Sarah Says

Dr. Sarah Jarvis' health & wellness blog on Patient.co.uk

Men’s Health Week - have a heart for your health

Heart disease is the theme for Men's Health Week 2012.

When you think ‘Men’s Health’, maybe you think prostate, the possible culprit for the poor Duke of Edinburgh’s bladder troubles last week? Or testicles? Well, this year there’s a less sexist theme - heart disease. More specifically, Men’s Health Week, which starts on 11th June, is all about improving male heart health.

Heart disease is certainly not just a man’s problem - over 38,500 women in the UK die each year from it. But it is more common among men, with almost 50,000 UK men dying, and over 20,000 dying prematurely (below the age of 75) each year in the UK from heart disease. It’s particularly a male problem during our working years - men below the age of 65 are about four times more likely to die from heart disease than women in the same age group.

Doctors think women are partly protected against heart disease before the menopause by their higher levels of the female hormone oestrogen. There’s not much the average man can do to increase their oestrogen levels (at, least not without some very different side-effects!) but they can certainly look at the other risk factors which could deprive their children of a father.

Sometimes I bore even myself with the amount I bang on about the health risks of obesity but sadly we can’t get away from them. Obesity and, particularly being an ‘apple’ rather than a ‘pear’, (that’s having a beer gut to you chaps!) is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, and rates of obesity are growing at an alarming rate. In the UK, 26% of adults are classified as obese and 68% of men (compared to 58% of women) are overweight. More scarily still, men are twice as likely as they were less than 20 years ago to be obese, and have caught the women up.

Statistics on healthy lifestyle are equally demoralising - as a nation, we spend 11% less on fruit and 3% less on veg than we did five years ago and one in five of us walks for 20 minutes at a time ‘less than once a year or never’. Women aren’t angels, but men are more likely than women to smoke, drink above the recommended alcohol targets and eat badly.

So how can you help? Men’s Health Week has been running since 2002, and this year it aims to help men look after their hearts and their partners look after their men. Maybe you need to find time to see your GP and get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked? Maybe you need a gentle nudge to help you understand that heart disease isn’t just someone else’s problem? Maybe you’re at your wits’ end trying to persuade your man that a night at the pub doesn’t give him his five-a-day just because beer is made from hops?

Take the first step and log on to the Men’s Health Week website – your heart will thank you for it.

Posted by Dr Sarah Jarvis
Dr Sarah is unable to provide medical advice or respond directly to questions concerning your health. If you have health concerns we recommend contacting your GP.