Let's look after the Lord and Master

As we women know, men can be very bad at looking after themselves. And I'm not talking about washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning! No, it's when it comes to health matters!

They can turn the most trivial complaint into a major one. If they've got a cold as far as they are concerned, it's most likely pneumonia!

But if they are really worried about something ,they put off going to the doctors until they are nagged, sorry, persuaded, to make an appointment. They prefer to put their head in the sand and hope the problem will just go away. They like to be seen as macho! Research has shown that men visit their GP 20 per cent less than women do, so that is why we have to be extra vigilant on their behalf to help spot any potential health problems early.

One of the common problems faced by at least half of all men over 50 is high blood pressure. Unfortunately the first symptoms can be a stroke or heart attack so it is very important to have regular checks. Don't let the fact that you play golf or visit the gym mean you don't need these. Plenty of fatalities have occurred on the running machine!

A few simple changes to lifestyle can help reduce blood pressure and high cholesterol which can lead to heart attacks. A low salt and healthy diet with plenty of fruit and veg and oily fish, gentle exercise like walking, swimming or cycling and a check on weight too, as being overweight can have a real impact on blood pressure.

It goes without saying that smoking is out (a GP will give you information on stopping). There is lots of help available in Sheffield to stop what can lead to a fatal illness.

Diabetes often strikes older men and can have developed slowly over the years. Signs to look out for are increased thirst (that doesn't mean you can have a few more pints!), going to the loo more often,

especially at night, extreme fatigue (not just when it comes to taking the bins out!), weight loss, general itching and blurred vision. A few simple lifestyle changes can make the condition easy to live with. Discuss it with your GP.

At the top of the list of men's problems is prostate cancer with 36,000 cases diagnosed each year in the UK.

Last November saw more than 45,000 men join forces to grow whiskers for a month to raise money for men's health and specifically prostate cancer. Over 5m was raised in the UK the previous year, and the event has become global with 11 countries taking part. The initiative has raised awareness of this disease in a similar way that the pink ribbon has done for breast cancer.

A main drawback of the diagnosis of prostate cancer is the reluctance of men to talk about their 'men's bits!' and certainly in the case of early detection of testicular cancer, to examine them regularly.

Prostate cancer mainly affects men over the age of 50, with nearly six out of 10 cases occurring in men over 70 years old. In the UK, African Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop it than white men.

Symptoms can be mild and can include increasingly frequent trips to the loo, difficulty or pain in passing urine and pain in the testicles.

As with anything, having these symptoms does not mean you have anything wrong with you, but it's better to be safe than sorry and your doctor will not think you are over cautious if you see him.

Testicular cancer has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers and so all men must take the time to check their body regularly. Doing this in the bath or shower is recommended. Any aches or sharp pains in the lower abdomen should be taken seriously.

Not all lumps you find are suspect, but all lumps need examination by your GP in order that diagnosis and possible treatment can begin. Surely a little embarrassment is better than discovering a problem that is too deep-rooted to treat effectively?

Well, it seems that men should be taking their health a bit more seriously, doesn't it? We'll be sceptical about coughs and sniffles, but we'll support them whole-heartedly if they are worried about anything else.

There are excellent leaflets available both in your surgery and pharmacy and a good website for initial information is NHS Choices. Whatever you do, don't let these be a substitute for that doctors appointment!

The cot death plot in TV soap EastEnders provoked thousands of viewers to complain to the BBC. A parent who met cast members before filming and a specialist charity talk about the furore and coping after a death

Cot death - the sudden and unexpected death of a baby - has been thrust into the media's spotlight after featuring in a controversial EastEnders storyline on BBC1.

While it undoubtedly raised awareness of what, according to the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), is still the biggest killer of babies over one month old in the UK - claiming around 300 infants' lives every year - many were outraged by the plot twist.

Reportedly more than 10,000 viewers complained to the BBC after the programme showed character Ronnie Branning (Samantha Womack) finding her baby dead from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and then swapping her child for the baby son of barmaid Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace).

Mothers who had lost children to cot death were among those who condemned the 'baby swap' as 'unrealistic', 'hurtful' and particularly damaging for portraying bereaved mothers as 'deranged'.

One bereaved parent, Sophie Bissmire, was asked by the soap's producers to help some of the cast prior to filming by describing the personal devastation that she and her family felt after the death of her baby.

She met actors Jessie Wallace and her on-screen partner Alfie (Shane Ritchie) in October.

"They wanted an insight into how the death affects you and how it affects a couple's relationship," says Sophie, 39, whose daughter Neave died at three months.

She says the actors, who are both parents, were emotional as she spoke of the day, 11 years ago, when she found that her "beautiful daughter whose smile was so lovely it would send shivers through your body" had died.

"Jessie had tears in her eyes during our talk and she and Shane were both so sympathetic, understanding and anxious to portray such a sensitive situation correctly".

Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID): Call 0808 802 6868 or visit www.fsid.org.uk

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