel in the brain rupturing.
Factors that cause strokes include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity and family history of stroke. Signs someone is having a stroke include drooping of the mouth, inability to lift both arms, slurred speech, dizziness and loss of vision. If you or someone you know is suffering from these symptoms call 000 immediately.
Studies have shown that up to 80 per cent of strokes can be prevented by not smoking, controlling alcohol consumption, maintaining good cholesterol and blood pressure levels and exercising regularly. The Stroke Foundation has more information on strokes and their effects.
4 Chronic lower respiratory diseases
According to health statistics, conditions that affect our ability to breathe such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema have become the fourth largest killer of men in Australia and New Zealand. Respiratory illnesses are associated with a number of factors including poor living or environmental conditions, socioeconomic disadvantage, smoking, alcohol and substance abuse and previous medical conditions.
Symptoms of chronic lower respiratory diseases include:
- chest tightness
- shortness of breath.
While not as prevalent in men as it is in women, dementia and Alzheimer's disease are now the fifth leading causes of death for males in Australia and New Zealand. Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older) and the third leading cause of disability burden overall.
Extremely common in men over the age of 65, dementia is the deterioration of brain function, such as memory, understanding and reasoning. Unfortunately, there is no known cure or prevention but medical studies have shown that keeping your brain active through reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing board games or computer games, maintaining an active social life as well as eating plenty of leafy greens and oily fish can help delay it.
Find more information on how to fight dementia via Alzheimer’s Australia.
6 Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and accounts for around one third of all cancers diagnosed in Australian men alone. It is the second most common cause of cancer death. It is estimated that around 120,000 Australian men are currently living with prostate cancer, and this number is predicted to double in the next four years. Around one in thirteen New Zealand men are diagnosed each year.
The risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer increases with age and men who have a brother or father with prostate cancer have a much higher chance of developing the condition themselves.
Some of the symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Waking frequently at night to urinate
- Sudden or urgent need to urinate
- Difficulty in starting to urinate
- Slow flow of urine and difficulty in stopping
- Discomfort when urinating
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Decrease in libido (sex urge)
- Reduced ability to get an erection.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for males aged 15 – 44 and according to recent statistics the suicide rate for men has reached a ten-year peak. Men account for three out of five suicide deaths and the rate increases for those of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent in Australia and Maori descent in New Zealand.
Untreated mental illness (including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder) is the number one cause for suicide in men, with many events triggered by traumatic or negative experiences including:
- a divorce, separation or breakup of a relationship,
- losing custody of children
- a serious loss, such as loss of a job, house or money
- a serious illness or accident
- chronic physical or emotional pain
- feeling trapped or a loss of hope.
If you’re feeling unwell or in need of support you can find more information and people to talk to at: