The truth about men

The truth about men

MEN - powerful, strong, virile, protecting and providing for the family. But are men really stronger?

It is now common knowledge that men's life expectancy is lower than women's. According to the UN World Population Prospects 2011 Revision released by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, the average life expectancy of Malaysian men is about 71 years, while in women it is closer to 76 years.

One of the biggest problems is that men don't tend to use healthcare, even if it is just consultation with their GP, says Dr Peter Ng Eng Pin, consultant urological surgeon at Sime Darby Medical Centre Subang Jaya. Men's attitudes tend to be `I have to be really ill before I see the doctor' or `it's just a minor illness, I can fight it off myself'. But men must realise that they are not invulnerable.

It seems that taking care of their health is just not part of the big picture when it comes to men. Dr Ng compares this with women, who are more detailorientated and thus notice the little changes and problems that can crop up from time to time. Unfortunately for men, health is all about the little details, and so they tend to lose out by not paying attention.

In Malaysia, men above the age of 45 years do tend to have the awareness that they should go for general checkups and screenings. In a normal clinical assessment, the doctor will note down your biometrics, take your health and family history, check on current complaints and do a general systems review of your body.

If there are symptoms or risk factors present, the doctor will recommend screenings for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes or osteoporosis (in older men).

Men below the age of 45 years usually do not require annual screenings, unless they lead an excessive lifestyle, or there is family history of a disease. For example, if your father had a heart attack in his 40s, it is a good idea for you to get a full check-up and screen for heart disease, cholesterol or hypertension before you reach that age. It is highly likely that you have the same health problems that your father had, even if the symptoms are not yet present.

A barometer of male well-being

MORE often than not, when men have erectile dysfunction (ED) they feel their world has come crashing down. Many men associate penile health with virility and when they have ED, it is as if their masculinity has been threatened; then there is the stigma of discussing sexual health openly in many Asian communities.

But what many people fail to realise is that there is a silver lining when one has ED. According to Professor Datuk Dr Tan Hui Meng, consultant urological surgeon at Sime Darby Medical Centre Subang Jaya, ED reflects a man's overall health because the penis is akin to a barometer of a man's vascular and neurological health.

He explains that the penile artery is a third the size of a coronary artery and when there is build up of plaque in the arteries, the smaller arteries like the penile arteries are clogged up first. Because of the clogging, having an erection becomes difficult because the blood flow to the artery slows down, Professor Dr Tan explains.

This type of ED is known as organic ED so when a man experiences this for a prolonged period of between three and six months, heart disease would typically follow in about three years, making ED a sign for men to seek help.

Young men in their 30s and 40s with confirmed ED have been reported to be 50 times more likely to develop or suffer serious cardiovascular disease and cardiac death over a 10-year period, compared to a similar population without ED.

Dr Tan says that the causes of ED are similar to that of heart disease like smoking, high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. If a man has many of these risk factors, then it is likely that he will develop ED.

The other type of ED is psychogenic ED. Psychogenic ED happens when a man cannot get an erection in certain circumstances, but can perform regularly on other occasions. It can be caused by many external factors including stress, anxiousness, or when pressured into having sex.

The majority of men only need oral medication to treat their ED, with the common ones in the market being Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and Zydena. Patients can use these medications safely, provided it is under the supervision of a doctor. When a man has ED he must not only get help from the doctor, but must also ensure that his risk factors are treated and minimised.

Erectile dysfunction is a cardiovascular disease unless proven otherwise; knowing this will enable a man to reverse his ED, and more importantly, help save his life.


* Cancer

* Heart disease

* Stroke

* Liver damage

* Diabetes

* Kidney disease

All these can be linked to lifestyle choices that men make:

* Tobacco use

On average, more men smoke than women, and they smoke three more cigarettes a day.

* Diet

Men are more likely to have a diet with inadequate amounts of nutrition.

* Alcohol intake

Men drink more times a week, and consume more alcohol each time.

* Substance abuse

A 2000 study in Hong Kong showed that 83.3 per cent of people reported to the Central Registry of Drug Abuse were men, compared to only 16.2 per cent of women.

* Unsafe sex

This can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/ AIDS.

* Lack of use of preventive services

Many men do not go for checkups and are not tested for cholesterol levels, diabetes and high blood pressure


* Married men tend to live longer than their single friends. A US study showed that single men have a 32 per cent higher risk of dying throughout their lifetimes than a married man.

* A man's health tends to deteriorate when they no longer have a woman in their life. This is because women are more likely to be the primary coordinator of healthcare in the family, and they generally tend to know more about health than men.

* A study by evolutionary geneticist Jenny Graves states that the poor design of the Y chromosome means that it is degrading rapidly, and will eventually disappear within the next five million years.


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