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Blood pressure

This month Darren talks about men’s health, life as a footballer and blood pressure

When I was approached to partner with Norfolk County Council’s public health team to campaign for men’s health I was keen to get involved.  And when I was told it was targeting men between the ages of 40 and 75 it kind of struck a chord. I’m now 43 but back in the day when I was a professional footballer I’d always taken my health for granted.  It’s something I’d never had to worry about.  But as you get older it’s something that we all need to do.

I would say footballers are pretty much obsessed about their health and it’s true, they’re a right bunch of hypochondriacs!  We had a doctor on call at the training ground and during matches so they were always there for us.  Players wouldn’t think twice about bending over and asking them to check out a pimple on their bum or anything like that.  Since I’ve finished playing I’ve realised that most men do everything they can to avoid talking about their health.

Go and see your GP

For starters, men don’t like going to the doctor’s.  In fact, women go to see their GP twice as often as men do, which to me is quite a shock.  Men often use the usual excuses of ”I don’t want to waste anybody’s time” or “They can’t afford the time off work.”  Unfortunately, this hesitation is costing men their lives.   Let’s begin with heart disease, as an example.   Most of us are likely to know someone who’s suffered a heart attack, stroke, or who lives with high blood pressure.  But what’s the big deal, it won’t happen to me, will it?   Actually, the numbers are higher than you think.  In Norfolk 1 in 4 men don’t even know they suffer from high blood pressure.  Around 400 men in Norfolk will have their lives cut short by cardiovascular disease and over half of these deaths could certainly have been prevented.  It’s the most common cause of early death in men.  Yet there are lots of things we can do to help reduce our risk.

Again, I was lucky enough to be in a football environment where tests were always on hand.  When signing from Norwich to Leicester there were certain tests we had to take to make sure you were in good order, so it was something I was quite used to doing.  My brother, on the other hand, worked in a normal job he was an electrician and loved his scuba diving.  He was born with a hole in his heart and was monitored a lot when he was younger.  It’s something he’s had to keep check on throughout his life, taking tablets and medication.  Last year he had a stroke whilst he was at work.  He was quickly checked out by the doctor who diagnosed that he’d had a minor stroke, which just goes to show how important it is to get checked.  It’s so difficult to know if you have high blood pressure, it has very few symptoms and sometimes the first time people know they have it is when something major happens such as a stroke or heart attack.

Making a change

Of course, there’s lots of things you can do to help lower your blood pressure such as reducing your weight and cholesterol are things that are 100% within our control.  Every time you go to the doctor and they check your blood pressure, it’s not something you might worry too much about, but it’s the first step in preventing something more serious.  High blood pressure is easily treated but if left unchecked can lead to all sorts of nasties.

My advice this month

Many local pharmacies offer a free service (they may also check your cholesterol at the same time as well!).  The earlier you diagnose high blood pressure the easier it is to treat.  Since I’ve hit my forties I think it’s really hit home about my family, I certainly want to be around to see my kids grow up, and eventually grandkids too (not too far off as my son is 21 now).  I’m 43 and it’s time to admit that my body is not quite as healthy and in as good condition as it used to be when I was playing football.  I’m getting checked and it’s important for men to take on the responsibly themselves and go to the doctors.  Don’t let it become a stigma, you need to make sure you’re all ok.  The last thing you want to do is leave your loved ones behind when a simple blood pressure check could get things sorted quickly and easily. 

Next month: Darren talks smoking

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