Studies have shown that men are more likely to get worse symptoms from coronavirus, and are more likely to die.
Why? It could be that more men smoke than women, and the virus affects the lungs.
But other research suggests that it may be the simple fact that men – particularly older men – are often in worse health than women.
They tend to have higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer, all of which have been linked to Covid-19 severity.
With many people putting of routine visits to their GP because of the coronavirus pandemic, here’s what the experts say you can do at home to make sure you are in tip-top health.
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1. Pressure point
‘Everyone over 40 should have their blood pressure measured at least every five years,’ says Dr Deborah Lee from Doctorfox.co.uk, because high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack .
You can buy a blood pressure monitor (£25, Amazon) to test yourself at home, and if yours is over 140/90mmHg, talk to your GP about lifestyle changes or medication.
2. Reduce stress
In the UK, 1 in 8 men suffers from some kind of mental health problem, and with 76% of suicides being male, it’s more important than ever to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
Your doctor can provide support, or use online resources such as Mind.org.uk. Take positive steps to reduce stress in your daily life, such as exercising each day, as well as practising yoga and meditation.
3. Protect your prostate
Studies show that by the age of 70, about 80% of men have an enlarged prostate – a small gland that sits just above the bladder.
While this is not life-threatening, it can create symptoms that are similar to those of prostate cancer, so speak to your doctor if you notice any of the following urinary problems: ‘Slow flow, urgency and frequency, a feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder and increasing need to get up at night,’ says John Davies, consultant urologist at Drmortons.co.uk.
To help reduce the size of a non-cancerous large prostate, eating broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale is beneficial, as are foods rich in zinc such as pumpkin seeds, and shellfish.
4. Stop smoking
‘The single best health measure a man can take is to give up smoking,’ says Dr Deborah. 1 in 2 smokers will die from a cause directly attributable to smoking.
5. Erectile dysfunction
It affects 1 in 2 men over the age of 50, but many men are too embarrassed to go to the doctor. If there are times when you can get and maintain an erection, such as when masturbating or during the night, then it’s likely your ED has psychological causes. ‘But it can be an early warning sign for underlying heart conditions,’ warns Daniel Sher, a clinical psychologist for Invigormedical.com.
6. Check your cholesterol
Over 50% of adults in the UK have high cholesterol, which has strong links to strokes and heart disease. ‘You should have a test at least every five years,’ says Aisling Moran, Nutritional Scientist at Thriva.co, a website where you can order a cholesterol test from £21.
If your level is high (total cholesterol should be 5 mmol/L or below) then eating a diet high in fruit, veg, whole grains, beans and oily fish can be helpful, or doctors may prescribe statins.
7. Bowel health
Bowel cancer affects 1 in 20 people in the UK, but if caught early, 95% of men will survive the cancer for five years or more . The NHS offers a home testing kit to measure blood in your stool to people between the ages of 55 and 74, every three years.
Over the age of 74, you can request a test once a year. Some studies show that reducing the amount of animal products you eat and adopting a predominantly plant-based diet could protect against bowel cancer.