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Five ways to live longer as a Queensland bloke

Friday 17 March 2017

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Queensland men are dying younger than their female counterparts, but diet and lifestyle changes might help them buck the trend.

Here's the bad news: if you're a bloke in Queensland, you're less likely to be looking after your health than a woman. Statistics show you're going to die about five years earlier than a woman, and that you're 60 per cent more likely to die from cancer.

It doesn't end there, either. The same statistics show that you're more likely to be a smoker, and there's pretty good odds that you're drinking too much, eating poorly, and not getting enough exercise.

Worse, you're also less likely to seek medical treatment, more likely to remain unaware of serious health issues until they become urgent, and you're generally more reluctant to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Here's the good news: it's relatively easy to buck those statistical trends. If you like the idea of being a statistical anomaly, here are the five lifestyle changes you need to make in order to live a longer, happier life.

Watch your waistline

Yeah, this isn't the first thing you want to hear, but there are some damn good reasons to start watching your waist. If you're a man and you measure more than 94 cm around the waist, there's an increased risk of suffering from chronic diseases that can't be turned back, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart attacks, and some cancers.

Add another eight centimetres to your waist and go over 102 cm, and those risk levels stop looking like a maybe and start looking a bit more probably going to happen.

The best way to reduce your waist size is to eat well and be physically active. Men are more likely to carry their excess weight at the waistline, and most weight gain is due to consuming more energy through food and drink than you expend through activity.

It might not be the place you want to start, but the reason this is first cab off the rank is simple - exercise and healthy eating are one of the first steps you need to take in addressing nearly everything else on this list.

Want to know more about watching your waistline?

Keep your heart healthy

Coronary Heart Disease - aka the thickening of arteries that causes heart attacks and angina - is a leading cause of death in both males and females in Queensland.

After the disparity mentioned earlier, this might seem like a cause for celebration, until you start drilling down into the stats. As a man, you're statistically more likely to be younger the first time you're hospitalised for heart disease, and it's far more likely to result in death.

Even without these stats, heart disease is nothing to be cocky about given that two-thirds of heart disease deaths are preventable.

So here's the list of things you need to start doing, if you're looking to improve your chances of avoiding a trip to the thoracic surgeon: quit smoking; eat healthy; drink less alcohol; do at least 30 minutes of exercise each day; and maintain a healthy weight. Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and get your doctor's advice on long-term strategies to improve your heart health.

Want to know more about heart health?

A man sits on the ground leaning against his car.

Learning to manage stress is a skill you can use for life

Pay attention to your stress levels and mental health

There's a big part of the male psyche that's been taught that toughing it out is the best way to deal with…well, everything. Worried about money? Don't tell anyone, just get it sorted. Stressed out about work? Have a beer, keep your lip buttoned, and get on with it. Worried about what's going on with your family? Men don't talk about that stuff.

A big part of what we're taught is manly translates to staying quiet when things are wrong. Toughing it out alone is seen as the ideal way of coping with any problem, and when that stops working, outlets like drinking are generally favoured as a coping mechanism over getting help or talking about the problem.

It's time to suck it up and admit that the manly way of dealing with things just isn't effective. One in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime, and one in four will experience extreme anxiety, but less than a third will seek out help for fear that they'll be seen as weak.

Here's the thing: depression is an illness, not a weakness, and like other illnesses, there are treatments available. There are all sorts of things you can do to reduce stress and look after your mental health, starting with staying active and eating a healthy diet, but if you find yourself feeling down, angry, frustrated, stressed out, or numb for two weeks or more, its important to seek help.

If you do start exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety, talk about what you're feeling with a friend or your doctor, or get help by calling:

  • 13 HEALTH - 13 43 25 84
  • Lifeline - 13 11 14
  • Mensline - 1300 798 978

For more information on mental health, visit Beyond Blue, The Shed Online, or Queensland Health's Mental Health and Wellbeing resources.

Two men fishing in the sunshine.

Simple lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of cancer.

Take sensible precautions against cancer

Queensland has one of the highest instances of new cancer cases in the world and nearly 60 per cent of those diagnosed will be men. The statistics are much the same when we look at Queenslander's killed by cancer. Those odds aren't good for any Queensland male, but the good news is that one-third of cancers could be prevented, and another third can be detected early and treated.

Here's your short-list of cancers to watch out for, and the next steps you should take to reduce your risk of death.

Lung cancer

Topping the list of cancer's killing Queensland blokes is lung cancer, responsible for 81 per cent of the cancers in the state. The big risk factor here is, unsurprisingly, smoking cigarettes or exposure to passive smoke.

The obvious step here, tough as it may seem: it's time to quit smoking, now. Give Quitline (13 78 48) a call to get a personalised quitting program tailored to your lifestyle.

Prostate cancer

Lung cancer may be the biggest killer in Queensland, but prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men in the state. For those who have never taken a look at this little bit of male biology, the prostate is a small gland the size of a walnut tucked up behind the reproductive system.

You don't need to worry about it too much when you're young, but the risk of prostate cancer increases as you get older and there's evidence your alcohol consumption adds to your risk. If you're male and over 40, check in with your doctor to schedule a prostate exam and talk through options for keeping your prostate healthy.

Bowel Cancer

Bowel Cancer is another common cancer diagnosed among Queensland men, but it's also one of the most treatable if it's detected early.

The risk of bowel cancer increases with age and if you're over 50, this risk increases significantly. This is why the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has been set up to automatically mail-out a screening kit around the time of your 50th birthday.

This is a quick, painless test that is free and easy to use…and yet 60 per cent of Queenslanders elect to skip it. So your best bet: make a date with your date, and get that kit submitted.

Regardless of age, there are a couple of ways you can reduce the risk of bowel cancer: get active, maintain a healthy body weight, limit your alcohol intake, quit smoking, and eat plenty of fruit, vegies, and high-fibre food while limiting the amount of red meat you're consuming.

Skin cancer/Melanoma

Queensland is great for climate and outdoor living, which is why most Queenslanders will spend the bulk of their time outside when given the opportunity. Great for living, but it sucks for your skin: Queensland also has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world.

The great news is that the majority of cases of skin cancer are preventable. The best way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer is to use the five recommended sun protection methods whenever you are outside:

  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat to shade your face, ears, and neck.
  • Cover up with clothing as much as possible, using dark colours and close-weave fabrics.
  • Spend as much time in the shade as you can.
  • Get yourself a pair of wrap-around sunglasses and wear them whenever possible.
  • Wear water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. Apply it 20 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours.

Even if you're taking all those steps, you should get to know your skin and check it regularly. If you notice a change in size, shape or colour to any spots or moles, have them checked by your doctor.

Testicular cancer

Bucking the trend of risks increasing as you get older, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men 20 to 35 years old. Testicular cancer has a high rate of cure when treated early, but the best way of picking it up is to examine your testicles regularly. The most common symptoms of testicular cancer are:

  • a painless lump or swelling in either testicle
  • a change in how the testicle feels
  • a dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin
  • a sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum
  • pain or discomfort in a testicle or scrotum

If you notice changes or experience any of the above symptoms, go talk to your doctor.

Want to know more about preventing cancer?

Pay attention to the right things, for your time of life

The basics of being healthy don't change: eat better, move more, quit smoking, drink less alcohol, and stay fit.

But as you get older, there are specific things to start looking out for, beyond the specifics on this list. The Queensland government website includes a decade-by-decade good health guide for men, starting from your twenties, and it lays out the areas you should focus on to maintain your health in addition to giving you a checklist of tests it's worth discussing with your doctor.

If you're not sure what you should be worrying about at your age, or in the years to come, men's health through the decades is your timeline. Check it out if you're really looking to buck the trends and live a longer, healthier life as a Queensland bloke.

Last updated: 23 August 2017