Date published: 
17 June 2022
Type: 
News
Intended audience: 
General public
Top 3
Top 3 questions – Men's Health Week with Dr Lucas de Toca
7:12
Read transcript

Hello. I'm Dr Lucas De Toca, speaking from Ngunnawal country. And today, again, we are talking about Men's Health. This is the second video of a two-part mini-series to acknowledge Men's Health Week. It's always a good opportunity when Men's Health Week comes around to continue to raise awareness about issues that impact men, particularly 'cause men, and boys, are less likely than women generally, to seek help.

There are many reasons why that happens. There's, of course, denial that anything is going wrong. But I think the expectations, the sometimes toxic interactions that can occur and that put pressure on particularly boys and young men, but men in general, to just 'chin up and just keep going' with what they're doing, without worrying, can create a problem in which men tend to seek care later, and when things get worse, than women. So, acknowledging that if seeking medical care, talking about the issues that are affecting you, discussing emotional or social and mental health issues that are impacting you, particularly with friends or a close relative, there's nothing embarrassing, nothing that... to use very old-fashioned terms, like, 'make you less of a man.' They're actually important conversations to have. So that... again, especially young men, when you're talking to your mates, there's an environment in which people can bring up this kind of issues. One of the things that we're going to discuss today is whether family history or lifestyle habits are more important in determining whether you are at higher risk of chronic disease or bad outcomes later in life. And like with most things, it's a combination. Of course, there is a genetic lottery and family history of particular chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer, even some mental health conditions, can be quite determinant on an individual's risk of developing said disease. And that's why it's important that we are engaging with care early on, so that someone who is trained as a health professional, or a primary health care nurse, a GP, an Aboriginal health practitioner, know about our family history, know about our personal circumstances, and can provide individual advice about what things we can do within a sphere of influence to minimise our risk.

But of course, beyond that, individual risk factors for coming from the family history and the genetic makeup of a person, there's just a range of generally healthy lifestyle activities that we can do to minimise that risk of chronic disease. Of course, the capacity of, to impact those so-called 'modifiable risk factors' varies between person-to-person. And sometimes life circumstances make it really hard to make those so-called 'healthy choices'. Nutrition is a big part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and minimising the risk of chronic disease. But for some people, eating healthy every day might be unaffordable, or not manageable within the activities of daily living. But there are small things that we can still do, and gradual change is still much better than no change. So a lot of this general advice in preventative medicine or things that you can do doesn't have to be black and white. It is not, you can, 'you have to always eat healthy', 'eat all your veggies', and everything has to be like, organic, and expensive, and difficult to prepare, or you have to go to the gym five times a week otherwise, 'you're not doing it right.' Like, every step that we take towards a healthier lifestyle within what we can do, realistically does help. So, 15 minutes of exercise every day, even if it's just fast walking or doing something at home, you don't have to have an expensive gym membership, or going... lifting heavy weights, or doing high-intensity training. Some strength and conditioning training  that you can do at home and just watching videos on YouTube, using couches and on walls, and doing push-ups, or ab crunches at home, even for like 10-15 minutes a day, can help make sure that you're actually avoiding this sedentary life. Don't just, like, sitting on the couch or in the office chair like a lot of us do every day. Trying to minimise, of course, the consumption of substances of abuse, including illegal drugs, but also smoking and alcohol. Alcohol consumption, which is quite prevalent in our country, is a pretty direct risk for long-term chronic disease issues, including mental and social health issues.

 

Again, we're not talking about everyone has to be completely alcohol-free. And again, it's not about all or nothing. Of course, less alcohol is always better, but even if you just do a reduction of the number of drinks that you take on a night, or make sure that there are several days a week where you're not drinking, you can still start making a difference. Social connection is actually really important. And there's lots of evidence that men who become isolated, particularly older men, are at higher risk of chronic disease, dementia, other conditions that might impact your well-being and, but also increase early mortality. So, making a bit of an effort to maintain social connection with your friends, with old colleagues, joining clubs, reigniting hobbies, like, looking at things that are not just going to work, going home, and then going back to work, is helpful. Sleep habits again, really easy to say. Everyone knows seven to eight hours of sleep are optimal. But we know that that might be hard to achieve on an individual level, but is that something that to aspire for and just being mindful of, and again, I feel a bit hypocritical preaching about this, but, like, reducing the amount of screen time just before bed can help with a better sleep. So, that's something to consider. And yeah, I think, just thinking of what small things can I make gradually and incrementally towards a healthy life, a healthier life, make it a bit easier, and just chunk things into small bits as opposed to thinking, 'I need to rethink everything,' 'change my food habits, change my drinking, change my exercise,' 'cause then it might become too big and overwhelming. And as we said on the previous video, having a regular GP, having a regular health professional that knows your family history, that has your individual circumstances and can provide you that individual advice, or you can just call for a telehealth consult when you're concerned about something in particular, is a big step, because it means that you don't have to create that relationship anew when a problem specifically arises. And that's something that we don't do, very well. Many, many young men don't have a regular GP. So, that's a good thing that you can start doing today.

That's all for today. It was a bit of a general video about things that we can do to improve our health during Men's Health Week. There is more information on menshealthweek.org.au. And of course, as always, on health.gov.au. Thank you for tuning in, and see you next time.

Top 3 questions

  • What is Men's Health Week? 
  • How can men build healthier outcomes and reduce the risk of chronic disease? 
  • How can men better engage with Australia's health services?