Keeping an eye on our health and noting whether the ole bod is ticking away well or not can sometimes feel like a full time job. Whether it’s our bowels, our brain or our balls – modern men are sent a lot of messages from doctors (like yours truly) about how to tell if the engine’s running ok. More often than not, those instructions feel about as easy to read as your typical Ikea kit set blueprint. What does that diagram actually mean? And where even is that part?
Making sure we’re keeping a check on things when it comes to our health is important. Picking things up early is vital, and there are often some key “need to knows” when it comes to major organ systems and areas of health that we can use to make sure we do that. Men’s health outcomes often fall well behind those of women, and a major piece to this puzzle is that us blokes tend to leave off getting things checks or delay seeing someone when we need to.
So here are some key body blueprint steps every man should have up his sleeve. Here’s hoping they’re slightly easier to put together than that flat-pack shelving unit that’s still half boxed in the corner.
A key need to know for bowels comes down to consistency. Yes, I’m talking the consistency of the final product when it’s hitting the bowl. But we’re also talking the consistency of how and when you go. A healthy bowel will be one that’s regular and where your poop is coming through regular in how it’s formed, coloured and feels.
Diet and changes to what we’re eating, our activity levels and a host of other things can impact how your bowels are working slightly day to day and this is normal. However if bowel habit starts to change significantly and quickly for no clear reason (loose one day, constipated the next) then you may have some cause for concern. Significant changes to poop colour matters too, black stools or any blood mixed in or on the toilet paper should signal a trip to the doc. Pain associated with pooping is never a good sign, so call up your local GP to get it checked out.
When our balls are doing what they’re meant to, it’s easy to forget about them (depending on what your’e doing). However testicular cancer remains one of the most common cancers in young men, and is often highly treatable if we catch it early. So keeping an eye on what the boys below are doing is really important.
If your testes noticeably change in shape, or there are any new lumps/bumps then it’s vital to get things checked with your doctor ASAP. Similarly, if there’s pain, swelling, or a change in colour to the scrotum then don’t delay. Regularly checking things out in the shower when things are loose/relaxed by gently rolling each ball between your thumb and fingers is recommended to make sure things are ok. Things should feel pain free, smooth and similar in shape (but it’s normal for one to sit a little higher than the other!).
Keeping an eye on our mental health and how our brain is doing is just as important as any other part of the body. Modern health is one where the mind and body are seen as equals – and so it’s high time we give it the time and thought it needs.
Mental health struggles can be widely variable and sometimes tricky to pick up. Major changes in some of our key physical markers can be a good way to know how the brain is doing though. Sleep is a key one, with mood and anxiety problems often impacted here first. If you’re having trouble sleeping, or feel far more tired than usual then it might be a sign you need to get things checked out. Persistent anxiety or an irritable/low mood that doesn’t bounce back up after a stressful week is another sign things might be more than just stress. If we’re struggling to keep up with our usual plans, or lose enjoyment for the things that normally give us a rise then it’s time to reach out, and there’s zero shame in that.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, chat to a medical professional and reach out to a support hotline:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
SANE on 1800 187 263
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
Our skin can be a key way that doctors pick up some signals for when things aren’t going too well underneath the hood, and so it’s a good way for us to do the same. Changes to colour or texture of the skin in a significant way should signal a trip to see your GP – particularly if skin colour across the body starts to wash out, yellow or be hit with an unexplained rash.
Vitally, skin cancers are something those in Aus and NZ need to be well aware of. Melanoma is one of our biggest killers, and keeping an eye on spots and marks should be top of the list to every man’s health. Any new or unexplained marks and spots warrant a check up, as do major changes to previous or pre-existing ones. Spots that are changing quickly, are multi-coloured, itchy, sore or not smooth and symmetrical in their shape should get checked out ASAP.