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Men's Health With Dr. Philip MacMahon

Monday, 12 January 2009

Today Dr. Philip will be informing us of the various ailments that every man should be aware of and regularly checking for. Today we're looking at five of the most common ailments that men should be checking for.

With recent reports stating that up to 450,000 men don't have regular health check ups it's time to whip the men in our lives into gear and get them down to their GP's regularly.

Dr. Philip MacMahon, Afternoon Show Family Doctor:


Stat: Cardio Vascular Disease is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for 36% of all deaths. The largest number of these deaths relate to Coronary Heart Disease - mainly heart attack - at 5,000. 22% of premature deaths (under age 65) are from Cardio Vascular Disease

What is coronary heart disease?
The arteries that carry blood to the heart often become clogged, a condition called coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease. It's as if a car company designed the perfect engine but forgot to look at the fuel lines.

Irish people have an alarmingly high incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) and many of us will pay a high price. If the coronary arteries become too narrow, the heart won't get the oxygen or nutrients it needs to stay healthy. And if an artery becomes completely clogged, part of the heart will shut down. Doctors call this a myocardial infarction, but it's better known as a heart attack. Cardio Vascular Disease is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for 36% of all deaths. The largest number of these deaths relate to Coronary Heart Disease - mainly heart attack - at 5,000. 22% of premature deaths (under age 65) are from Cardio Vascular Disease

What are the symptoms of coronary heart disease?
In its earliest stages, CHD is a silent disease. Some people never have symptoms, even as their arteries become dangerously clogged. Most people, however, will notice some warning signs. The symptoms may be subtle or severe, but they should never be taken lightly.

. Shortness of breath.
. Chest pain, often called angina.
. Heavy, tight, burning, squeezing sensation right behind your sternum (breastbone).
. Pain may also spread to your jaw, throat, or one arm.

The attacks usually come on during exertion or emotional stress, and they go away when you rest or calm down. If the attacks suddenly become more frequent or if they start arriving while you're resting, a heart attack may be around the corner.

What raises the risk of coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease doesn't strike at random. People with CHD often have one or more traits that make them likely targets.

Three risk factors stand far above the rest:

. High cholesterol. The hazards of high cholesterol are obvious -- put enough sludge in a pipe, and it's bound to get backed up.
. High blood pressure. High blood pressure damages the walls of the arteries, making it easier for cholesterol to stick.
. Smoking. Nicotine from tobacco smoke also damages the arteries, but it doesn't stop there. The addictive compound in cigarettes lowers the levels of HDL cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol that helps clear artery-clogging LDL "bad" cholesterol from the blood.

Any one of these traits roughly doubles your chances for developing CHD. Combine all three, and you'll be eight times more likely to develop CHD.These "big three" all threaten your heart in different ways.

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Stat: High blood pressure affects up to 30% of the Irish population.

What is hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure depends on how forcefully the heart pumps the blood around the body and how narrowed or relaxed your arteries are. Hypertension occurs when blood is forced through the arteries at an increased pressure.

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers- for example, 120/80. The first figure is the systolic blood pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pushes the blood out into the body). The second figure is the diastolic blood pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart is filled with blood as it relaxes between two beats).

Who is at risk of developing hypertension?
Hypertension can affect anyone but some factors increase the risk of complications:

. Family history of hypertension
. Obesity
. Smoking
. Diabetes Type 1 or Type 2
. Kidney diseases
. Alcohol abuse
. Excessive salt intake
. Lack of exercise

What are the symptoms of hypertension?
There are few symptoms of high blood pressure, and the only way you can find out if you have high blood pressure is by having it measured by your doctor.

What can I do?
. Have regular blood pressure tests if you have a family history of hypertension.
. Stop smoking.
. Eat a healthy, balanced diet - reduce your intake of salt and foods that are high in cholesterol (dairy produce, shellfish and poultry).
. Exercise - if you are overweight reducing your weight will help to lower your blood pressure.
. Reduce your alcohol intake.
. Never stop taking your prescribed medicine without first consulting your doctor.

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Stat: With nearly 1300 instances in Ireland in 2005, bowel cancer is always a risk for men.

What is bowel cancer?
Cancer, or malignancy, is a disease of the body's cells. Normally, our cells divide and multiply to help our body to grow and heal. Cancer cells, however, divide and grow abnormally and have the ability to invade or damage surrounding tissues.

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the commonest non-skin cancer diagnosed in Ireland, accounting for almost 10 percent of all new cancers diagnosed. The majority of cases occur in people over 50 years of age. The latest figures released by the National Cancer Registry in Ireland show that approximately 2,000 people in Ireland develop bowel cancer each year and half die from it. Worldwide, it is the fourth commonest cancer, and is more prevalent in western countries.

Colorectal cancer begins in the lining of the large bowel, or colon. The majority of colorectal cancers are found in the sigmoid colon (the part of the bowel above the rectum) or in the junction of the rectum and sigmoid.

What are the typical symptoms?

. Change in bowel habit. Stools can become frequent and loose (diarrhoea) or infrequent and hard to pass (constipation), sometimes there is alternating between the two.
. Rectal bleeding.
. A sensation of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement.
. Soreness, discomfort, itching, lumps or prolapse in the anal area.
. Lower abdominal pain. The pain has been described as a colic or ache. It can sometimes become persistent. Pain is not the commonest presenting feature of colonic cancer.
. Sometimes the bowel cancer can present with bowel obstruction. This occurs when the bowel wall is encircled by the cancer.
. A cancer anywhere in the colon can perforate and present as an emergency with peritonitis.
. Other diseases such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome may result in symptoms similar to those brought on by bowel cancer. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor to get it checked out.

What steps can I take to prevent bowel cancer?

. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least 5 portions a day).
. Eat plenty of cereal foods.
. Eat red meat and processed meat in moderation.Red meat refers to beef, pork and lamb. Processed meat includes sausages, hamburgers, smoked and cured meats. Replace red meat with fish and chicken.
. Increase physical activity.
. Consult a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer

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Stat: The Diabetes Federation of Ireland estimate that over 140,000 people in Ireland have diabetes and that many of them are unaware that they have it.

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition of absolute or relative lack of insulin, a hormone secreted by the beta cells in the pancreas gland. Lack of insulin means that the body cannot effectively utilise glucose as fuel. As a result, the sugar and fat levels in the blood rise.

There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 is known as insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 1 is the least common type of diabetes - only 10% of people with diabetes have type 1. It is most common among children and young people under the age of 25.

Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes, or adult onset diabetes, accounts for 90% of all diabetes.

The Diabetes Federation of Ireland estimate that over 140,000 people in Ireland have diabetes and that many of them are unaware that they have it.

What causes diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes develops when the beta cells in the pancreas cease functioning. This type of diabetes generally appears very quickly, usually over days or weeks. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known, but both genes and viruses play a part (antibodies caused by a prior infection destroy the beta cell). Type 1 diabetes must be treated with insulin injections.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by a defect in the pancreas and a resistance by the body to the action of insulin. People with type 2 diabetes often have high blood sugar levels and high insulin levels initially but, in many cases, the pancreas fails completely with time.

The most important factors leading to type2 diabetes are:

. A family history of diabetes (substantially increases risk of type 2 diabetes);
. Being overweight;
. Aged over 40;
. A sedentary lifestyle;
. Women who have previously had a large baby or have had diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes) are at higher risk of developing diabetes in middle age.

People with type 2 diabetes are also at risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides, which puts them at increased risk of heart disease. Other possible complications include kidney, eye and nervous system disorders. Part of the routine care of diabetes involves regularly checking for symptoms of these complications.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Typical symptoms of diabetes include

. Increased thirst and a dry mouth
. Passing large amounts of urine (day and night)
. Tiredness
. Weight loss
. Hunger
. Abdominal pain
. Genital itching
. Skin infections

Type 1 diabetes can develop very quickly over a matter of weeks.
Type 2 diabetes, however, develops gradually (3-7 years) and is therefore hard to detect. In some cases diabetes has been calculated to be present for an average of seven years before diagnosis. In fact, many people are diagnosed for the first time when they present with other problems such as heart disease, damage to the back of the eye, or damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the feet. Early diagnosis and expert treatment is essential to prevent these complications so if you suspect that you may have diabetes it is important to make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible.

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Stat: The 'SLÁN 2007 Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition in Ireland' surveyed over 10,000 Irish adults. In the survey they found that 62% of these adults had high cholesterol.

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance or lipid, which is found in every cell of the human body. It is very important as it makes up part of the structure of the membranes (walls) of every cell in the body. It is also involved in the manufacturing of hormones and the production of energy.
Even though the body is able to manufacture enough cholesterol on its own, additional cholesterol is absorbed from the foods we eat.

Why is high cholesterol a health risk?
High cholesterol is a serious health risk because it can lead to coronary heart disease. Cardiovascular disease accounts for a very high proportion of premature mortality, ie. death before the age of 65. The American Heart Association says that elevated cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Risk factors for heart disease can be both modifiable (something can be done to reduce them) and non-modifiable.

While not all risk factors for heart attacks can be changed, such as your age or family history, there are many that can be modified. The following is a list of risk factors that may affect you:

. High LDL cholesterol. (When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain.)
. Low HDL cholesterol (HDL cholesterol is known as "good" cholesterol, because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack.)

. High blood pressure
. Diabetes
. Gender (male/female)
. Smoking
. Family history of heart disease
. Obesity
. Post menopause
. Low levels of physical activity
. Raised blood glucose

Each risk factor will speed up the development of plaques on the walls of your arteries. It is important to identify risk factors and eliminate or modify as many as you can. This can slow the development of plaques on your arteries (atherosclerosis) and help prevent a heart attack. It is vital that you work with your doctor to reduce your risk. Understanding the risks is one major step in heart attack prevention. But it's important to do something about it too. Regular medical check ups can help. Your doctor can make sure that these risk factors are treated and help you to develop a healthy heart lifestyle.

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