Men face considerable health risks that are often compounded by a mixture of being unaware, uninformed, inhibited, intrinsically stubborn or simply too scared to talk about and act on their problems. Jon Herbert considers the example of diabetes as highlighted by Men’s Health Week.

This year, 11–17 June is not only Men’s Health Week, but also Diabetes Week 2018. As such, the high and growing threat of diabetes for men and the disease’s severe consequences is the focus of this year’s men’s health campaign.

Men on average die four and a half years earlier than women. Statistics show that they have a higher fatality rate than women for all leading cause of death. Poor lifestyles lie behind a high proportion of chronic diseases affecting men.

One reason for this is that men are less inclined to present their health problems to health professionals early on, so many problems are left until they are harder to treat or beyond treatment.

Diabetes: the belly fat problem

The focus of Men’s Health Week 2018 advises on how to — ideally — prevent or otherwise live responsibly with diabetes. As a nation, the UK is gaining weight, a primary cause of diabetes. Men in fact have a higher incidence of diabetes than women and are therefore more likely to suffer the complications of eye damage, foot ulcers and even foot amputations. They are also 40% more likely to die — and die prematurely — as a result of diabetes than women.

Today, 1 in 10 men suffers from diabetes, and this figure is expected to rise sharply.

The bad news is that belly fat is particularly bad for health and men have more; it doesn’t just hang around the waistline, but builds up deep inside the body around vital organs. Irrespective of overall weight, excess belly fat increases the risks of cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, sleep apnoea and high blood pressure.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where the body is unable to properly process the glucose in the blood. There are two main types — type 1 and type 2 — which are different conditions, plus some rarer types of diabetes.

If you don’t have diabetes, your pancreas senses when glucose has entered your bloodstream and releases the right amount of insulin, a hormone, to help glucose fuel the body’s cells. But if you have diabetes, this system doesn’t work. With type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune reaction that cannot be cured, the body cannot make any insulin at all. In the case of type 2, the insulin you do make is either unable to work effectively, or you do not produce enough of it.

Both types of diabetes mean that because glucose cannot enter the cells, it builds up in the blood and too much causes a lot of different problems. Early diabetic symptoms including having to urinate a lot, being incredibly thirsty and feeling very tired. This may be accompanied by weight loss, infections and slow healing wounds.

Over a long period, high blood glucose levels can cause serious damage to the heart, eyes, feet and kidneys; these are known complications. However, with the right treatment and care, people are able to live a healthy life with a much reduced risk of complications.

The symptoms of diabetes

·         unusual thirst

·         needing to wee more than usual

·         feeling unusually tired

·         loss of muscle

·         slow healing of cuts and wounds

·         blurred vision

·         weight loss

·         loss of interest in sex and erection problems.

So what can be done?

Type 2 diabetes can usually be controlled, and even sometimes reversed, using diet, exercise and medication. Lower the risks getting type 2 diabetes by:

  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week
  • not smoking
  • taking regular exercise
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • reducing the amount of sugar you eat.

Employers and diabetes

Employees with diabetes may well fall under the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010, as diabetes is a long-term condition and may affect their ability to do normal work. The need for reasonable adjustments should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Actions employers can take to support employees with diabetes include the following.

  • As the condition can carry risk for safety-critical work, do an individual risk assessment, involving the employee and a medical advisor.
  • Provide a fridge or fridge space, if required, in which to keep their insulin at work.
  • Provide a room, if required, where they can inject insulin privately.
  • With the employee’s permission, educate colleagues and managers to recognise the symptoms of a hypoglycaemic episode and how to treat it.
  • Understand the need for and facilitating medical appointments, and possibly accept a higher level of sickness absence.
  • Give pregnant women flexibility around working hours and time off for appointments.
  • Investigate whether your employee could benefit from more information on their condition: there are courses you could send them on.
  • Consider initiatives to stave off type 2 diabetes across the workplace by encouraging a healthier lifestyle, eg through free fruit or free exercise classes or gym membership.

How organisations can help to improve men’s health

  • Participate in health action weeks, but reinforce the key points throughout the working year.
  • Encourage male employees to talk openly about their health issues.
  • Raise awareness about preventable health problems for males of all age.
  • Encourage employees to make healthier lifestyle choices and be more active.
  • Help with early detection of health issues.

Published by Croneri on 11 June 2018



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