The problem with men

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 06:52 20/06/2014
Grant Johnson
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ
CHECK UP: Dr Grant Johnson checks Allan Paul's Blood pressure at Springlands Health during men's health week.

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Just as a car needs regular servicing, our bodies need an annual warrant of fitness.

Don't wait until it's too late to get a health check, says Blenheim GP Grant Johnston.

He expected about 40 men to have health checks at the Springlands surgery in Blenheim where he is based during men's health week.

Health checks uncovered the chief cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors in a patient, he said.

The 15-minute health check by a GP or nurse looked at a patient's cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking habits, alcohol intake, their weight and family history.

Increasingly, men were turning to health checks to take ownership of their health and for health insurance and employment reasons, he said.

Heart disease and diabetes were more prevalent in men than women, Johnston said. A man was more likely to have a heart attack 10 years earlier than a woman.

Health checks were no longer only for men in their mid-life. Those with a family history of a chronic illness should get health checks in their mid-20s, Johnston said.

He advocated men had a health check by 35 to give a baseline on their health.

"A man at 35 is right in the middle of his working career. Don't wait until you suffer a heart attack at 55 to get a health check," he said. "If a person has put on 10kg, their blood pressure has gone up and they are at risk of diabetes, the patient can be monitored."

There was some controversy over whether GPs should do prostate checks.

"Medical professionals are still out on that. A PSA exam checks whether the person is likely to have prostate cancer. It doesn't show if a tumour is fast-growing that could kill a person within a year.

"To do a biopsy poses an element of risk to them. There is evidence to show the investigation can be more dangerous that the illness itself."

Of men over 50, half would suffer from impotence. Medication to help was controversial but those men "deserve to be looked after", Johnston said.

Men were also notoriously reluctant to talk about their mental health, Johnson said.

"In New Zealand there is a psyche if you can't cope you are not a man. Men are stoic, they don't say, ‘I am getting sad about the amount of stress I am under and I can't cope'.

"We don't tend to see patients until it is so obvious that they are depressed or suicidal.

"The cultural stigma is slowly changing. Men who express their feelings are more likely to be able to cope and manage their symptoms."

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- The Marlborough Express

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