An awareness campaign aiming to help turn around "terrible health statistics" is back this month, with a big focus on encouraging men to visit the doctor.
Men's Health Week runs from June 14 to 20, 2021.
Co-director Mark Sainsbury said this week was important because men were not so good at managing their own health.
"Every three hours a man dies of a preventable disease in New Zealand. A baby boy born today will live four years less than a girl born in the next room."
He said men were ahead on practically every measure - diabetes, heart disease, melanoma, mental health - "and that's not ahead in a good way".
"Men are also three times more likely to die of suicide and motor vehicle accidents."
Men's Health Week is an international event run in 60 countries and its aim is to get people's attention.
"It is an awareness campaign to try to turn around the terrible health statistics."
This year part of the theme is to encourage men to go to the doctor.
Sainsbury said the advantage of regular medical checks was that they could measure your progress or deterioration, and head things off before they became a major issue.
"Prostate checks are a perfect example. Regular checks can head off the impact of prostate cancer and tests can be by blood as well as the 'notorious' finger check."
Men's Health Week ambassadors this year include Rotorua's Scottie Morrison, Tom Sainsbury, Andrew Mulligan and Amanda Gillies.
"Amanda brings a new voice to Men's Health Week, a voice representing the wives, partners, mums, daughters, aunties and friends of the many Kiwi men who deal daily with health issues that can potentially be avoided. It's for us as much as it is for you, Amanda believes. She's right too.
"The reason for the campaign is to once a year at least, get men to think about it.
"If you haven't been to a doctor for a while don't worry, the doctor isn't going to give you a hard time."
He said the Men's Health Week website, and its podcasts and videos, took you through what to expect when you go for that first appointment in a while.
"The big message is you owe it to yourself and your family to take those first small steps towards getting proper advice.
"Checking is good. Keeping on top of things is the aim."
Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Luke Bradford said the community needed to talk about men's health, and have a dedicated week, because men tended to be less inclined to discuss their health or seek help and advice with concerns.
"There is a tendency to the 'she'll be right' mentality and a resistance to showing vulnerability.
"This means that worrying physical symptoms are sometimes ignored or investigated late, and very often mental health issues are hidden, which we know often leads to these festering and the situation deteriorating.
"It is important that we role model healthy behaviours to our men and that our men do it to their whānau also."
He said there were obvious things like prostate cancer which men got and needed monitoring for.
"However, men suffer from ischaemic heart disease earlier than women (by around 10 years) statistically and this should be screened for."
He said there were also high rates of obesity, depression, skin cancers, sleep apnoeas, diabetes, anxiety and burnout.
"Family history should be considered and its relevance discussed with your family doctor. They can help guide you on what we should be vigilant for and what may be of lower risk."
Bradford said as each decade passed there were different things to pay attention to.
"Young men should not smoke, should try to avoid heavy drinking and monitor their mental health and stress levels.
"All ages should ensure they have people they trust and can talk to when things aren't feeling right."
He said in the 40s it was useful to form a relationship with your GP, and start to discuss screening and consider having a 'warrant of fitness'.
"Our Māori and Pasifika men will often delay engaging with screening services or health checks, and it is important that they are able to use a service they feel comfortable with and find a practitioner they can build a relationship with, as we know tāne Māori do have earlier and more severe illnesses.
"Often we can identify these and help the individual take charge of these conditions before they are ever a problem, but it all starts with a conversation.
"Men's Health Week should trigger that conversation and hopefully lead to lots of men taking care of themselves so they can go on taking care of their whānau."
Lakes DHB lifestyle consultant Dr Hayden McRobbie said, in general, men died earlier than women.
"In fact, between the ages of 50 and 75 years, the number of deaths are around a third higher among men, compared with women."
He said cardiovascular disease and cancer were the leading causes of illness and premature death in New Zealand men. Diabetes was also a growing health issue.
"These share some common risk factors including smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and drinking too much alcohol.
"Most people know that these are unhealthy behaviours, but changing these can be challenging.
"A good place to start is to have a brief discussion with your general practice team - they will be able to point you in the right direction."
McRobbie said in addition to making lifestyle changes, making sure you had regular health checks was also key to wellbeing.
"Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand men. In fact around one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
"Early detection can make a big difference to the outcomes, and from the age of 50 (or earlier if at higher risk) men should have prostate checks."
He said heart health checks were also important. Men, without known risk factors, should start having heart health checks from age 45. For Māori, Pacific and South Asian men, this starts at age 30.
McRobbie said in general men, and especially younger men, were less likely than women to attend regular health checks.
"Instead they often wait until they are sick. Too many grandfathers, fathers, and brothers die early. This does not need to be the case.
"Take the opportunity to make some healthy lifestyle changes. Better still, do it as a whānau/family."
Toi Te Ora Public Health Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack said there were several practical everyday steps each of us could take to lower our risk of getting heart disease.
"Every effort should be made to stop smoking and to reduce the consumption of alcohol (as with tobacco smoking, alcohol also causes some cancers).
"We need to build physical activity into our everyday lives. Using public transport, biking or walking as part of our daily commute brings significant benefit.
"Most of us would benefit from reducing our consumption of meat, particularly red meat, and dairy products.
"We also need to increase our consumption of fruit and vegetables."
Shoemack said it was also important for men to look after their mental health and wellbeing.
He said men tended to seek help for mental health-related issues at a later stage than women.
"Spending more time with whānau and friends, going for walks or organising other outdoor activities will help build a healthy mind and body. Connecting with people is a vital ingredient of hauora.
"In New Zealand, suicide is a leading cause of death in men. It is important to recognise common symptoms of depression which include a low mood and loss of interest in the things people usually enjoy, sleep problems, appetite and weight changes, and unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches and backaches."
Men can seek professional help for assessment of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Online resources are available at depression.org.nz. Men can also phone Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757.
Throughout the month of May, the Toi Te Ora WorkWell programme has been focusing on planning for mental wellbeing in the workplace and delivering workshops throughout the greater Bay of Plenty region.
These workshops were a direct result of feedback received after the Covid-19 lockdown and were developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation, Shoemack said.
The WorkWell process helps workplaces to create a working environment that supports healthier behaviours and attitudes towards overall wellbeing. To read more about it, visit workwell.health.nz.
Where to get help
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111. Or if you need to talk to someone else:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans: 0800 726 666