Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...


Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...


Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...


The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Man up to men's health

mens_health"Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.” (Congressman Bill Richardson, 1994)

June is men's health month, a month dedicated to educating men about their health risks, how to prevent them, symptoms to look out for, and where to get medical assistance. Although the focus is generally on prostate and testicular cancer, there are other important medical problems that deserve attention.

Men are notorious for not going to the doctor when they ought to - men are 4 times less likely to see a doctor than women. A study conducted in the UK, in 2005, found that men tend to develop attitudes that do not promote their health. Priority is given to work and they have a self image that encourages the denial of illness. It was also found, that men tend to fear the consequences of illness more than women and they do not like to discuss their health.

Although men and women share many of the same health problems, certain conditions are specific to men. Furthermore, men are also at a higher risk for injuries, death on the road and suicide. In general, there are more premature deaths in men than women.

Important tests and checks for men:

Cholesterol Checks - Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is produced in the liver, is found throughout the body and is an integral part of all cell membranes. In order for cholesterol to travel through the bloodstream, it is coated with a layer of protein, creating a lipoprotein. There are 2 different types of lipoproteins: low density lipoproteins (LDL's) and high density lipoproteins (HDL's). The former carry most of the cholesterol in the blood. Excess LDL's lead to a build up of cholesterol in the walls of the arteries. This results in arteriosclerosis, or a narrowing of the arteries and decreases blood flow. The higher your levels of LDL, the greater your risks of having a heart attack or stroke. HDL carries cholesterol back to the liver, for reprocessing or excretion, and helps to prevent a build up of cholesterol in the artery walls. Low levels of HDL, increase your risk of heart attack, as the excess cholesterol in the artery walls places too big a demand on the available HDL, which helps to remove it.

From the age of 35, all men should have their cholesterol checked, at least every 5 years. If there is a family history of high cholesterol (primary/familial hypercholesterolaemia) and/ heart disease, you are a smoker, or have diabetes, start checking your cholesterol, from the age of 20. Total cholesterol should not exceed < 5mmol/L, with an HDL of 1.2mmol/L or higher and an LDL of less than 3.0mmol/L. Your cholesterol levels can be measured by a simple screening test, often carried out at pharmacies, clinics, hospitals or even your doctor’s rooms. It is preferable to fast for 10 hours prior to testing for more accurate results (you may drink water). The test involves a quick, painless needle prick to your fingertip, from which a small sample of blood is taken and sent for screening. Depending on your results, you may be required to go for a more comprehensive cholesterol test, called a lipogram. This test measures your total cholesterol, both LDL and HDL- cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This test provides information about your risks for heart disease and will help your doctor establish a treatment regime (e.g. diet, exercise, medication). It is essential that you fast for 10 hours before testing.

Blood Pressure - refers to the pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries. The normal range varies with age, but a young adult is expected to have a BP of 120/80. The top measure is known as systolic pressure, which occurs when the ventricles are contracting. This is when pressure is at its highest. In contrast, pressure is at its lowest during diastole, when the ventricles are relaxing and refilling. This is known as diastolic pressure. Individual variations in BP are common. Muscular exertion and emotional factors, such as stress, fear and excitement, all raise systolic pressure. Systolic BP is usually at its lowest during sleep.

Check your blood pressure at least every 2 years. If it is elevated, have it monitored more frequently. The frightening aspect or hypotension, is that you cannot necessarily feel that something is wrong. High blood pressure can damage both your arteries and your heart.

Diabetes Tests - diabetes mellitus, is a chronic disorder of carbohydrate metabolism, in which sugars in the blood are not oxidized to produce energy. This leads to an accumulation of sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia). In other words, people with diabetes have high blood sugar. This occurs due to an insufficient amount of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, to control blood sugar. It can also occur because, diabetics muscle, fat and liver cells do not respond to insulin normally, or both of the above.

If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, have a test to screen for diabetes, at least every 3 years or in accordance with your doctors guidance. Symptoms of diabetes mellitus can include; thirst, weight loss, fatigue, blurry vision, and the excessive production of urine. Diabetes appears to have a genetic component and can be triggered by several factors, such as physical stress. There are 2 types of diabetes: Type I or insulin-dependent diabetes, that starts in childhood or adolescence and is generally more severe; and Type II or non-insulin dependent diabetes, usually occurring after the age of 40.

Erection Difficulties - 52% of men over the age of 40, suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED), more commonly known as impotence, or the inability to sustain and achieve an erection, suitable for sexual intercourse. When ED proves to be a pattern or becomes a persistent problem, it can affect a man's self-image; result in depression, performance anxiety, stress, guilt; and relationship problems. ED may also be indicative of a physical or emotional problem, such as early stage coronary artery or heart disease. Unfortunately, only 15% of men with ED refer themselves for help. Regular check-ups have several potential benefits- erection problems often reflect an underlying narrowing of the blood vessels- being checked early can often result in the identification of a potentially more serious problem with the arteries. Treatment at an early stage, may prevent a possible future heart attack or stroke.

Other causes or risk factors of ED include; physical causes such as, diabetes, nerve diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis), hormonal problems (low levels of testosterone), surgery (for colon, rectal or prostate cancer), radiation in the pelvic area, trauma (e.g. spinal cord injuries/ pelvic fractures), chronic medical conditions, and certain medications. Lifestyle factors include; excessive alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking. Psychological causes that may contribute to the development of ED include; performance anxiety, a stressful lifestyle, depression and relationship difficulties.

Depression - If you have been experiencing feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or sadness; have felt a decreased interest or lack of pleasure in all activities; have experienced changes in sleep and/appetite; feel tired or have a loss of energy; experience feelings of worthlessness or excessive inappropriate guilt, are having concentration difficulties and/ indecisiveness; or have been having recurrent thoughts about death or suicide- for a period of 2 weeks or more- talk to your doctor about screening you for depression.

Depression is a serious medical illness that affects the body, mood and thoughts. It is not merely a passing blue mood that people can just 'snap out of'. Depression is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with depressive illness cannot merrily 'pull themselves together'. Depression does not discriminate; it can affect anyone, irrespective of age, gender, ethnic background, or socioeconomic status. If left untreated, symptoms can persist for weeks, months, or even several years. Treatment generally involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

According to John Greden M.D, executive director of the University of Michigan Depression Centre; "Depression remains the 'under' disease: under-diagnosed, under-discussed, and under-treated for everyone, but especially for men". It is often difficult for men in particular to overcome the stigma barrier and admit that they are not ok. It must be borne in mind that depression is a medical illness - it is not a character flaw, it is not a sign of weakness- but it is treatable.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STD) any disease transmitted by sexual intercourse, including AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, and soft sore. If you are not in a monogamous relationship, ensure that you use a barrier method such as latex condoms. Limit the number of partners you have. The more partners you have, the greater your risk of being exposed to a STD. Ask your doctor to test for STD's, if you are symptomatic or suspect you may have had an exposure. Although many STD's don't have symptoms, especially in women, possible signs include; sores or blisters on or around the sex organs or mouth, pain or burning during urination, an unusual looking or smelling discharge from the penis or vagina, and itching, swelling, or pain in or around the sex organs. Have regular tests in order to detect STD's early, when treatment is the most effective.

Colonoscopy - This test is the most accurate screening for colon cancer and is done on an outpatient basis. The procedure involves the examination of the entire colon and rectum, using a flexible, illuminated video camera instrument (colonoscope). The colonoscope is introduced through the anus and is guided by visual and x-ray control. It is recommended that men over the age of 50, should have a colonoscopy every 10 years or more often, if there is a family history of colon polyps. From age 50, a yearly stool test, known as the Fecal Occult Blood Test or FOBT, is also advised. Blood found in stool sample could be indicative of colorectal cancer.

Skin cancer - Visit your dermatologist on an annual basis for the early detection of precancerous and cancerous skin growths. You should check your skin every 3 months for any unusual moles or freckles. See your dermatologist if you notice anything unusual. Risk factors include a personal or family history of skin cancer or excessive exposure to the sun.

Signs of skin cancer:

  • A small lump-spot or mole- that is shiny, waxy, pale in colour, and smooth in texture.
  • A red lump (spot or mole) that is firm.
  • A sore or spot that bleeds, becomes crusty and does not heal.
  • Rough and scaly patches on the skin.
  • Flat or scaly, red or brown, ares on the skin.
  • Any new, suspicious growth.

Eye tests - Men over the age of 60, are advised to have a glaucoma test, which measures eye pressure and eye health. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and is sometimes called the silent thief of sight. Glaucoma can gradually damage your vision, so that you do not notice any vision loss until the disease is in its advanced stages. The most common types of glaucoma are; primary open-angle glaucoma and acute angle-closure glaucoma. They both present with different symptoms:

Symptoms of glaucoma:

Primary open-angle glaucoma:

  • Gradual loss of peripheral vision, usually in both eyes.
  • Tunnel vision in the advanced stages.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma:
  • Severe eye pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting, accompanying severe eye pain.
  • Sudden onset of visual disturbance, often in low light.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Halos around light.
  • Reddening of the eye.


Eyesight in general also tends to deteriorate with increasing age. Men between 50 and 60 years of age should have a general eye examination every 5 years.

Prostate cancer screening - A man's lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer, is 1 in 12. A simple annual check-up, combining a blood test and physical examination, often detects prostate cancer several years before any symptoms appear. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, is essential for men over the age of 50. This blood test detects high levels of PSA, a substance produced by the prostate. High levels of PSA may be indicative of prostate inflammation or cancer. Another test that is performed, is known as a digital rectal examination (DRE). This involves a doctor, inserting a gloved finger into the rectum, to check for any prostate lumps or abnormalities. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer, should start screening from an earlier age.

Prostate cancer affects a male reproductive gland and many men feel self-conscious about the diagnosis aspect of the illness, because most men have not had to deal with their reproductive systems in the same way as women. However, screening is essential because prostate cancer is generally asymptomatic until it has spread beyond the prostate. There are several risk factors involved in developing the disease; age is the primary risk factor for prostate cancer, genetics plays a role, and a high fat diet has been put forward as a contributory risk factor. Possible signs of prostate cancer may include; urination problems (frequent urination, an inability to urinate, a weak flow of urine, difficulty stopping or starting the process, or pain on urination), blood in the stool or urine, and painful ejaculation. A definitive diagnosis of prostate cancer can only be made with a biopsy, to determine whether a tumour does exist and to judge its condition. A biopsy will be ordered after the initial screening if the blood tests and physical examination suggest an abnormality.

Testicular cancer- Testicular cancer is known as a young man's disease, occurring in men between the ages of 15 and 40. All men should examine their testicles regularly for anything unusual. Early detection is crucial. If you notice a painless lump or swelling, an enlargement or change in the way the testicles feel, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, or discomfort in a testicle, contact your doctor immediately.

Due to the fact that all men's bodies are different, it is important to know how your testicles look and feel. Knowing what is normal for you, will help you to notice any changes. Testicular awareness should begin at puberty and all post-pubescent boys/men should check their testicles on a monthly basis. Checks are best carried out during or just after a bath or shower, when the skin of your scrotum is relaxed. Hold your scrotum in the palms of both hands and feel the size and weight of each testicle. It is normal for one testicle to be larger than the other, or hang lower than the other. Roll each testicle between your thumb and finger, they should feel smooth, without any lumps or swellings. Become aware of any differences between your testicles. The epidermis is situated towards the back of each testicle. This soft tender tube is supposed to be there and should not be confused with a lump.

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about which of these tests are needed or right for you, how often you should have them and when.

Be good to yourself - It is important to be good to yourself and find a sense of balance in your life; because health is not merely the absence of disease but the attainment of a fulfilling lifestyle.

Important contacts:

Weight Watchers:             0860111 3225 (head office)

031 903 4719 (Durban)

041 360 9308 (Port Elizabeth)

021 786 3239 (Cape Town)

Weigh Less:                   031 765 1600 (head office)

0861 100 551 (National)

Run/Walk for Life:              011 807 5566 (Head office)

SA Heart Foundation            021 447 4222 (Head office)

011 618 3979 (Johannesburg)

Association for Diabetics:     011 447 4187 (9am-2pm)

SA Diabetic Association:        011 792 9888

SA Stroke Foundation:         011 456 6566

Well@Pfizer 0860 734 937


American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.

Department of Psychiatry: 40 Ways to Combat Stress, Johannesburg Hospital: Johannesburg, 2011.

Oxford Reference: Concise Medical Dictionary, Fourth Edition. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Pfizer Laboratories Pty (Ltd): How to mange your cholesterol and lifestyle: A patients Guide, Rivonia Rd: Sandton, 2011.