Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Top ten men’s health myths

Is Viagra the answer to erectile dysfunction? Do Well Man clinics make a difference? Men’s health advice can be downright useless

1. Well Man clinics are a good idea

WHAT ARE THEY? These are clinics, run by GPs and private companies, that offer health once-overs for men, checking their hearts, weight and all the bits that women don’t have.

WHO SAYS THEY’RE A GOOD IDEA? Men’s health enthusiasts with too much time on their hands and private screening companies trying to drum up business.

HOW WRONG IS IT? Totally, and will remain so until the average unhealthy male has a lobotomy.

GIVE ME THE FACTS The main problem is that Well Man Clinics attract only well men. So, those motivated enough to attend are precisely those who don’t need to; lardy, fag-toting, burger-chomping slobs remain welded to their sofas. Besides, a well-person “screen” will rarely tell the typical bloke anything useful. All of which probably explains why the evidence that these clinics do any good is thinner than the average fitness freak.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Forget regular health MoTs. The only relevant routine checks for blokes middle-aged and above are cholesterol and blood pressure tests; your pharmacist or GP will oblige. But only bother if you’d be inclined to act on the result, otherwise you’ll just fret and drive everyone barmy.

LAST WORD “I’ll go to the clinic when I’m well ill.”

2. Men don’t use health services as much as women

WHO SAYS? Everyone; this myth is repeated so often you’d assume it’s gospel. Your other half will delight in using it as a stick with which to beat you all the way to your GP’s door.

HOW WRONG IS IT? It’s a distortion of the truth.

GIVE ME THE FACTS Women do use health services more than men, but that’s because they have more reason to. As a bloke, you’d get funny looks if you booked for a smear, ante-natal check, Pill prescription and so on. True, you’re the proud owner of a prostate and pant-tackle that the girls don’t have. But these are easily trumped by lady’s problems involving breasts and gynaecology. Now do the maths: subtract from female health service use the strictly girlie stuff, then do the same for men. You’ll find that at least 60 per cent of the apparent male v female difference in doctor door-stepping vanishes.

WHAT SHOULD I DO? Don’t feel as though you’re neglecting the health service but use it when you really need to. And if she says you should have a health MoT, refer her to the forthcoming myth: “Blokes would be healthier if they visited the doctor more often”.

LAST WORD “It’s not so that men use health services less; it’s just that women use them more.”

3.Men should regularly examine their testicles

WHO SAYS? Men’s health support groups and charities, all of whom need something to write about or campaign for. But, notably, not cancer and screening boffs and profs who can spot a myth quicker than you can say “Scan my testicles”.

WHAT’S THE TRUTH? Thankfully, testicular cancer is even rarer than Saturday appointments; the average GP sees two or three new cases in his entire career. When it does occur, it usually produces a symptom, a heaviness, ache or obvious swelling, to draw your attention to it. So the chances of finding an unsuspected cancer via a routine feel-around are about the same as winning the lottery. Whereas the odds of finding something harmless, a cyst, swollen veins, normal bits of gristle, are high. Cue anxious males clutching their privates pleading for appointments and tests, thereby lengthening waiting times for the poor sods who really need them.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Certainly give your tackle a check if you think you’ve noticed a symptom. And don’t delay seeking help if you then reckon that you’ve discovered a lump. But don’t become a ball-watching neurotic. Alternatively, get your other half to oblige, but only to confirm that they’re working.

LAST WORD “It’s cobblers.”

4. Viagra is the answer to erectile dysfunction

WHO SAYS? The media: every Viagra story has newspaper editors throbbing with excitement. Drug companies don’t mind erectile dysfunction being medicalised, either.

HOW WRONG IS IT? Partially. Viagra and similar drugs don’t work for everyone; about 20 per cent of men don’t respond. The magic pills may not be necessary at all.

GIVE ME THE FACTS Medication for erectile dysfunction has saved many from the sexual doldrums. But the rush to pop pills obscures a few basics. For example, a sudden failure to rise to the occasion, especially in young men, is usually a temporary blip caused by stress or exhaustion. It isn’t a slight on masculinity, it doesn’t signify disease and it will probably right itself. Persistent erectile dysfunction can be a sign of trouble, such as diabetes, circulation problems, or a medication side-effect. If properly treated erectile dysfunction pills may be unnecessary. Besides, what goes on in your pants often reflects what’s going on in your head. So the therapy needed for a lasting cure may be psychological rather than pharmaceutical.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Stay calm if you suffer a bedroom flop. If it persists, don’t rush into pills – get a proper check from your GP.

LAST WORD Viagra et al aren’t a penile panacea.

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