Top health checks for dad to remember

As June marks both Men's Health Month and Father's Day, so we are encouraging men of all ages to make their physical wellbeing a priority.

06 June 2019
By David Ford

The best gift you can give yourself is good health. And Father’s Day is a good time to remind the men in your life that you want them around for a long, long time. 

Numbers for dad to note

Understanding and effectively managing your essential health numbers is a vital guideline for living a long and healthy life. These key numbers include your cholesterol, blood pressure, BMI and blood sugar levels. While these general check-ups should be undertaken occasionally for anyone over 18 years old, as we age it becomes increasingly important to monitor these numbers as regularly as possible – and at a minimum of once a year.

Monitoring cholesterol and blood sugar levels can help you adjust your diet and lifestyle to optimise your health, and knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI) can be a useful tool to evaluate the efficacy of these changes. Regular blood pressure tests, meanwhile, can assist with early detection of heart disease and guard against developing fatally high – or dangerously low – blood pressure.

If left undetected, imbalances in these key health indicators can lead to serious problems – for example, high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) can cause diabetes and internal organ damage. However, the good news is that these tests can be done quickly and easily at a Clicks Clinic. “If any issues are detected, the Clicks medical team will inform the patient and refer them to the appropriate medical practitioner for further examination or treatment,” says Thato Ramela, Clicks Sophiatown branch manager. 

For reference, “healthy” numbers for a 40-year-old man are: 

Blood pressure 

120/80 (systolic/diastolic)

Blood sugar 

Less than 100 mg/dL after not eating for eight hours; less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating

Cholesterol 

Less than 200 mg/dL (total cholesterol); with a reading of at least 40 mg/dL for HDL cholesterol and less than 100 mg/dL for LDL cholesterol

Body Mass Index (BMI) 

The “normal” or healthy range for BMI is usually considered 18.5 to 24.9

Early cancer detection 

While a cancer diagnosis is a scary prospect, men should be screened regularly for the most common male cancers (testicular, prostate and colon) as early detection can make the difference between beating the disease or not.

“Although actual cancer diagnoses will be done by medical experts after referral,” Ramela explains, “if you are experiencing troubling symptoms, a Clicks Clinic is an accessible way to discuss them with a health professional and get some perspective on the extent of the issue you are experiencing.”

Men with the following symptoms should seek a referral to have a thorough cancer screening. Remember, the earlier this disease is found, the earlier you can begin your journey to conquering it.

Warning signs of testicular cancer (most common in ages 15-35):

  • Any enlargement of a testicle, or a significant loss of size in one of the testicles
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, or a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid or chronic pain or discomfort in the scrotum

Warning signs of colon cancer (lifetime risk, affects 5% of men):

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
  • Rectal bleeding; dark stools, or blood in the stool
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness and fatigue, especially if accompanied by unexpected or unintended weight loss

Warning signs of prostate cancer (most common in middle age, affects up to 12,5% of men):

  • Difficulty in urination, or decreased force of urine stream
  • Increased frequency (urinating more often than normal); increased urgency (a feeling of intensely needing to urinate); or urinary retention (a sudden inability to pass urine)
  • Repeated urinary tract infections
  • Blood in urine or semen

Symptoms and risks of low testosterone

With age, testosterone levels naturally decrease in men. However, chronically low levels of this important hormone – a condition known colloquially as Low T, and which affects up to 25% of all men – can “affect men’s overall health and wellbeing in a number of important ways”, according to Dr Nevon Ramsunder, the managing director of Men’s Clinic International, South Africa.

The symptoms and risks of Low T are one and the same, and include:

  • Lowered sex drive, or loss of interest in sex
  • Erection problems
  • Impairment of concentration; lack of energy; low mood and motivation levels
  • Problems with bone density, “which can lead to osteoporosis in older men,” says Dr Ramsunder
  • Reduced sperm count, “which can result in infertility”

Low T is usually diagnosed after multiple blood tests, “as levels of the hormone tend to fluctuate from month to month”, and the condition can be treated by Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). 

So this Father’s Day, prioritise your health, speak to a professional if you are experiencing these symptoms and begin to take steps to reclaim your vitality. Just remember that any serious intervention will require a thorough medical examination first, because – as Dr Ramsunder notes – “If you are at risk for prostate cancer, for example, TRT can exacerbate these risks and so your doctor may elect not to proceed with this course of treatment.” 

Get checked at your closest Clicks Clinic

Clicks Clinics offer a range of primary healthcare services, screenings and wellness consultations. For a full list of services or to make an appointment, go to clicks.co.za/clinicBooking

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com