Men: Protect yourself against these killers

17 June 2014: In support of Men’s Health Month this June, Liberty Medical Scheme highlights five of the biggest killers of men in South Africa1, helping men to arm themselves with healthier habits earlier on so as to ensure long-term good health!

Heart disease

Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in South Africa. Around one in three men will develop the condition before they are 60 years old. High blood pressure – also called hypertension – is one of the main causes of heart disease2.

Warning signs of a “heart attack”  include recurring pains in the chest, neck or arms which can last for 10 -15 minutes. The pain in the chest area is often pressing in nature and may feel like “someone is sitting on your chest”. Call an ambulance or get to a hospital as soon as possible. The longer you put off going to a hospital, the less likely you will be to survive a heart attack.

The main contributors to heart disease are excess weight, smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. These can lead to cholesterol build-up in the arteries, which can eventually end in a heart attack3. Your family history may give you a clue that you are at risk for heart disease.

“Choose a medical scheme that covers tests such as cholesterol and blood pressure and take them regularly,” says Executive Principal Officer at Liberty Medical Scheme, Andrew Edwards. “Quit smoking with the help of a smoking cessation programme, also offered through your scheme and start to eat better and exercise more.”


Diabetes affects an estimated 8-10% of the South African population4. The most common form, Type 2 diabetes (often called adult-onset, but can occur in the young, especially if they are overweight and have a family history of diabetes) affects 85-90% of those with diabetes.

Symptoms include unusual thirst, frequent urination, extreme fatigue or lack of energy, recurring infections (e.g boils, thrush etc) and cuts and bruises that are slow to heal.

Diabetes can lead to numerous severe complications, including blindness, limb amputation, kidney disease, heart disease; and erectile dysfunction5. The good news is that with careful management these complications can be delayed or even prevented, but early diagnosis is important.

“Get your blood glucose level tested regularly and if you are diagnosed with diabetes, sign up with a disease management programme offered by your medical scheme,” says Edwards. “A team of experts will help you to take steps such as controlling your weight, improving your diet, reducing your stress and giving up smoking.”  Remember a strong family history is a risk for you developing diabetes.


Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer is the leading cancer in males and more than 4 000 men are diagnosed each year with prostate cancer in South Africa6.

Be aware of symptoms such as an increased need to urinate, a poor urine stream, lower back pain, or blood in the urine.

Because prostate cancer is a hormone-based disease, it may be linked to the consumption of meat which contains higher levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals. Eat more fruit and tomato rich sources as these all contain antioxidants.

Smoking can increase your exposure to cadmium – a poisonous metal – which has a link with prostate cancer. Smoking also depletes your levels of zinc, which is important in protecting the prostate, so quit as soon as you can.

Tuberculosis (TB)

About 1% of the population of South Africa’s 50 million people will develop active TB disease each year. The latest figure from the South African Department of Health is that 73% of TB patients are also HIV positive7.  This, however, does not mean that if you are not HIV positive you are not at risk of contracting TB.

It is easier to catch TB than you think – from standing near someone who is sick in a queue; or sitting in an unventilated room near someone with the condition.

Although the TB bacteria may be in your body, a good immune system can prevent you from becoming sick. A good immune system will prevent the TB bacteria from growing in your body. However, when the disease makes you sick, it becomes known as active TB and you can spread it to others, usually when you cough.

Signs and symptoms of active TB include coughing for three or more weeks; coughing up blood; weight loss; fatigue; fever; night sweats; chills and loss of appetite. It usually attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of your body, including your kidneys, spine or brain.

“If you have been diagnosed with TB, make sure you take your medication and complete the course and go for regular check-ups,” says Edwards. “Prevention methods include, ventilating your workplace and keeping your immune system strong through proper diet.”


A report by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) found that 79.2% of respondents believed that they were not at risk of acquiring HIV. Yet, nearly 1 in 10 men in South Africa are infected with the virus8. Although access to anti-retrovirals has increased over the past few years, it remains a chronic illness.

“Find out your status and get tested regularly,” says Edwards. “Avoid risky sexual behaviour, such as having sex with multiple partners or without a condom. If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV, sign onto your medical scheme’s HIV disease management programme and keep your immune system as healthy as possible.”

Support through effective disease management

Liberty Medical Scheme’s comprehensive disease management programme offers members optimum support to ensure the best clinical outcomes from their treatment received. The Scheme’s cardiovascular and diabetes care programmes offer patients access to an extended range of benefits including consultations and pathology tests, while dedicated oncology case managers are well placed to facilitate smooth access to benefits and care during the time when you need it most.

Liberty Medical Scheme also provides members with an extensive list of preventative care benefits. Please consult your member guide for more information.



1)      Statistics SA: Mortality and causes of death in South Africa, 2010: Findings from death notification. Available on: page 38.

2)      Heart Health.  Available on 24. 

3)      Liberty Heart Disease Fact Sheet. Available on

4)      About Diabetes.  Available on Diabetes SA:


6)      Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Available on:

7)      TB Incidence and Prevalence:

8)      South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey, 2012. Available on (page xxv).