As a GP, I know how difficult it can be to get men to open up about their health. Nuffield Health research suggests almost half of UK men delay seeing a GP, even when they have a health concern. We know that early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to ensure a favourable outcome, so if you notice these signs, have a conversation about seeing a doctor.
1. His body hurts
This may sound broad, but it’s crucially important. Ageing can trick men into thinking pain is normal. Any kind of joint pain can quickly begin to affect his quality of life and back pain can be especially debilitating. Aches and pains can be signs of cancer but this is rarely the case. Diagnosing the source of the pain will help put both of your minds at rest.
Testicular cancer is rare but most common in men under 40. If he’s complained about a dull ache or heavy feeling in the scrotum he should get it checked. In fact, all men under 40 should have a testicular examination – most don’t.
2. He’s breathless
Breathlessness could be a result of failing fitness, cardiovascular problems or in rare cases, cancer. All three are important. Fitness is known to be better than blood pressure or cholesterol level as a predictor of all-cause mortality, so being unfit is not something he can afford to ignore.
Experiencing chest pain regularly can’t be put down to indigestion without a proper diagnosis. If he has heart health issues, he needs to know for sure and get advice from a health professional.
3. He’s distant
Depression, anxiety and stress have long been taboo subjects for men and are among the issues they are least likely to talk about. Visible signs of depression can include difficulty concentrating or making decisions and fatigue. Less obvious may be feelings of worthlessness, guilt and helplessness. If he’s persistently pessimistic, it’s probably not just a bad mood.
4. He’s gained (or lost) a lot of weight
Being overweight or obese increases his risk of heart disease and diabetes, while being underweight could leave him lacking energy and with a weakened immune system. Struggling to gain weight could also be a sign of underlying health problems. Sudden swings in weight can also indicate emotional wellbeing struggles.
5. He’s always in the bathroom
Men are notorious for taking their time in the bathroom and if he’s simply taking a moment to catch up on sports results, then no problem. But if he needs to run to the bathroom more than he used to and if you hear a dribble rather than a stream on the other side of the door, then ask him if urinating has become difficult or painful. If he’s over 50, it could be prostate problems.
Similarly, if he experiences recent or unusual constipation, pain while passing a stool or has blood in his stool then he should see a doctor as soon as possible.
6. He’s tired
Fatigue can be a sign of many things. He may be having trouble sleeping, which could be a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety or stress, or that he may be losing quality sleep with a condition like sleep apnoea.
7. He avoids intimacy
Around half of men between 40 and 70 will experience erectile dysfunction to some degree. Instead of facing the problem, men can withdraw from being intimate to avoid disappointing their partner and embarrassing themselves. There are many possible causes, and getting to the bottom of it could benefit his health in a number of ways.
Diagnosing the root of these problems not only means a higher likelihood of successful treatment, but a better and healthier life. If you’re concerned about a man in your life, encourage him to see a GP, or book him in for a comprehensive health assessment.
Last updated Tuesday 3 November 2020
First published on Thursday 22 December 2016