Jane Fowler – Head of Customer Support Services
Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of Wellbeing Wednesday. We are almost at midsummer now, so many of you will be thinking of upcoming holidays – enjoy and relax when they come – you deserve a break!
This week we are sharing information with you about diabetes, what the condition is, how it can affect people who have it and how it can be best managed. We also have a whole lot about Men’s Health week – so all you men out there – have a look at the men’s health Forum DIY Man MOT and check out how you are in terms of your overall health. And everyone else – if there is a man in your life, you might want to encourage him to have a look at these materials.
Very quick update on books – still on the sci-fi murder mystery and have been reading chapters from my course books. Reading to take notes is quite different from reading for relaxation – but both are rewarding!!
See you next week
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2
When you’ve got type 1 diabetes, you can’t make any insulin at all. If you’ve got type 2 diabetes, it’s a bit different. The insulin you make either can’t work effectively, or you can’t produce enough of it.
They’re different conditions, but they’re both serious. Other types of diabetes include gestational diabetes, which some women may go on to develop during pregnancy. And there are many other rarer types of diabetes such as type 3c and Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA) too.
In all types of diabetes, glucose can’t get into your cells properly, so it begins to build up in your blood. And too much glucose in your blood causes a lot of different problems. To begin with, it leads to diabetes symptoms.
What causes diabetes?
What all types of diabetes have in common is that they cause people to have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood. But we all need some glucose. It’s what gives us energy. We get glucose when our bodies break down the carbohydrates that we eat or drink. And that glucose is released into our blood.
We also need a hormone called insulin. It’s made by our pancreas, and it’s insulin that allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies.
One in 15 people in the UK have diabetes, including one million people who have type 2, but haven’t been diagnosed
If you don’t have diabetes, your pancreas senses when glucose has entered your bloodstream and releases the right amount of insulin, so the glucose can get into your cells. But if you have diabetes, this system doesn’t work.
Symptoms of diabetes
The common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Going to the toilet a lot, especially at night
- Being really thirsty
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Losing weight without trying to
- Genital itching or thrush
- Cuts and wounds take longer to heal
- Blurred vision
Over a long period of time, high glucose levels in your blood can seriously damage your heart, your eyes, your feet and your kidneys. These are known as the complications of diabetes. But with the right treatment and care, people can live a healthy life. And there’s much less risk that someone will experience these complications.
Having some conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, can mean you are more at risk of developing diabetes. And there are other conditions linked to diabetes that you should be aware of.
Some people may have a blood sugar level that is higher than usual, but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This is called prediabetes, and means you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to put their diabetes into remission. This means your blood sugar levels are healthy without taking any medication. For many people, this can be life-changing.
Managing your diabetes
Getting used to life with diabetes can be difficult. From advice about what to eat, to emotional support and guidance about driving, www.diabetes.org.uk can help you live well with diabetes.
MEN’S HEALTH Time for your MOT
Men’s Health Week is 13-19 June 2022.
We’ve been through a lot these past couple of years. Covid has not gone away but we are beginning to live with it. To do this, we need to be at the top of our game, physically and mentally. So, for this year’s Men’s Health Week, we’re calling on men everywhere, to give themselves an MOT.
Men’s Health Week (MHW) is designed to give all boys and men* access to the information, services and treatment they need to live healthier, longer and more fulfilling lives.
Evidence suggests that men* are less likely to seek support for their health than women**, although they tend seek more help after retirement age. This is despite the life expectancy for men being lower than that of women, in part related to their social circumstances.
Men should feel able to seek support from their GP or other clinician as soon they need it, just like anybody else. Identifying problems sooner rather than later means they are caught early and are, therefore, usually more easily and quickly treated. Delay in seeking support could result in more serious symptoms, additional complications and more challenging treatment.
Men’s Health Forum have a guide as to how to check yourself: DIY Man MOT | Men’s Health Forum (menshealthforum.org.uk)
Let’s take a look at some of the issues men may face.
Your sexual health
Most men will experience some form of sexual health problem at some stage in their lifetime, whether this be acute or chronic.
Erectile dysfunction is more common with age and is often easily treatable. There are various possible underlying causes for erectile dysfunction such as cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, certain medications or other underlying health conditions or treatments.
Additionally, psychological symptoms associated with stress, depression and anxiety can result in erectile dysfunction. It’s important you speak to your GP to try and identify any potential causes. This can help them to provide appropriate treatment options. There are prescription medications available and your GP can refer you for specialist treatment and support if needed. Lifestyle changes may also help such as stopping smoking, cutting down alcohol and losing weight if needed.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may or may not show symptoms. Symptoms may include:
- Discharge from the penis
- Pain on urination
- Rash/lump/blisters in the genital region
- Pain in the testicles
It’s important to seek support from a sexual health clinic or your GP if you suspect you may have an STI, as treatment may be required. Practicing safe sex and getting regular sexual health assessments, if you are sexually active with more than one individual, can all help avoid contracting or spreading STIs.
Other common sexual health problems experienced by men include premature ejaculation, difficulty/lack of ejaculation and loss of libido.
If you have any concerns about your sexual health, seek support from your GP as soon as possible. It can be embarrassing to discuss such concerns, but your GP will have seen many men with similar problems, many times previously and will be able to offer advice.
Your prostate health
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland, whose function is to produce fluid, which mixes with sperm during ejaculation to create semen. Prostate function is governed by the male hormone testosterone. The prostate sits just beneath the bladder and the urethra (the tube from the bladder to the penis) runs through the centre of the prostate gland. Hence, the most common symptoms experienced relating to prostate health are related to urination, e.g.
- Not being able to urinate or difficulty doing so such as straining or delay
- Poor urinary flow
- Increased frequency or urgency to urinate, particularly during the night
- Leaking following urination
- A feeling like the bladder has not been emptied fully
- And/or pain on urination.
These symptoms are most commonly due to an enlarged prostate (commonly caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – a non-cancerous growth of cells) and can be easily managed with lifestyle changes, medications if required or occasionally surgery if this is deemed necessary.
However, other causes can also include prostatitis (infection of the prostate gland) or prostate cancer, so it’s important to seek advice from your GP as soon as possible, if you develop any symptoms.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in UK males (27%) and second-most common cause of cancer death. Prostate cancer is easily treatable, especially if caught early. Although survival rates have never been better, the UK still experiences 11,900 deaths per year as a result of prostate cancer. The causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood but it tends to affect men aged 50 or over.
Your testicular health
It’s important you check regularly for any changes to your testicles. The ideal time to check is just after a warm bath or shower: hold your scrotum in the palm of your hand and check each testicle by rolling it between the thumb and fingers.
It’s perfectly normal for testicles to be a different size and length; however, if you notice any changes such as swelling, lumps, hardening or pain, it’s important you seek the advice of your GP as soon as possible. These symptoms are commonly a sign of infection, inflammation, fluid build-up (hydrocele) or damage; however, it is important to get checked as these symptoms may also indicate testicular cancer.
Cancer of the testicle is one of the less common cancers and tends to mostly affect men between 15 and 49 years of age. 2,354 men are diagnosed in UK each year. Many testicular cancers can be cured if treated early so it is important to check regularly and don’t delay seeking GP advice.
Your mental health
Research shows that men are less likely to speak openly about their emotional wellbeing; it’s thought that this may be due to societal and gender stereotypes and expectations. It’s becoming more commonly heard in recent times, but it really is ‘OK not to be OK.’ Men should feel safe to speak out and seek support and be confident that they won’t be judged or perceived differently for doing so.
Approximately one in eight men in the UK are thought to have a common mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) with over one-third of men reporting having experienced mental health problems at some point in their lives.
Men are more likely to become alcohol addicted than women and reduced mental health can be a trigger for unhealthy behaviours; men are more likely to use potentially harmful coping mechanisms, which could potentially lead to addiction. Common symptoms of reduced mental health in men can include:
- Low mood and increased anxiety
- Irritability with feelings of anger
- Increased risk taking and aggression
- Reduced motivation
- Poor sleep, fatigue/lethargy
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness
- Feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem
- Apathy – no longer getting enjoyment out of or losing interest in things you ordinarily enjoy
- Thoughts of suicide or needing to escape
Men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide. Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK and yet, men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women, with only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies being for men.
Talking is not always easy. However, with the increased risk of suicide and other harmful behaviours such as addiction, it’s important to speak out and seek support if needed. If you recognise that you are experiencing symptoms related to your mental health, speak to your GP, as they may be able to help. It can also be beneficial to explain how you’re feeling to family and close friends so that they can offer support.
Additionally, lifestyle factors such as maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, spending time outdoors, practicing good sleep hygiene, ensuring a good work/life balance and practicing techniques such as mindfulness and relaxation can be of great benefit.
As well as looking out for ourselves, it’s also important that we look out for each other. If you suspect a friend or colleague may be struggling, offer a listening ear, encourage them to talk and let them know that help is available and that they are not alone. Starting a conversation with somebody about their mental health can be really helpful; it may be the first time somebody has asked and it may offer a huge sense of relief to acknowledge that this is how they are feeling.
If you feel that an individual is in immediate danger, e.g. if they tell you they have a plan or intention to act on thoughts of suicide, don’t leave them alone. Try to remove any means of suicide from the immediate environment and seek further support – perhaps contact their GP on their behalf, call 999 or accompany them to A&E and stay with them until they are seen. Hearing that a friend, family member or colleague is feeling suicidal can be difficult, so make sure you also seek support for yourself if needed.
*Men, trans women, people who are non-binary who were assigned male at birth, and cis gender men.
**Women, trans men, people who are non-binary who were assigned female at birth, and cis gender women.
Please also let us know your thoughts and ideas about the items featured in our Wellbeing Wednesdays each week and send us your suggestions for future topics – we love to hear from you.
The Wellbeing Team: firstname.lastname@example.org