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Doctor is supervising the athlete on a treadmill

The ultimate men’s health MOT

When you’re busy at work, or have lots of family commitments, it can be tough to keep an eye on your health.

But it’s essential to make sure you’re in good nick, as the alternative is pretty scary – figures from the Men’s Health Forum reveal one in five men die before they’re old enough to retire.

Some of that is due to accidents, or conditions such as cancer, but there is evidence to show most factors are under our control. From getting enough sleep to getting up from your desk, you can reclaim your health. But if you have any concerns, see your GP ASAP.

Get a handle on heart disease

The Men’s Health Forum says three quarters of those who die prematurely from heart disease are men. Unfortunately, you may not know you have heart disease until you suffer a heart attack or angina (pain in the chest), so the best plan of attack is to reduce your risk factors.

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • a family history of the condition
  • high blood pressure
  • being overweight
  • having diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking

Stopping smoking, losing weight and healthy eating can all help reduce your risk of heart disease. And a healthy heart means a healthy sex life too – clear arteries mean improved blood flow, which equals better erectile function.

Handpicked content: A guide to taking care of your heart

Dial down your risk of diabetes

When your doctor carries out a health MOT, they often measure your waist because this is a great indicator for diabetes. If your waist is over 37inches (94cm) – 35inches (90cm) for South Asian men – then you could be at risk.

If you also suffer from:

  • frequently needing a wee, especially at night
  • feeling tired
  • feeling thirsty
  • blurred vision
  • genital itching

see your GP and ask for a blood test to check for diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney problems and even blindness.

Get fitter, not fatter

Lack of physical activity is now thought to be as big a threat to our health as being overweight. But apart from helping you stay in shape, regular exercise can help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, bowel cancer, depression, and dementia!

Make sure you’re getting 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, such as a brisk walk or swimming, but that doesn’t have to be all at once. In fact, breaking it up into smaller chunks, and staying active during the day – such as standing up more often at your desk – is more beneficial for your body.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also important, but try joining a weight loss programme if you’re struggling. Research shows men are less likely to sign up but when they do, they are more likely to stick with it and lose more weight than women. Men are also more likely to engage in the physical activity side of weight loss programmes, which equals a double bonus for your wellbeing.

Handpicked content: 19 really easy ways to fit exercise into your daily routine

Sort your stress levels

Many men are unwilling, or unable, to ask for help with mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety. But tragically, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 35 in the UK.

If you’ve noticed some of the following symptoms for more than a few days over the past two weeks, make an appointment with your GP:

  • mood swings
  • not sleeping properly
  • drinking too much or taking drugs
  • losing concentration
  • eating more or less
  • feelings of low self-esteem
  • lack of libido
  • low energy levels

You can beat stress and the sooner you act, the easier it will be to deal with. Try to spend time with people you care about – connecting with others is a proven mood-booster – make sure you’re eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, and get a good night’s sleep. Herbal remedies such as St John’s Wort, valerian or rhodiola can also help you tackle stress and anxiety.

Handpicked content: 4 exercises that could help relieve stress

Remember, all these small changes add up to make a big difference to your health.

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This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies

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