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Save a mans heart … with some gentle persuasion

Save a mans heartPeter Baker, chief executive of the charity Men’s Health Forum, wants more men to get heart-smart and wants to recruits kids to help them get the message.

Persuading men to visit their GP for more regular heart check-ups could save thousands of lives a year, according to the charity Men’s Health Forum (MHF).
MHF is appealing to men, as well as their partners and children, to take their health more seriously and get their risk factors for heart disease checked.

Men are missing out

“Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death in men in the UK,” says Peter Baker, chief executive of the charity Men’s Health Forum. “Heart disease disproportionately affects men and especially men in the lower income groups. Too many miss out on treatment and lifestyle advice which could save their lives – simply because they don’t see a doctor until it’s too late.”

MHF is encouraging men to attend the NHS Health Check which is being offered to people aged 40 to 74; it focuses on checking risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure, weight, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, raised cholesterol, diabetes and a waist measurement of more than 40 inches (in men).

Why are men at more risk of heart disease?

According to latest figures from the British Heart Foundation:

  • 20,850 men die from heart disease prematurely before the age of 75, compared to 7,408 women.
  • Men aged 35 to 64 are about four times more likely than women to die from heart disease.
  • Men are also twice as likely as women to develop angina and one and a half times more likely to develop heart failure.
  • Males are also twice as likely as women to suffer a heart attack.

“We know that men are more likely to be overweight, have high blood pressure or diabetes, all of which increase the risk of having a heart attack,” says Peter Baker.

“Men are also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol above recommended levels and eat a poor diet. We also know that they are far less likely to visit their GP regularly than a woman or accept invitations for routine screening for heart disease risk factors or bowel cancer.”

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

Although risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure or raised cholesterol can only be detected if they are tested for and won’t have any symptoms − there are some symptoms of heart disease to be on the lookout for.
For instance, angina is a condition caused by an inadequate supply of blood. Angina symptoms include: a heaviness, tightness or dull persistent ache in your chest. It may spread to your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach – or you may feel it in just one or some of these places.

Symptoms vary: pain can be severe or a mild discomfort and you may have trouble catching your breath. Triggers include physical activity, emotional upset, cold weather or even after a meal.

Giving men a nudge to change

MHF wants to change the outcome for men and narrow the gap between the sexes – reducing premature deaths from heart disease.

“First of all we need to alert men that the risk factors for heart disease can be identified and treated with drugs and lifestyle changes, and then encourage the NHS to market their services so that men are more likely to attend,” explains Peter Baker.

“For instance, we know that men don’t generally feel as comfortable going to see their GP as women do and the timing of clinics can make it difficult to fit appointments in with their work.

“We are hoping men will visit their doctors sooner rather than later for the sake of their children and partners if not themselves. We know what the consequences of a premature death of a father can be and we hope this is a powerful message for all dads.”

How kids can help

Here are five ways kids or adult children can persuade their fathers to take better care of themselves:

  • Play sport in the evenings: Suggest a kick about in the garden or a game of rounders in the park after work to get him moving.
  • Encourage him to stop smoking: Try sponsoring him by doing extra chores for money or selling old toys and books at a car boot sale.
  • Organise your own Family Olympics: Choose some simple games – running races, ball control exercises, sack races or egg and spoon. The aim is to get him working up a sweat.
  • Play tag in the park or fly a kite. It may not seem that strenuous but the important thing is that you’re encouraging him to be more active.
  • Get him involved in cooking healthy food: Try blending fruit smoothies or chopping vegetables for salads or stir-fries to help get his five fruit and vegetables a day, plus encouraging him to cut down on salt and saturated fat.

In addition to this advice, there is additional information on the site  to show how you can take simple steps to having a healthier heart.

For more information on heart conditions and treatments, visit our heart centre. Or if you have a specific query, ask one of our expert panel a question on anything heart and lifestyle related.

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