Men’s health is a topic that is receiving more attention than ever before, with initiatives such as Men’s Health Week, which runs in the second or third week of June every year. However, the fact is, that men die on average three years earlier than women, often from diseases that could be treated or prevented if caught at an earlier age.

So why does this persist to be the case, as the gaps between the genders are closing rapidly in other areas, such as educational attainment and career choices? Many healthcare professionals think that the problem is a cultural one, as much as a physical one.

The concept of toxic masculinity has received its fair share of attention in the media spotlight lately, and for many people, this is related to the broader problem of male health issues. It’s a culture which perpetuates the idea that men should conform to certain stereotypical behaviours, such as being tough, in control, and not showing emotions.

These kinds of attitudes can play out in aggression towards others, but also in neglect of basic health concerns. Articles concerning men’s health often tend towards tips about fitness, building muscle, and pushing for extremes. At the same time, risky behaviour, such as drinking to excess, eating high-fat foods, and ignoring injuries, are celebrated.

Mental health problems also carry a particular stigma in this type of culture. Men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women, for example, and more likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Society often perpetuates these unhelpful attitudes, by using phrases such as ‘man up’ when men show any sign of vulnerability.

As well as mental health, men fall behind when it comes to physical health. For example, there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer, despite the fact that it is the most common cancer for men to suffer from.

To reduce their chances of developing prostate cancer, men are advised to lose excess weight, take regular exercise, and go for check-ups.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is another very common male health problem, that many men find difficult to discuss. Yet this is a very treatable problem, with medications such as Viagra available via a consultation with a doctor or pharmacist.

This can be done online, and the medication is posted in discreet packaging, for men resistant to the idea of a face-to-face visit to a doctor’s surgery or pharmacist. However, it’s important to rule out any serious underlying causes of ED first. For example, in older men, difficulty getting an erection is one of the first signs of vascular disease.

If it’s treated in the early stages, it can be prevented from causing life-limiting conditions such as heart disease, so it’s really important not to ignore symptoms.

ED can also be caused by psychological problems, such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Men with these problems are advised to try and identify what’s causing the problem, whether it’s stress from work, loneliness, or relationship issues. A chat with a GP can help to determine the best way forward.

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