T&T Heart Foundation
"A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools" – Spanish Proverb.
Yet, men in general, are likely to pay less attention to their health than women do. Men tend to go to the doctor less often than women, meaning they’re less prone to get important routine tests for cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, which are all key factors in assessing heart health.
Men are just as susceptible to heart disease, cancer, depression, stroke and diabetes. In fact, men develop heart disease 10 years earlier, on average, than women do. The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) has stated that “men are much more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In Trinidad and Tobago, the figure for premature male mortality from this condition was 135 per 100,000; for women a significantly lower 84 per 100,000 (2010).”
Concerning Health Behaviours
Men are also more inclined to smoke, drink, take more risks, and generally lead a less healthy lifestyle. In the Caribbean, men have higher rates of harmful use of alcohol than women, with one in five men reporting that they overindulge in drinking alcohol and, according to CARPHA, men are far more likely to use cigarettes than Caribbean women. Additionally, self-medicating with drinks, smoking or overeating/working may be utilised to mask depression, a condition linked to heart disease, which men are less likely to report to the doctor.
Persons with a family history of heart attack, or risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes may be at higher risk, even as young as their 30s and 40s. Other heart disease risk factors include: age, ethnicity, smoking (and second-hand smoke), lack of exercise, obesity and depression. In addition, risk factors that are unique to men that may be missed or seen as unrelated to heart health are: a low testosterone level and erectile dysfunction.
Unfortunately, heart disease may sometimes be “silent” and go undiagnosed until a man experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack. Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.
While heart attack symptoms are not the same for everyone, symptoms may include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Upper back or neck pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Extreme fatigue
- Upper body discomfort
- Shortness of breath
Lifestyle changes significantly reduces risk
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of life, health and loved ones. No matter what your age, you should start doing what you can to manage your risk factors. Making healthy changes to your lifestyle will significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease prematurely.
What do the Cardiovascular experts suggest?
- Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Quit smoking, and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Treat high blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can result in heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet. Limit packaged and processed foods, saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium.
- Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, every week.
- Limit your drinking, avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
- Get enough sleep nightly and lower your stress level, find healthy ways to cope with stress.
- Control your blood sugar, especially if you have diabetes.
- See your doctor for regular check-ups.
- Take your medicines exactly as prescribed.
Heart disease is avoidable, lifestyle changes can have a large impact in preventing cardiovascular disease, or in keeping it from worsening. Remember, the key tool in your health toolkit is your heart, ensure you’re checking, maintaining and caring for it.