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This week has been Men's Health Week, an annual international event which focuses on issues relating to men's health. This year recognises the tenth birthday of the event, with the focus being on heart health. The theme of the week this year is YOLO (you only live once). The overall aim of the week is not just to raise awareness of men's health issues in general, but also to reach men individually to encourage them to think about how their health is affected by decisions that they make.
Research shows that men are less likely to access health services than women, which is why awareness weeks such as this one are so important. As the leading cause of death for men in the UK is coronary heart disease, it is clear why the theme for the tenth Men's Health Week is heart health, particularly as significantly more men than women die from coronary heart disease every year (49,665 men compared to 38,571 women). The numbers for premature death are even more stark, with 20,850 men dying before the age of 75 due to heart disease compared to 7,408 women.
Surprised? So was I. But the figures make sense when you bear in mind that, statistically, men are more likely to be overweight, consume a poor diet, drink excessive amounts of alcohol and smoke. Each of these lifestyle factors is a major contributor to the development of conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are known to lead to coronary heart disease.
Making healthier choices can have a significant impact on your general health and can reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease. Cutting down on your alcohol intake and eating a healthier diet are two of the most important things you can do to improve your overall health. The benefits that can be gained from stopping smoking are huge, not just in terms of your own health but also that of the people closest to you, as passive smoking is known to be harmful. Men's Health Week is a great opportunity to reconsider the choices that you are making in regards to your diet and lifestyle habits, and even seemingly small changes can make a big difference.
When making dietary choices, bear in mind factors such as salt, sugar and fat content, as too high levels of each of these can lead to health problems. Processed foods and ready meals tend to have particularly high levels of salt, sugar and fat, which is why it is beneficial to prepare home-cooked food, if it is possible for you to do so. Though it is notoriously difficult to quit smoking, there is help available in the form of nicotine replacement therapies and even medication. If your alcohol intake is a particular cause of concern, it is recommended that you discuss this with your doctor who will be able to advise you on the most appropriate course of action to take.
If you visit the dedicated Men's Health Week site, you'll find further information about how to get involved with the campaign, with more general information about heart health in relation to men.