Thursday, May 22, 2008

I don't know what to think. Do I need smart drugs?

Much furore this morning about smart drugs. One day could we all be popping pills that will allow us to exploit our untapped mental potential and become better versions of ourselves? Or will the corporations and the state soon have the tools to medicate us into docile, unquestioning workers who never stop, get tired or even moan?

Drugs that directly affect the brain's performance - so called cognition enhancers - are already here and could become 'as common as coffee' in decade or two.

I've had depression for about thirty years and I have, at times, taken medication for it. I have a bad memory which drives me mad, get very frustrated when my brain tires and starts making mistakes and generally think I'm not intelligent enough to do the things I want to do. In other words, on the face of it I'm the ideal candidate for smart drugs so why am I so reluctant to take them?

I can't decide what I think - a very human reaction to a new dilemma. But if I took the tablets would I really suddenly know my own mind?

What do you think about cognitive enhancers? How could they change our society? Would you take them?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wise words on prostate problems

Prostate cancer continues to be controversial in its diagnosis and treatment but the one thing that nobody is arguing about is the ignorance of the British male. Apparently in the USA, 70% of men know what their PSA level is compared to just 6% here. (If you don't even know what a PSA is, check out our Prostate Problems section) I learned this statistic today on Radio 4 Case Notes presented by MHF patron Mark Porter. It was all about prostate problems.

Now I must admit I'm one of the 94% who don't know their PSA level. I'm not sure that's the issue. It says more about effective campaigning by drugs companies than healthier living. But what is important is to know what the prostate is and what are the risks of it killing you. This is the key fact: prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK accounting for 1 in 4 of all new male cancer diagnoses and it's on the rise. There's loads more on malehealth including advice from men who have been there. You can also download the Radio 4 podcast.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Most computer keyboards dirtier than toilet seats? My arse.

Every week on malehealth we publish a statistic of the week. This week I was intending to publish the Which survey showing that our computer keyboards were dangerous to health. I was reluctant because the story had had so much publicity but given that so many blokes use computers and that Men and Work is the theme of next month's Men's Health week, I felt I had no choice.

But when I looked more closely at the research I found a very different story to that which I'd seen reported. In fact a mere 33 keyboards were tested and of these just 4 keyboards were hazardous to health (that's 12%). Only one of these was dirtier than a toilet seat. Not nice but all the same not exactly invasion of the killer keyboards.

Should we be disappointed in Which? for publicising such a slim survey or the media for going bonkers about it? Unfortunately, health coverage in the mainstreem media suffers from this sort of thing time and again. The solution? Read our article: Medical Fact or media fiction? How to tell if research is reliable.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tough luck for Scott and the Sharks

Sport is cruel. Sale Sharks crashed to an unexpected home defeat at the week-end which saw them miss out on the end-of-season play-offs. We're doubly disappointed on malehealth as Sale of course are coached by our fitness columnist Scott Pearson. Tough luck, Scott. Clearly the players aren't reading your columns closely enough!

Still the future still looks pretty good for the 2005-06 champions with Andrew Sheridan, Charlie Hodgson and Richard Wigglesworth all being selected for the England squad to play in New Zealand next month. They'll line up alongside Matthew Tait who joins the Sharks next season.

It's also worth remembering how far the team have come. Sale is a town of just 50,000 people yet on Saturday the Sharks played in front of over 10,000. Very impressive and ten times the sort of crowd they used to attract as an amateur side in the early 90s.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Why are we so unhappy about our bodies?

It looks like malehealth readers agree with Warwick University psychologist David Giles that men's magazines are damaging male body image. In this month's snap survey, only one respondent in three was happy with his body and only 11% thought that men's mags improved our body image. (The full survey is here.)

I expected men to be less happy with their bodies today than they were 10 or 20 years ago but even so I was surprised that the figure was as high as two men in three. This straw poll certainly suggests to me that an approach to health information that is built around so-called aspirational images of the male body beautiful doesn't improve men's health. I think that speaking frankly and realistically as we do on malehealth is better.

Of course, you'd expect me to say that but there's man talking on malehealth this month, Denis Taylor, who has struggled enormously with his body image. He had his penis amputated following cancer and a new one made using skin from his leg. Reading his account should make anyone who feels a bit down on himself because he hasn't got a six-pack think again. Denis has come back from depression and channelled his anger into art - a much better thing to do with it for some of us than going down the gym, I'd suggest. It's proof indeed that beauty really does come from within the individual (not from within a lad's magazine).