Health In Numbers

A post for Men’s Health Week

I mentioned in my previous post that, here in the UK, it is Men’s Health Week from 10th to 16th June. I’m not sure if this applies elsewhere but, as the week is organised by the Men’s Health Forum (MHF) – which is a British organisation – I’m guessing maybe it is just us. But if you aren’t from the UK don’t stop reading now: the issue of men’s health is equally valid everywhere.

For this year’s event the MHF is focusing on numbers. Their website shares a number of frightening statistics, some of which I’ll be covering here. They have produced a series of posters which are intended to be displayed in health centres and workplaces, and these make sobering reading. There is a ‘summary’ poster, which is this one:

That doesn’t cover the full set of numbers the MHF are highlighting, but you can see very quickly from it that there are many things we men should be taking better care of. I’m probably typical, in that I need to pay much more attention to my physical health. I am moving home shortly, but once that has settled down I’ll be seeing the dietician at the local hospital to get some advice on improving my diet. Initial contact has been made and they are due to call me after I move to fix an appointment. That will only be the start of it, though, as I know I need to do much more.

One of the other posters tells us of the number 20:

As if I needed any further warning about that, I got it in tragic and dramatic fashion yesterday. Justin Edinburgh, the manager of one of the three football teams I support – Leyton Orient – suffered a cardiac arrest last Monday and passed away yesterday. He had just led the club to probably its most successful season ever, and was looking forward to taking us back into the English Football League. He had just returned from watching one of the clubs he used to play for – Tottenham Hotspur, another of my three – play in the Champions League final, and had been to the local gym with his wife.  He was fit, took good care of himself in a stressful job, and had everything to look forward to. Justin was 49. If you ever needed a reminder of the fragility of life, and of the validity of the MHF’s statistic, there it is.

Those life expectancy figures are a little scary for me. One in five of us men dies before reaching 65 (or even 50, in Justin’s case), and two in five before reaching 75. I’m comfortably in that range, and I know I need to take much better care of myself. Does that apply to you, too? It is never too late to do something about it!

Whilst most of the key numbers concern physical health, the MHF does include a couple of mental health statistics too. The first of these is this:

This raises the huge issue of social inequality, which is far too complex for this post. Sadly, I don’t think the current political situation in this country is conducive to removing the barriers that prevent the achievement of social equality – indeed, I believe we have a government which is doing its best to widen the gap between those who have and those who don’t. Of course, I recognise that to be a sweeping generalisation, and social inequality has existed for thousands of years, so it isn’t likely to be resolved any time soon. But it does put into context how hard we all need to be working towards improving our health – both physical and mental.

A further terrifying statistic for men lies in the other MHF poster which focuses on mental health:

Despite the depression I have often chronicled here I have never, ever, had any suicidal ideation. Again, this is a complex issue, and various reasons have been suggested as to why this might be, but if you ever have a thought like that please, please seek help before it is too late. And you don’t have to be male to do that!

If you’ve read this far and are female, and are wondering ‘what about us?’ I would contend that as the stereotypical male buries his head in the sand about health issues – except, of course, for manflu – we need a kick up the wotsit to make us take notice. Physical and mental health are important for everyone of whatever gender, and I think it is good to see a focus on those who that stereotype says might well be in denial about their need to improve their lifestyles. I know I do: I just hope I can actually do more than just talk about it. And I suspect that is equally true of many others.

Please do follow the link I gave earlier to the MHF website. They do a good deal more than run this awareness week, and there are a number (see what I did there?) of useful resources available to you on the site. They say that they have 1.4m visits each year: that doesn’t happen if people don’t think it worth their time and effort.

[I have put this post under my ‘Dates To Note’ category. This was a series I ran through 2013, with occasional returns since then. All of the posts I have placed in that category are available – in reverse chronological order – from the menu at the top of the page. Go on, click the link – you may find something of interest!]


Instant Karma

“Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head…”

So begins the John Lennon song. Yesterday I saw a perfect example of this. OK, it was only in football, and was a long way from being a life or death situation, but it made me laugh. A lot! I must first declare an interest here, as I have supported Tottenham Hotspur since I was 5 and although I now regard them as my third team, behind Leyton Orient (local team) and Dover Athletic (home town) I still follow them.

A little background for you: West Ham won the bidding rights to take over the Olympic Stadium as their home ground, and will move in to play their matches there from next season. The process was acrimonious, as Spurs were also interested and the tactics from both sides were dubious, and the likely effect on the future of the other team in that part of London – my beloved Leyton Orient – could be catastrophic. The deal has been shrouded in secrecy, with many stories of the extremely advantageous terms that have been offered to West Ham, at the British taxpayer’s expense, and there is an ongoing battle under the Freedom of Information Act to have the full contract made public. To complete the powder keg, Spurs’ chairman is renowned as a very hard negotiator, and has fallen out with many other clubs in his 15 years in charge, while West Ham are co-owned by two classy gents who made their fortunes in the porn trade, and have the delightful (i.e. arrogant, unpleasant) Lady Brady as their Chief Executive. Relations between the two clubs are on the Arctic side of frosty.

KarmaSo, imagine my glee when I read this piece in yesterday’s paper, ahead of the match between Spurs and Wet Spam (sorry, West Ham). Footballers are not famous for their intelligence, and there have been many previous examples of open mouths and empty brains combining to provide the perfect incentive for their opposition. Winston Reid is an international footballer, albeit that it is only for New Zealand (sorry, Kiwi readers!) and really should have the experience to know better than to say this in an article which is going to be published on the morning of a match. From my admittedly biased perspective – both on behalf of Spurs and the Orient – this is a classic case of ambition stepping over into arrogance. There’s nothing wrong with ambition, of course, but it needs to be tempered with realism and respect. Reid overstepped the mark on both counts.

So, what happened? Perhaps predictably, and whether or not they had seen Reid’s interview and were motivated by it, Spurs played West Ham off the park. The final score was 4-1 but in reality it could have been a lot more. The wannabe upstarts were put firmly back in their toybox. I know this was only one game and it could all be very different next time. And I know that gloating is an unattractive tendency, but please indulge me. I re-read Reid’s interview after the game and haven’t laughed so much in ages! It seems that I’m not alone in this, judging by this story in today’s paper!

I’m not just telling you all of this to gloat, although I’m honest enough to know that there is much of that in me today. I think there is a life lesson for us in this story. As I said, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but that ambition can be damaging if to achieve it others have to suffer. I’m using a game as a metaphor to make this point, and am fully aware how simplistic that is, but take a look at yourself. What do you want to achieve? Would it require trampling on the dreams and hopes of others? Yes? Maybe you should re-evaluate yourself. None of us has the right to better ourselves by hurting others.

A Grand Day Out

iPad pics 001

Football has always been a very important part of my life. For the benefit of North American readers I should make it clear that by ‘football’ I mean what you call ‘soccer,’ not the game where a squad of 946 Terminators fight over an egg, and only 2 of them ever kick it. When I was younger I used to play a lot, never at any recognisable level but I enjoyed playing for my school and Sunday League teams. I even won a trophy once. A very small trophy, as Deal and District Sunday League Division 2 Cup Runners-Up, 1970/1. Eat your heart out, Ronaldo! But it was enough to generate a lifelong love of the game, back in the days when there was much less televised football, and very few live games broadcast. In those days, the games that were shown were all in black and white, which makes them seem like ancient history now.

The major lesson I learned from that introduction to the game was that, no matter what the level, actually being at the game and being a part of the atmosphere is a far better experience than watching at home on the large colour TV, in a comfy armchair, in the warm and dry, with a beer to hand. Yes, really! As a spectator, I was an ever-present at Dover home games – my home town – for several seasons in my teens, and have attended many games over the intervening years. Being brought up in a small town like Dover, of course we all supported the local team, but we also formed an allegiance to more distant, glamorous clubs. The nearest club to home that was actually in the main Football League was only Gillingham, and unsurprisingly they scored ‘nul points’ for support at my school! My chosen team was Tottenham Hotspur, and I saw my first live game there when I was 10. The great Stanley Matthews was playing for the opposition, Stoke City. You just don’t ever forget memories like that! I still regard Spurs as my Premier League team – we all have to have one, right? – and Dover Athletic will always be my first love. But in recent years I have become a big supporter of my local League team, Leyton Orient, and now have a season ticket for home games there. For the uninitiated, the Os, as we know and love them, are currently in the fourth tier of English Football which, naturally, is called League Two. But we are hopeful of an immediate return to the third tier – League One – after being relegated last season. That would put us back on a par with the dreaded Gillingham!

Yesterday the Os were at home to a club with a long tradition in English Football, Accrington Stanley. Thanks to a virus (1 game) and a knackered back (3 games) it had been a while since I had last been to a game, but I was declared fit to take my seat in the stands yesterday and went with the usual hope and anticipation. For 25 minutes it was really good. The Os were playing well, creating loads of chances and could have been 3 goals up. Then I decided to invoke my jinx-like capabilities by saying to my neighbour “we need to start taking these chances, or they’ll score on the break.” Yup, a minute later Nostradamus would have been proud of me! After that it all went downhill. Fast. We hardly created another chance after that, and the one really good one left every supporter wishing their grannie had been playing (“even my grannie could have scored that”). The game drifted away to a 1-0 defeat, and the good football was played by Accrington and his mate Stan. Loyal to the end, we booed our team off the pitch!

Our chairman. He may be playing next week!
Our chairman. He may be playing next week!

As far as I’m aware I’m neither insane or a masochist, but I have to say that I enjoyed my day out. We had some laughs, and there were still a few things to encourage us about the future, even though the team has been on a terrible run recently. There is another home game next weekend, in the FA Cup against a team three tiers below us, so that should be an easy win, shouldn’t it? Dream on! Why do we love the beautiful game? Anything is possible, that’s why. The only thing I can say with any degree of confidence is that the crowd will be much smaller next week because 1) we were bloody awful yesterday and 2) we have to buy a ticket for next week, as Cup games aren’t included in the season ticket. But, bad back and snotty nose permitting, I’ll be there. It’s an addiction, you see!

For some, yesterday evening would have been horrible after watching that performance. Me? I went home, turned on that large TV, ordered a pizza and enjoyed an evening of Strictly Come Dancing and nasty Swedish crime. It was a grand day!

It's a risk we take!
It’s a risk we take!