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Men's Health, Heart Health & Mental Health Discussed With Dr Roger Brown, Private GP

20th, Dec 2022

Despite the fact that they don’t generally live as long as their female counterparts, men have traditionally been somewhat reluctant to seek advice for medical concerns. Thankfully this seems to be changing as an increasing number of males are realising the importance of early detection and are heeding their doctor’s advice when it comes to changing or adapting their lifestyles in order to become healthier.

Men's Health is a topic our lead GP Dr Roger Brown, is keen to promote as he sees higher numbers of men in his surgery, however he would like them to be more proactive when it comes to knowing and acting on the early signs of serious illness.

“Over the years I have developed an increasing interest in men’s health - perhaps out of necessity, because as I have got older, more and more men come to me with specific men’s health issues - possibly due to my increasing grey hairs and perceived experience,” he says. “I am finding that there is more knowledge and awareness among men than there used to be and that is pleasing as traditionally, men are not as likely to speak about or seek help for health issues which may arise, preferring to battle on and hope for the best."

“In my experience, women are more likely to share concerns with friends, family, or their doctor, but I have seen a change in men in the past 30 years and I am glad to see more coming for advice at an earlier stage for both simple and more serious medical problems."

“But they are still not good at checking up on themselves with self-examination or coming for occasional medical checks - and this is an area where we can improve things. It is important to have an awareness of the investment required in our health. As I always say, if you invest in the ‘health bank’ the rewards are many."

“People who take their health for granted and don’t take care of themselves often end up regretting it. It is never too late to start taking good care of ourselves. Eating well, sleeping adequately, exercising regularly, adopting good habits, and avoiding bad ones. It all seems so simple, and generally it is - we are not machines, and we need to look after this amazing body that most of us, who are lucky, have been born into. You only get one body, and it requires some care and attention if it is to achieve its full potential and lifespan.”

Dr Brown, who lives with his wife in Coleraine, began his medical life at Queens University medical school and after working as a junior doctor in Ulster hospital in Dundonald, he had planned to train as a GP in Northern Ireland. But a shortage of places saw him training in Scotland, where he stayed for 21 years before returning home.

Initially working in Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast, he then worked as a GP in Ballymoney for five years, before re-joining Kingsbridge North West as our lead GP of our new GP service.

Throughout his career he has dealt with countless medical issues and says that men’s health remains a priority as there are some complaints which are specific to the male population - and they need to be aware of their bodies and seek advice as soon as they notice something untoward.

“Men have a few specific issues that are unique to them,” he says. “Firstly, there are three specifically male organs which can go wrong at any stage in an adult male. The first is the testicles and we encourage men to check theirs regularly and report any changes in size or shape - even if there is no pain or discomfort - and any lumps that they might find. A simple examination can often diagnose or exclude something sinister."

“Secondly, with regard to the penis - if they have any foreskin or erectile problems these can be very embarrassing things to admit to, but are equally valid, if maybe not so life-threatening."

“And thirdly, the prostate. If there are any issues with the flow of urine, it may indicate bladder or prostate problems. So, if you are up at night going to the loo, have any difficulty starting to pass urine, or finishing up, and if you have any pain or discomfort in passing urine or Is there any blood in the urine or semen, these things should be looked into as they are not normal, but in a lot of cases, they can be remedied easily.”

The father of four grown up children says there are also some other key things to consider when it comes to men’s health.

“Heart health in Northern Ireland has statistically been very poor for Northern Irish males compared to the rest of the world,” he says. “A high level of heart disease from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, and poor exercise is correctable. However, if you don’t have your blood pressure or your cholesterol checked, you won’t know if you are at risk. And, if there is a family history of heart disease (which you can’t do anything about) it is even more important to get checked."

“But if things have progressed and you have occasional chest pain or tightness, this needs more urgent attention - and if chest pain is persisting and doesn’t go away, please seek urgent medical attention by calling 999."

“Also, Irish (Celtic) men are at a higher risk of certain types of skin cancer, so if you have a new skin lesion that looks a bit different to other freckles or moles, please ask a doctor to check it out. And if there is a change in bowel habit or any unusual new bleeding from the back passage, please ask a doctor to examine it. Unusual weight loss, abdominal pain or swelling also needs to be checked out.”

In addition to being vigilant about physical health, Dr Brown, who outside working hours, is a keen musician, who also loves classic cars, sport and his rescue animals - which include five dogs, five cats, three sheep, two Shetland ponies and two miniature donkeys, says it is just as important to promote good mental health and try to minimise stress.

“Chronic stress is a modern condition which leads to poor quality of life and poor mental health,” he says. “This is something which also needs attention and sometimes medical help."

“Thankfully there is now more awareness of the importance of good mental health - it is being talked about, and men are getting better at talking about it too. And in recent years employers have also been made more aware of their responsibility for their employee’s mental health - so this is an area where we seem to be making some progress - so don’t suffer in silence."

“Ultimately, your health is your responsibility. The onus is on us all to look after our health. Doctors and nurses and other health professionals should be viewed as collaborators to help you to maximise your health - but please use them wisely though as they are a valuable resource.”

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Source: Belfast Telegraph

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