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Men's health

Published by Bupa’s Health Information Team, August 2011.

This factsheet is for people who would like an overview of health issues that are particularly important for men.

Some health problems, including cardiovascular disease, are more common in men than women. There are also certain conditions of the prostate, testicles and penis that are specific to men.

About men’s health

Coronary heart disease and heart attacks are more common in men than women. There are other conditions including prostate disorders, testicular problems and erectile dysfunction that are specific to men. But despite these health issues, men are less likely than women to see their GP for advice. Men may also be particularly reluctant to ask for help with emotional problems.

Cardiovascular disease

In the UK, diseases of the heart and circulation (cardiovascular disease), including heart attacks and stroke, are the main causes of death. There are more than 1.6 million men with coronary heart disease and over 60,000 have a heart attack each year.

You can help to prevent cardiovascular disease by:

  • stopping smoking
  • doing regular physical activity
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet including five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • not drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol
  • getting your blood pressure and cholesterol level checked and treated if necessary
  • keeping your blood sugar levels as stable as possible if you have diabetes

Generally, if you have symptoms that include having any pain in your chest or indigestion that won’t go away, you should see your GP.

Prostate health

The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut that is located just below the bladder. It surrounds the urethra (the tube that passes urine out of your body). Its usual function is to produce a fluid that is mixed with sperm during ejaculation. Women don’t have a prostate gland.

Illustration of the position of the prostate gland and surrounding structures.

Benign enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia)

The prostate gland tends to get bigger with age and this can push on your urethra, interfering with the flow of urine. This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It isn't cancerous. About half of men over 50 get symptoms of BPH, including:

  • having difficulty passing urine
  • having a weak flow of urine that sometimes starts and stops
  • dribbling of urine before and after urinating
  • feeling that you haven't completely emptied your bladder after passing urine
  • a frequent or urgent need to pass urine
  • needing to get up several times in the night to pass urine

These symptoms may be caused by problems other than BPH. If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP for advice.

For some men, an enlarged prostate may be just a minor nuisance, but for others it can have a big impact on their life. Depending on the severity of the condition, options for treating BPH include making simple lifestyle changes (such as cutting down on caffeine and alcohol), taking medicines and having surgery.

Prostate cancer

In the UK, around 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and the majority are over 70. Your risk of getting prostate cancer is higher if a close relative, such as your father or brother, has had it. Screening is available with a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). However, the test isn't recommended for everyone because there is uncertainty over whether its benefits outweigh the potential harm it may cause.

Prostate cancer can press on your urethra and block the flow of urine, producing symptoms similar to those of BPH. These symptoms aren't always caused by prostate cancer but if you have them, see your GP.

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on a number of factors, including your age, general health and the stage of your cancer. Prostate cancer is often slow-growing, so in some older men the best treatment may be 'watchful waiting' – close monitoring with no treatment. Alternatively, surgery, radiotherapy or hormone therapy may be an option.

Testicular health

All men should examine their testicles regularly to check for anything that is not normal for them. As a general guide, if you notice any changes such as swelling, lumps or pain in your testicles, see your GP.

Testicular torsion

If your testicle becomes twisted (this is called torsion) you will have severe pain and swelling. The pain develops quickly and you may also feel sick and vomit. Unless testicular torsion is treated within a few hours, it can cause permanent damage. Testicular torsion is usually treated with surgery.

Testicular cancer

Although testicular cancer is rare, it’s the most common cancer in men aged between 15 and 44. Symptoms usually include having a painless lump or a feeling of heaviness or discomfort in your scrotum.

Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, which is also known as impotence, is the ongoing inability to achieve or sustain an erection for sexual activity. The likelihood of you having erectile dysfunction increases as you get older. There are many different causes of erectile dysfunction, including:

  • conditions that narrow your blood vessels such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels
  • surgery affecting the blood vessels or nerves that supply your penis
  • certain medicines, including some antidepressants and medicines for high blood pressure
  • psychological problems such as anxiety and depression
  • tiredness, illness or stress
  • smoking or drinking too much alcohol

Erectile dysfunction can often be treated. Sometimes, lifestyle changes such as losing weight or stopping smoking can help. Alternatively, medicines that you take orally, such as sildenafil, are highly effective in treating some forms of erectile dysfunction. There are other medicines available that are injected into your penis. However, these medicines aren't suitable for everyone and can have side-effects. Your GP will be able to discuss the most suitable treatment options for you.

As erectile dysfunction can often be a sign of another condition, such as high blood pressure, your GP may suggest you have a screening test for heart disease.

 

For answers to frequently asked questions on this topic, see Common questions.

For sources and links to further information, see Resources.

Need more information?

How can we help you?

Bupa Testicular Check

Put your mind at rest with a Bupa Complete Health Assessment that includes testicular and prostate checks for men. Phone 0845 600 3458 quoting ref. HFS100 to book an appointment today.

Book to see a Private GP today

See a Private GP in confidence to discuss any concerns you may have about your health or your family's health or call 0845 600 3458 quoting ref. HFS GP.


  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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  • Publication date: August 2011

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