ERECTILE dysfunction, relationship problems, depression, heart attacks . . .

Diabetes plays a major role in all those problems that affect men’s health daily.

It not only affects up to 4,5 million South Africans but more don’t know that they have it, and most of them will die before the age of 60.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by simple things like unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and excess body weight – things that could be avoided with an active lifestyle.

Dr Zane Stevens, an endocrinologist or hormone specialist in Cape Town, said: “Lifestyle diseases are slow. Men who were once fit and active, adopt unhealthy lifestyles due to work-related stresses, finances and career pressures. For them, health is not a priority.

“I think it’s partly because men often feel like they’re supposed to be invincible and believe diabetes or blood pressure problems happen to other people!”

It’s worse because diabetes can hide for many years as typical warning symptoms only occur if the glucose rises to extremely high levels.

“For many men, it’s only when something goes wrong that they consider getting help,” said Stevens.

Erectile dysfunction

He said one of the first signs that something was wrong in the arteries might be erectile dysfunction.

It might take a long time but eventually, about seven out of 10 diabetic men will be unable to get or keep an erection.

For many men, poor penis performance is psychologically devastating. It leads to depression, reduced self-esteem and strained relationships.

But erectile dysfunction might be a blessing in disguise because it is an early warning sign that the sufferer is getting close to a heart attack and has time to do something before it’s too late. In fact, men with erectile dysfunction are almost 15 times more likely than those without to suffer a heart attack.

Dr Stevens said making time for exercise and creating a culture of healthy eating was not only important for ourselves, but served to set an example for our families.

“Men who have diabetes risk factors such as being overweight or having a family history of the condition, must get screened for the condition,” he said.

Once diabetes has been diagnosed, careful control of blood glucose can help prevent or delay the complications. When control is achieved early on, the benefits remain for many years, despite it becoming more difficult to maintain control of glucose levels.

For many men, this merely requires a change in diet, some exercise and sometimes being active about your health.