Movember & Men’s Health Issues: Raising Awareness

Each year, during the month of November, the public spotlight shines on men’s health issues, in order to raise awareness and understanding of includes health conditions such as prostate and testicular cancer, as well as mental illnesses like depression. Coined ‘Movember’, this is an annual event that involves the growing of moustaches throughout the month to  men to get involved. Movember focuses on increasing early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatment. It also aims at encouraging men to deal with depression which can lead to suicide.  It is very important for men to be aware of and understand the risk factors of their overall health. Many health conditions can be prevented or treated if found early, which is why it’s advisable for men to be proactive when it comes to their health.

Prostate Cancer

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Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate (a small walnut-shaped gland in men) and is one of the most common types of cancer in men. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types can spread quickly and are aggressive. If untreated, prostate cancer can spread to nearby organs such as the bladder and travel through the bloodstream, to the bones and other organs. Below are some signs and symptoms of advanced prostate cancer:

  • Trouble urinatingv
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine

Testicular Cancer

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Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles. Some men with testicular cancer have no symptoms at all and their cancer is found during routine medical testing.  The first symptom of testicular cancer is usually a lump on the testicle or if a testicle becomes swollen. Men with testicular cancer may sometimes have a feeling of heaviness or aching in their abdominal area. Some testicular tumours are painful but generally they are not, which is why it is so important to do annual check-ups. Below are some symptoms of undetected testicular cancer that has spread to other parts of the body:

  • Belly pain either because the cancer has spread to the liver or from enlarged lymph nodes (bean-sized collections of immune cells)
  • Headaches from cancer spread in the brain
  • Lower back pain from cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain may develop from cancer spread in the lungs

Depression

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Depression is a mental health disorder that is characterised by a persistent depressed mood or a loss of interest in life activities that causes significant impairment in your daily life. In men, depression is often seen as a sign of emotional weakness, but it is a health condition that can be treated. Movember is also geared to help fight the stigma surrounding men speaking out about insecurities and concerns. Men like to think of themselves as strong and in control of their feelings, but depression is a common problem that affects a lot of people at some point in their lives.  Severe depression can be unrelenting and intense which can lead to suicide.  Below are some symptoms of depression:

  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy
  • Engaging in reckless behaviour and consuming a lot of alcohol
  • Being short-tempered, irritable and aggressive
  • Feeling unproductive, restless and agitated
  • Changes in sleeping pattern and appetite

Gert Coetzee, Pharmacist and Diet pioneer who founded The Diet Everyone Talks About says that it’s important for men to understand their health risk factors so that they can start taking better care of themselves. That is what Movember is all about – finding ways to help men understand their own health better. Below he lists some hints and tips that will help reduce the risks of the abovementioned health conditions:

Prostate Cancer:

  1. Eat less red meat and dairy:  Men that consume food that is high in animal fat such as red meat and dairy products, are more likely to develop prostate cancer.
  2. Increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables:  These types of vegetable include broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower which contain phytonutrients that have been shown to prevent the progression of prostate cancer. Tomatoes can also help to fight it.
  3. Avoid smoking:  Cigarette smoking is known to causecancer in general and can increase the risk of death from prostate cancer.
  4. Reduce your fat intake:  Eating foods that are high in fat such red meat and dairy products can increase the risks of prostate cancer.
  5. Garlic:  Garlic has been known to have anti inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer effects.

Testicular Cancer

  1. Increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods:  High levels of oxidative stress and inflammation can lead to cancer.  Foods rich in antioxidants such as brightly coloured vegetables such as carrots, red, yellow and orange bell peppers help reduce inflammation.
  2. Use turmeric powder in your meals:  Turmeric powder is high in curcumin, a strong anti-inflammatory compound that is effective for both cancer prevention and treatment.
  3. Consume a lot of tomatoes:  Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that comes with a lot of health benefits such as lower risks of certain types of cancer.
  4. Drink green tea:  Green tea contains polyphenols that have potent antioxidant and anticancer effects.
  5. Omega-3:  Fish:  Fish such as salmon and sardines are a great source of omega–3 fatty acids.  Anti-cancer nutrition recommendations include limiting your intake of processed meats and red meat.

Depression

  1. Reach out:  Try and talk to someone that you trust or a qualified psychologist, this will be better than trying to deal with things alone.  The person you talk to needs to be someone who will listen to you attentively and with compassion, without judging you.
  2. Get physically active:  Regular exercise may help ease depression by releasing brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being and ‘feel good’ endorphins.  This will also help take your mind off all the negative thoughts that fill your head.  As a contribution to Movember and towards the 60 men we lose worldwide, to suicide every 60 minutes, you can commit to walking or running 60 km over the month.
  3. Join a support group:   Being around people that are also dealing with depression can help reduce your sense of feeling alone. You will be able to share your experiences encourage other people as well as give and receive advice.

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