Samaritans – You’re Not Alone 

It’s a hectic world, a world that can easily get on top of you. It’s easy to feel isolated and lonely. You may want to talk about your daily struggles and negative feelings that niggle away at you all the time. You don’t know where to turn, or fear that you may be judged.

You may be a man. You may be depressed. You’re not alone.

Depression can happen to anyone, of any age. Depression is different from feeling down or sad. Unhappiness is something which everyone feels from time to time and, in the main, be attributed to a particular cause.

A person suffering from depression will experience intense emotions of anxiety, negativity, hopelessness and helplessness.

“As a man, it is still difficult to open up about the way you feel,” Simon, who contacted Samaritans in 2014 after spending the best part of a decade struggling with depression.

“It isn’t ‘manly’ to seem vulnerable, to share your feelings. The trouble is, for men who are battling depression, this expectation can be damaging. If you carry on bottling things up, overtime they will overwhelm you.

“It isn’t easy to explain how isolating depression can be. It’s as though you are stuck in this dark bubble, without any way of seeing out. People can see that you are finding life tough, but don’t know how to help.

“Ignoring the way you are feeling doesn’t make it go away. All too often men hold back and keep what is bothering them to themselves. The trouble is, if you try and tackle all your fears alone, you can lose sight of the fact that you can work a way through. Samaritans don’t give advice they listen. They know you are the expert on your own life. And with a listening ear, you can break down your problems into smaller, more manageable ones.”

Samaritans offer a safe space to talk – no problem is too big or too small.  You can talk to us about whatever’s getting to you. We’re here 24/7, 365 days a year. Whoever you are, however you feel, whatever life’s done to you, we listen.

Many people may feel like they don’t have anywhere to seek support. Samaritans volunteers are ordinary people who do extraordinary things to support people when they are at their most vulnerable. They work hard to provide a space for people in crisis, even during the loneliest hours of the night to offer support without fear of judgement.

The fact that most of the calls are made to the service at night reflect the importance of the 24-hour support which Samaritans offers.

If you need to talk to someone, about anything at any time, free call 116 123 or email – you don’t need to suffer in silence.

The 10 Best Foods for Eye Health

It’s a brand new year and time to reassess, regroup and refresh for the time ahead. All of us are eager to feel better, get fit and get healthy.

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) is giving us a timely reminder to keep an eye on our peepers.

There are 54,810 people with sight loss in Ireland (Census) 2016 and that figure is set to rise as our population ages.

Eye health is of paramount importance so as well as getting regular eye checks, here are some super healthy foods which will help to benefit your eyes.

They’ll benefit your figure too so it’s a win win!

1. Avocados

Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense foods that exist, so it’s no wonder they’re great for your eyes. They contain more lutein than any other fruit. Lutein is important in the prevention of macular degeneration and cataracts.

They are also a great source of other important eye nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin E.

2. Carrots

Carrots have long been recognized as an eye food due to their high levels of vitamin A.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, lutein, zeaxanthin and sulforaphane.

4. Eggs

Eggs are an excellent source of eye nutrients like vitamin A, zinc, lutein, lecithin, B12, vitamin D and cysteine.

5. Spinach

Another great source of vitamin A, spinach also contains other important eye nutrients including lutein and zeaxathin.

6. Kale

Like spinach, kale is a good source of vitamin A, lutein and zeaxathin.

7. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are high in vitamin C and lycopene, two important eye nutrients.

8. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds contain selenium, a nutrient that may prevent cataracts and promote overall eye health.

9. Garlic

Garlic contains selenium and other eye nutrients such as vitamin C and quercetin.

10. Salmon

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for maintaining overall eye health. It also contains folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin A.

For further information contact Sally McEllistrim NCBI 01 8821975/ 086 9471600

Early Detection of Skin Cancer

In Ireland rates of skin cancer are increasing faster than any other type of cancer. Skin cancers are divided into two main types: melanoma and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. There are approximately 11,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed per year, of which just under 1,000 are maligant (NCRI, 2017). More men than women are diagnosed with skin cancer.

Risks and causes of skin cancer
Sun exposure- Most skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, either long-term, or short periods of intense sun exposure and burning, perhaps while on holiday. Remember even on a cloudy day, UV rays can be strong enough to cause skin damage that can lead to skin cancer.

Sunbeds- Using sunbeds greatly increases your risk.

Skin types- People who have fair skin; lots of moles or freckles; or red or fair hair have a greater risk

Age- Non-melanoma skin cancers develop very slowly. As you get older you have more time to build up sun damage. However, young people can get skin cancer too.

Having had skin cancer before– If you have had a non-melanoma skin cancer, you have about a 10 times higher risk of a second non melanoma skin cancer.

Other skin conditions-People with certain skin conditions or skin treatments can be more likely to develop skin cancer. These include: psoriasis, scarring; solar keratosis; and atopic dermatitis.

Family history- If someone in your family has had any type of skin cancer, this increases your risk.

What you can do to prevent skin cancer
One of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is to be SunSmart:

Avoid sunburn
Sunburn is a sign that your skin has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Over time this damage can build up and lead to skin cancer. Protect your skin.

Avoid the sun and spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm

Wear a long sleeved shirt or protective clothing, hat and sunglasses

Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 (the higher the better), with good UVA protection (the more stars the better)

Some sunlight is good for you – it boosts vitamin D – but sun-bathing should be kept to a minimum.

Most dermatologists say that you can get enough Vitamin D from 30 minutes in the sun so there is no need to lie on a beach or by the pool when on holiday.

Think about other places you might be exposed to the sun:

Driving (80% of UV gets through the average car window),
Playing sport,
At work, depending on your job,

Make sure you protect your skin while you are outdoors by covering up and by wearing sunscreen.

Never use sunbeds
Using a sunbed causes skin cancer.  Even one sunbed session can increase your risk of developing squamous cell skin cancer by 67% and basal cell skin cancer by 29%.

Apply enough sunscreen
Research shows that most people apply much less than they need to. Apply the equivalent of a shot glass full of sunscreen to each limb and to your body and about half this much to your face.  Always reapply after changing or swimming- even if your sunscreen is waterproof.

Checking for skin cancers
Early detection is key to surviving skin cancer. Make a habit of checking your own skin for any changes so you can notice if something changes. If you find any changes, ask your GP to check them. Get to know the normal appearance of your skin and any moles you may have. Then, learn your ABCDE’s and check your skin regularly, about once a month.
Visit our Get Men Talking webpage for more information or

Spot The Difference Infographic – Marie Keating Foundation


I never thought such simple exercises could be so effective”

It’s 12:30 on a Wednesday afternoon in Holywell Community Centre, Swords and twelve members of the Swords Men’s Shed have gathered for their weekly meeting. In walks Michelle in her bright blue t-shirt carrying a large equipment bag and she’s greeted with smiles and handshakes from all the men. Michelle is a qualified Siel Bleu Ireland Physical Trainer and over the course of the next hour, she will guide the men through a course of physical activity specifically designed just for them.

They begin, seated in a circle, with a full body warm up from head to toe. When everyone’s warmed up, that’s when the real work starts. Based on research into the importance of physical activity for men, Michelle has designed a full body workout for the Swords Men’s Shed, with a mix of cardiovascular and resistance/strength exercises. They do squats, leg raises, shoulder presses and even some games to name a few, utilising a range of equipment exclusive to Siel Bleu.

While there are some younger members, the group mainly comprises of men are in their 60s and the majority have retired. The World Health Organisation’s guidelines suggest that older men should undertake at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week, with at least 2 of those days including resistance training for the major muscle groups. However it can be difficult for older men to gain access to exercise programmes which can be typically female focused. Siel Bleu’s classes with the Men’s Sheds offer an avenue for men to learn about the importance of exercise and to practice physical activity with the guidance of a professional trainer in the comfort of their own shed. The programmes are simple but effective and can easily be replicated at home.

“Before this class I did very little exercise, work seemed to take up most of my time,” says Ronnie, a member of the Swords Men’s Shed, “ Siel Bleu is very good introduction for someone who might not have a large amount of exercise experience in the past. It’s holistic in the fact that it covers a lot of areas of exercise at a pace and level that’s really enjoyable.”

Siel Bleu Ireland only hires physical trainers with a degree in a sporting/physical discipline and they are then trained to the Siel Bleu standards. The physical trainers use their expertise to find activities that the participants will enjoy while being effective, such as boxing, which is very popular with the Swords Shed.

The benefits of exercise for older men cannot be underestimated. Men who are active have lower risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, dementia and depression which is a significant issue for men in Ireland. Through exercise, older men can retain and build muscle strength as well as improving flexibility which can all lend themselves to helping men keep their independence. While the physical benefits are important, the group camaraderie and banter has a huge impact on the men’s state of mind.

“In the last 6 months, since I’ve started this class, I’ve seen a major change,” continued Ronnie, “Even a change in my attitude, I want to do more things, I’m better at getting up in the morning and I always look forward to the weekly exercise classes”.

Siel Bleu Ireland is a leading exercise non-profit organisation who deliver life enhancing exercise classes to older adults and adults living with chronic disease. Established in 2010, Siel Bleu Ireland works with over 4000 people per week in 20 counties. Since 2015, Siel Bleu Ireland has been partnering with The Irish Men’s Sheds Association through the Shedders for Life initiative, to make exercise accessible to the members of the sheds. Siel Bleu programmes are now available in Ratoath, Broomfield and Swords Men’s Sheds with a further three groups starting in the coming weeks.

For more information about Siel Bleu visit, or to arrange a sample class for your shed call 01 209 6889 or email



Small Lifestyle Changes can last a Lifetime

On the rare occasions when we allow ourselves to think about cancer and our risk in developing it, most of us resign ourselves to the fact that it is an inevitable consequence of genes and habits such as smoking.

However, few of us take heed of the fact that a large proportion of cancers are entirely preventable by careful choices in our diet.

In fact, up to

67% of cancers of the mouth and throat,
75% of oesophageal (gullet) cancers,
40-45% of cancers of the stomach, pancreas, colon, large bowel and breast,
20% of cancers of prostate, liver and kidney cancers; and
56% of cancers of womb

are preventable by good nutrition and regular physical activity.

True, by now it should go without saying that smoking is a major risk factor for a large amount of cancers – it causes 90% of lung cancers and is implicated in many others. However quitting smoking is just one lifestyle factor that can reduce your risk, diet is another lifestyle factor that has a huge impact on your cancer risk.

But if there are thousands of websites, books and experts giving advice on how to prevent cancer through diet and lifestyle, then how can you know if you are taking the right advice?

Well the ‘bible’ on diet and cancer is an expert report prepared by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) that is endorsed by the World Health Organisation and several other renowned international bodies. It’s called ‘Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective’ and this expert report represents the cumulative efforts of 200 scientists who reviewed the evidence linking diet to 17 different forms of cancer. Half a million studies were reviewed and whittled down to the 7,000 most relevant scientific studies and are consolidated and rated in the report.

The 8 Key Recommendations are:

1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
(Keep weight low within the healthy range)
2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
(Try to sit less and move more)
3. Limit consumption of energy dense foods and avoid sugary drinks.
(Avoid high-calorie foods and sugary drinks)
4. Eat mostly foods of plant origin.
(Eat more grains, veg, fruit and beans)
5. Limit consumption of red meats and avoid processed meats.
6. Limit Alcohol. If consumed at all, limit to 2 drinks for men & 1 for women/day.
(For cancer prevention, don’t drink alcohol)
7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt.
(Eat less salt and avoid mouldy grains and cereals)
8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.
(For cancer prevention, don’t rely on supplements)

It is very empowering to know that there are proven ways we can personally lower our risk of developing cancer.

Other ways we can help ourselves is to ensure we are registered for BowelScreen. Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in Ireland with over 2,500 people diagnosed with the disease each year. In Ireland we are lucky to have BowelScreen, which offers free screening to men and women aged 60 to 69, on a two-yearly cycle. All eligible men should check that they are on the BowelScreen register by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or visiting BowelScreen can detect pre-cancerous growths meaning that, once removed, these can prevent bowel cancer from developing in the first place, making it a truly lifesaving programme.


Mojo: Helping men to help themselves

There is much talk about mental health in Irish society; we are often reminded by advertising campaigns to take care of our mental health and to reach out when we need it. Most of us however, need to be supported to do this.

Ever heard the phrase ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’? This ancient idea could be used to summarise what Mojo stands for. We believe that ‘mental health’ does not just mean looking after the mind, it means taking care of our physical and emotional health and building strong social connections. Our role is to help men help themselves. Our aim is to reduce rates of male suicide in Ireland and levels of anxiety and depression by working in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies.

Men attending Mojo are empowered by the tools they learn to develop resilience to life’s challenges and periods of distress. Their new tools can help them return to work or education, and to explore options to live a life they’re happy with.

The programme is twelve weeks in duration, running over two mornings a week. The first morning focuses on building mental and physical fitness and the second on goal-setting and planning through working in groups and one on one with a Life Planning Co-ordinator. And the social connections? They develop naturally through the process.

During Mojo, the men are introduced to local services that they can avail of in the future. Many of the Mojo men continue to build on their social connections and resilience by meeting up regularly in their own male space.

Since 2011, we have built four projects nationwide in South Dublin, Kildare, North Dublin, and Offaly and our aim is to have ’20 by 2020’ – that is 20 Mojo projects nationwide by 2020. In 2016, Mojo affiliated with Mental Health Ireland (MHI) to help build our capacity to make this a reality. MHI provides finance and governance support as we work towards setting up an organisational structure to respond to the growing demand for Mojo Projects across Ireland.

Social connections are key to Mojo’s success and relationships can help us maintain our mental fitness. Humans are social creatures that need to belong and feel connected, but at difficult times in our lives we may feel disconnected from those closest to us – loved ones, work mates, or friends – as we often feel they may not understand what we are going through. This feeling can be particularly strong when the distress is combined with unemployment, former work friends may go their separate ways and while traditional family roles are changing, men can still feel under pressure to be the provider for their family. Unemployment can cause some men to feel worthless, depressed or isolated. Therefore, having a social network of other men who are struggling with similar issues is a key step to making positive change. Mojo provides a space where men can develop protective relationships and connections.

The tagline on the website, “When was your last service?” rings true in our approach; our bodies and minds need to be serviced and maintained more regularly and rigorously than our cars. They are far more precious than any vehicle, so do a little every day to keep them in tip-top condition. Mind your mojo men.

For more information on Mojo go to

The 2 Most Common Reasons Men Avoid The Flu Vaccine…

Getting your flu vaccine is now more convenient than ever before.

Ever chat with your friends about the flu vaccine? Do you all get it? If not, why? In January 2017, the Health Service Executive issued a statement indicating that uptake on the vaccine was “nowhere near” where it ought to be. Why do you think that is? Flu is responsible for 200-500 deaths a year in Ireland and can even reach the 1000s in an epidemic. So why have we a low uptake on the vaccine?

We get a lot of men through the doors of our pharmacies, who don’t believe in the vaccine, which is fine but it’s time to expose the myths around the vaccination. Here’s the two most common misconceptions we find among men, and the truth behind them

  1. “I don’t need the vaccine, I’ve never had the flu”

Luckily many of us have never had the flu and if you are not in the at risk category getting the flu will probably just result in a few days in bed with fatigue, aches and pains, nasal congestion and a bad cough. However if you are in one of the at risk categories getting the flu can result in serious illness, in some cases require a stay in hospital and may even be life threatening. For this reason if you are in one of the at risk categories you should get the flu vaccine every year.

  1. “I don’t want the vaccine because it will give me the flu”

Impossible. The vaccine can’t give you the flu. The most common side effects will be mild and may include soreness, redness or swelling where the injection was given. Headache, fever, aches and tiredness may occur. Some people may have mild sweating and shivering as their immune system responds to the vaccine, but this is not flu and will pass after a day or so.

At Risk Groups

  • Persons aged 65 and older
  • Those with long term medical conditions such as diabetes and chronic heart, kidney, lung or Neurological disease
  • People whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment including all cancer patients
  • Persons with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40
  • Pregnant women (at any stage in pregnancy)
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  • People with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs
  • Health care workers
  • Carers

Since October 2011, pharmacists in Ireland have been authorised to administer the seasonal influenza vaccine. These additions to the pharmacists’ role have been widely welcomed, with former Minister for Health and current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying that “pharmacy-based vaccine is an excellent example of safely making health services more accessible to patients”. There has also been a marked increase in vaccine uptake, since its introduction.

Reasons to Visit Your Haven Pharmacy

  • Expert Advice – Our Pharmacists are fully trained and qualified, but also our staff have been trained, so from the moment you walk in you are in safe hands. We provide you with all the information you need, answer any questions or concerns you may have and help you to set up your vaccine appointment
  • We Care – At Haven, we pride ourselves on ‘Care in the Community’ and providing you with ‘Expert Care, Made Personal’. Our priority is the health and wellbeing of the people in our local communities. We are happy to take time to explain anything to our customers and patients so that you are confident in making your own decisions
  • Convenience – Our 54 Haven Pharmacies are embedded in local communities throughout Ireland. Many of our pharmacies provide the flu vaccine and all our pharmacists can give advice and information around the vaccine.

Find your local Haven here and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with health information, and the latest news from Haven pharmacy, your charity partners.


There is no denying that as a country we have a complicated relationship with alcohol. A central component of nearly every event and occasion, things have changed from people drinking only socially, often to excess, but never at home on your own, to now drinking frequently at home with and without meals and not so much at the pub.

But no matter where the location the inescapable truth is that we are drinking more often and in greater volumes.

I certainly remember myself going out once or twice a week in college for drinks with friends but we would start late in the evening and rarely had the funds to drink excessively. Now though patterns have changed, including my own, and we could often be drinking a beer or two, many nights of the week. (Do we really know how much we are actually drinking from our bottles/cans?) Most of us know that drinking affects our health causing liver disease and raising blood pressure. But do we also know that drinking alcohol increases our risk of developing cancer. The scientific evidence is clear – we need to start drinking less to reduce the risk.

Each year in Ireland there are over 900 cancers caused by alcohol – that’s 3 people a day! Alcohol is a cancer risk, regardless of the type of drink and is classified by the International Agency for cancer research as a human carcinogen. The more someone drinks, the higher their risk of cancer. There is no completely safe level of drinking – any amount of alcohol you drink increases your risk of cancer. But, the less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk.

So what should people do?

  • Stay within the weekly guidelines for low risk drinking (see figure below)
  • Consider the pace at which you drink and slow down if drinking fast. It takes one hour for your liver to process one standard drink!
  • Avoid drinking 3 pints or more (6 standard drinks) on any one drinking occasion.
  • Consider how frequently you drink and how much you consume on each occasion. By being conscious of the volume and frequency you can choose to reduce building your tolerance to alcohol and also reduce the risk of habit formation. For future maintenance of health and wellbeing it is important to be mindful of this especially over years of drinking.

Standard Drinks and Low Risk Drinking Guidelines

There are lots of tips and tools to help you achieve this on

So the bottom line is that alcohol is considered a carcinogen along with others such as asbestos and tobacco. It’s time for all of us to take stock. Think about how much and how often you are drinking and make sure you are sticking with the low risk guidelines. Drink less and you will lower your cancer risk. Those are the real #facts.

Thank you to the HSE, National Cancer Control Programme and the AskAboutAlcohol campaign for the information used within this blog.

Why 10% Can Make a Difference!

We all already know that being overweight is not good for our bodies. Taking the step from knowing that and doing something about it, is where we usually fall down.

A large percentage of cancers are now known to be caused by overweight, obesity and inactivity. Carrying excess weight increases the risk of over 10 different types of cancer. The risk is particularity high in people who carry excess weight on their abdomen (belly). The fat present here is called visceral fat. It surrounds our gut and is actually very metabolically active. It pumps out hormones and chemicals which can actually promote cancer growth and dramatically increase your risk of getting cancer. 

But there was good news too, well certainly empowering news anyway.  And that is that just a 10% weight loss would see these dangerous hormones/chemical levels decrease immediately. The dangerous bad fat goes first, so even when you can’t immediately see it on the scales, or in your trousers, you know it’s worth sticking with because you are taking a huge step to decreasing your cancer risk.

The evidence doesn’t lie – there is a proven link between body fatness, inactivity and certain cancers. Being overweight and inactive accounts for 1/4 to 1/3 of worldwide cases of colon, kidney, oesophageal, breast and endometrial cancer (WHO IARC, 2013). 

So the data is clear, it is time to tackle that belly (visceral) fat and good nutrition and more physical activity is the way to go.  Visceral fat is a highly active metabolic organ secreting a vast array of hormones and growth factors involved in insulin resistance, appetite control and systemic inflammation.  This inflammation can lead to cancer but we can do something about it.  It’s not just sitting there to annoy us, but in a way its poisoning our system and therefore we should do something about it.

It can all sound a bit scary at first but ultimately this information is empowering.  Knowing that just 10% weight loss could have an enormous impact and the bad fat goes first was, can be motivating.

It means we can do something for our own health and there is not reason not to start today!


Over 18,000 Irish men are currently living with dementia

As part of its Sheds for Life initiative, the Irish Men’s Sheds Association has partnered with the HSE’s Dementia: Understand Together campaign to dispel some of the myths around both Alzheimer’s disease and the broader issue of dementia. It’s an issue that touches many shedders, whether through direct personal experience or the experiences of loved ones.

While two-thirds of Irish people with dementia are women, over 18,000 Irish men are currently living with dementia. Some of this disparity can be explained by the simple fact that women live longer than men, and dementia becomes more common as we age. However, recent studies suggest that dementia can manifest differently in men than in women, particularly in its effect on memory.

Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a set of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, the term encompasses at least 400 distinct conditions. Dementia often develops slowly, over the course of serveral years. One of the earliest signs is usually having trouble remembering recent events.

Although, dementia usually affects people as they get older, it is by no means a “normal” or inevitable part of ageing. In fact, nine out of ten older people don’t develop dementia. A lot of people mature into their 80s and 90s without any major memory decline.

While, at its earliest stages, dementia can be confused with regular, age-related forgetfulness, its effects on memory are more pronounced. It can progress from struggling with everyday tasks to having difficulty dressing, bathing, walking or recognising family members and other familiar faces. However, it’s important to stress that every case of dementia is different, and no two men will experience exactly the same symptoms.

Although dementia is more common in people over 65, younger people can also develop dementia. This is known as early or younger onset dementia. Most of those affected by early onset dementia are in their 40s or 50s; family history and genetics may play a role in this.

So how can Irish men reduce their risk? A growing body of evidence suggests that a healthy, active lifestyle can help maintain good brain health. Simply following good lifestyle habits can reduce your risk of dementia; regular exercise, eating healthily, controlling high blood pressure, cutting down on alchol and cutting out cigarettes can all make a difference.

As every shedder knows, an active mind is a huge asset when it comes to maintaining our wellbeing, particularly as we age. Keeping active and alert by meeting new people and trying new things can also potentially lower your risk of dementia.

Dementia: Understand Together is a public support, awareness and information campaign, led by the HSE, working with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, that aims to inspire people from all sections of society to stand together with the 500,000 Irish people whose families have been affected by dementia. For more information on dementia, and the services and supports available, Freephone 1800 341 341 or visit And remember, the Irish Men’s Sheds Association’s website can also help you find out more about dementia and related conditions. Simply visit and navigate to the Head section.

What do men want to know about cancer prevention?

Findings from the Mechanic study.

Aoife Mc Namara, Irish Cancer Society.

Over 10,000 Irish men are diagnosed with cancer each year. (1) In 2013, the Irish Cancer Society commissioned a report looking at men and cancer (2).  The report noted that there was a big difference between the number of men and women surviving and dying from cancer. The report also noted that there was a clear need to target Irish men separately on the impact of cancer. It called for more male-specific awareness, programmes and research.

The Irish Cancer Society provides a number of services for people affected by cancer, however we know that the majority of the users of these services are women.

At the same time the OECD Adult Skills Survey shows that 17.9% or about 1 in 6, Irish adults are at or below level 1 on a five level literacy scale. While there was no statistical difference between men and women, adults aged 55 – 65 have the lowest mean score (3). This research also shows that 1 in 4 Irish adults score at or below level 1 for numeracy, which means 1 out of every 4 people in Ireland find it difficult to do the simple maths calculations involved in everyday life, e.g. compare unit costs for items or services. Literacy and numeracy have a direct impact on employment, career opportunities and progression. But they also have huge implications for people’s health and wellbeing.

Considering the joint findings of these reports; the Society and the National Adult Literacy Agency decided to undertake research that focused on how the Irish Cancer Society can create cancer prevention information that best suits Irish men and to identify how men would like to receive information on cancer and cancer prevention in the future.

The study found that approximately one-third of those with low health literacy often needed someone to help them to read hospital materials, often had difficulty learning about their medical condition because of difficulty understanding written information, and often needed someone to help them understand health information. Men with low health literacy were significantly more likely to worry a lot about cancer and to feel uncomfortable thinking about cancer than those with high health literacy.

The main barriers to men finding cancer prevention information were that men were mainly passive information seekers, they came across information but didn’t normally actively look for it. There were lots of societal, practical and emotional barriers stopping men from accessing cancer prevention information. These barriers were bigger for men with low literacy levels. But there were also some things that made it easier for men to access cancer prevention information and these included location. Men with low literacy levels like to access health information from their GPs, whereas men with high literacy levels like to access health information online.

There were also a lot of recommendations on how men like information to presented, these included using plain English, plenty of visuals and infographics, positive messaging and use of humour. The findings of the Mechanic study were launched to coincide with Men’s Health Week 2017 and will be used by the Irish Cancer Society to make more Irish men aware of the impact of cancer. For more information, check out


  1. National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI, 2015) Cancer Factsheet Overview & most common cancers. Available at (Accessed 06/05/2015)
  2. Irish Cancer Society (2013) Report on the excess burden of cancer among men in the Republic of Ireland (full report). Available at (Accessed 06/05/2015)
  3. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2013) OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. Available at (Accessed 06/05/2015)


Let’s Get Walking

Walking is the oldest and most natural form of physical activity. It is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. It can be done anywhere, anytime and it’s free. Regular walking has been shown to be of benefit to your physical, psychological and social health. Regular walking can:

  • Keep your body fit and active and increase your energy levels,

  • Keep your heart healthy and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as reducing your risk of other illnesses such as diabetes and some cancers,

  • Develop healthier bones and joints

  • Reduce your stress levels and help you sleep better,

  • Help you control your weight,

  • Help you feel good and improve your mood.

If you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis or have any symptoms such as chest pain or pressure, dizziness- talk to your doctor for advice on how to manage your condition while getting active.

How Much?

For health benefits adults need to be active at a moderate level for at least 30 minutes a day on 5 days of the week or accumulate a total of 150 minutes of activity a week. This can be made up in smaller bouts of at least 10 minutes in duration. Use this as a target and gradually increase your walking over a few weeks.

How Fast?

Walking at any pace can be beneficial. When starting to walk do so at a pace that you can manage. Aim to set a pace that slightly raises your heartbeat, makes you breathe a little faster and feel a little warmer.

Some ideas to help you get walking.

  • Park a distance away from the shops, work or your shed and walk the rest of the way, or better still leave the car at home.

  • Get off the bus one or two stops before your destination and walk the rest of the way.

  • Go for a walk with family, friends or neighbours.

  • Or you could join a walking group (check out the listing of groups on or start a walking group in your shed or your area.

Men of Ireland, your tight underwear does NOT cause cancer


Recent research confirms that many men in Ireland are still unaware of common cancer risks, wrongly believing that the disease can be caused by laptops, injury and tight underwear.

The survey, carried out amongst a sample of 913 men by Breakthrough Cancer Research and researchers at University College Cork, found that while most men surveyed were aware of classic cancer risk factors, such as smoking and poor diet, there are still a lot of misconceptions that must to be tackled:


  • Alcohol IS a Cancer Risk Factor

Irish men still seem to underestimate alcohol as a risk factor in developing cancer, with 66% incorrectly believing that red wine protects against cancer. Decreasing your cancer intake can reduce your risk of developing cancer.


  • Tight Underwear DOES NOT Cause Cancer

45% to 52% of Irish men believed that wearing tight underwear, carrying mobile phones in pockets or extended use of laptop on the lap increased their risk of testicular cancer. None of these cause cancer.


  • Supplements DO NOT Protect Against Cancer

44% of men surveyed believing supplements would protect against cancer. They do not provide any protection against cancer.


  • Physical Activity DOES Lower your Cancer Risk

95% correctly identified regular activity as a protective factor, yet less than half of respondents believed obesity is a risk factor. At least 30 minutes of physical activity a day can reduce your risk of developing cancer.


  • Obesity is a Cancer Risk Factor

Only 48% of men who responded were aware that obesity is a risk factor, with 12 % believing that the worst effect of too much fat in the body is that clothes do not fit properly.

The results of this recent research show that there remains a need for men to become more cancer curious and arm themselves with the information they need to lower their cancer risk. The good news is that, as proven by the World Cancer Research Fund, small changes in our lifestyle can make a big difference to our cancer risk, with 30% – 40% of cancers preventable through lifestyle. And most importantly these changes are within our control.

So what’s stopping you lowering your cancer risk today?

About Research

Persistent Poor Awareness of Risk Factors for Cancer in Irish Adult Males: Results of a Large Survey 

Aoife Ryan1, Orla Dolan2, Sharon O’Regan1, Jessica Horgan1, Derek Power3

1 School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

2 Cork Cancer research Centre, University College Cork

3 Department of Medical Oncology, Mercy University Hospital, Cork, Ireland





Fighting Blindness urge you to mind your eyes!

World Sight Day takes place this year on October 12, and Fighting Blindness is encouraging people to consider their eye health. No matter what your level of vision, it is vital to protect whatever sight you do have. Below are some helpful tips that can help:


Don’t Smoke

Your eye is a complex organ that needs oxygen to survive; smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, so less oxygen reaches the eye. This causes oxidative stress and damages the retina and also causes cell death to retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. Smoking is a risk factor for developing AMD and diabetic retinopathy.


Eat the Right Food

Some foods can help protect against certain eye conditions; like cataracts and AMD due to the specific nutrients they contain. These nutrients are found in many fruits and vegetables including mango, squash, broccoli, green beans, and spinach.


Regular Eye Tests

It is recommended that people have an eye test every two years. A regular eye test can identify any early indications of diseases, some of which are treatable if caught early. A regular eye test can identify any early indications of diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). An eye test can also identify other problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure for which the optometrist can refer you back to a GP.


Wear Sunglasses

UV light from the sun’s rays can cause damage to your eyes. To reduce risks always wear sunglasses when in the sun. Check your shades have a UV factor rating and block 100 per cent of UV rays. Your sunglasses should carry the CE mark, which indicates that they meet European safety standards.


Regular screen breaks

If you use a computer or mobile device, take frequent breaks from your screen – at least oncee an hour. Resting your eyes can help avoid headaches, eyestrain, soreness and double vision.


Know your Family Eye History

Many conditions causing sight loss are hereditary, it is important that if there is a history of sight loss in your family, you get assessed and checked. If you are clinically diagnosed with a genetic retinal condition you can have a genetic test through Target 5000 to try and establish the gene or genes responsible. For more information about Target 5000 visit or to register your interest, telephone 01 6789 004 or email


Fighting Blindness is an Irish patient-led charity working to cure, support and empower people affected by sight loss. For more information about Fighting Blindness events and services, please call 01 6789 004 or visit


*If you are worried about your eye health, we strongly advise that you discuss all concerns and potential treatments with your doctor.


About Fighting Blindness

Fighting Blindness is an Irish patient-led charity working to cure blindness, support people experiencing sight loss and empower patients. It does this by:

  • Funding and enabling world-leading research into treatments and cures for blindness. Since 1983, Fighting Blindness has invested over €17 million in more than 90 research projects, with a particular focus on genes and gene therapy, cell technology and regenerative medicine, retinal implant technology, novel drug therapy and population studies
  • Providing professional counselling through its Insight Counselling Service for people and families affected by sight loss
  • Undertaking extensive activity in the area of advocacy and patient empowerment, and, specifically, for equitable access to existing treatments, novel therapies and appropriate care





Alcohol and Your Physical and Mental Health

In Ireland, we consider alcohol part of our culture, a way to relax and reward ourselves. So do we ever stop to think whether our drinking is having a negative impact on our bodies and minds?

Alcohol can interfere with your sleep, contribute to feelings of low mood and anxiety, affect fitness and fertility, and increase your risk of developing cancer.

Even drinking a little bit less can help you to feel better, physically and mentally. It can also help you to keep a healthy relationship with alcohol, and avoid problems in the future.

Is too much less than you think?

The truth is, the less you drink, the better it is for your health and wellbeing.

However, staying within the low-risk guidelines can help you to reduce the risk of alcohol related disease and illness. The low risk guideline for men (aged 18-65) is 17 standard drinks or less a week.Try to have at least two to three alcohol free days a week and spread your drinks over the week. Drinking more than six standard drinks at a time significantly increases the risks to your health and wellbeing. Spacing and pacing your drinking will also help you to avoid building tolerance to alcohol and forming a habit.

So what is a standard drink?


What exactly is to gain?

1: Improved Mental Health: You might think a few drinks helps you to cope with your problems but alcohol is a depressant. It can often make a bad mood worse and make it even harder to cope with day-to-day stresses. Sticking to the low-risk guidelines is good for your mood and mental health.

2: Improved Fitness: Alcohol affects sports performance and muscle build-up and makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight. Three pints of beer actually gives you an additional 545 additional calories – the same amount of calories as two burgers. So cutting back will make those fitness goals easier to reach.

3: Improved Sexual Performance: Heavy drinking can reduce a mans sperm count, and sex drive. If you’re in a relationship or trying for a baby, drinking less can improve your sex life and chances of conceiving.

4: Heart Health: Drinking can increase your blood pressure which can lead to strokes and diseases of the heart muscle like cardiomyopathy. Drinking less is good for your heart.

5: Reduced risk of Cancer: The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of developing cancer such as mouth, throat, bowel and liver cancer.


Ask About Alcohol

The HSE’s Ask About Alcohol campaign and website gives you the information you need to drink less and gain more, direct from the experts.

Cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink can help you live a healthier life. If you want to make a change, Ask About Alcohol has lots of tips and tools to help you cut down and stay on track.

If you want some help calculating your alcohol consumption, use the Ask About Alcohol Drinks Calculator.

Worried about your own or some else’s drinking? There is help available. Visit for further information.

Follow Ask About Alcohol on Facebook



In Ireland 1 in 3 men will develop cancer in their lifetime – a spanner in the works!

What is cancer?

Cancer starts in the body’s cells, cells are the building blocks that make up our bodies organs and tissues. Sometimes cells in a specific part of the body can go wrong, like the car GPS telling you to turn right but there is no right. When the cells go wrong they become abnormal, growing uncontrollably and making more abnormal cells. Like if you turned the car right when the GPS told you, you are making an unusual road. Cancer is the term used to describe this abnormal over-growth of cells which form a tumour.


Take the spanner out of the works

What do you think can stop the spanner getting into the engine? If you knew you can reduce the risk of the spanner getting into the works…….if you knew that over one third of cancers can be prevented…….what would you do?


Cancer Risk Reduction

The European Code for Cancer Prevention outlines 12 ways for everybody to reduce their cancer risk. Lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of cancer for brothers, dads, sons, uncles, cousins, friends. In Ireland skin, prostate, colorectal and lung cancer are the most common types of cancer in men. Food, physical activity, smoking, weight, alcohol, sun protection affect the risk of developing these cancer and attending bowel screening can spot cancer early.

Health is complex. Every day we are bombarded with new information about what we should and should not be doing and this can be quite confusing. What will follow over the coming weeks will be a series of articles about how to reduce the risk of a spanner in the works and how to spot a spanner in the works early. The purpose is not to tell you what to do but to highlight things that you can do (or not do) that can reduce the risk of cancer and how to spot it early.


Articles from the Irish Cancer Society, Breakthrough Cancer Research and the Marie Keating Foundation will cover;


  • Common Cancer Myths Among Men
  • What do men want to know about cancer prevention? Findings from the Mechanic study
  • Body Weight; Why 10% Can Make a Difference!
  • The Sobering Truth; Alcohol and Cancer
  • Small Lifestyle Changes can last a Lifetime
  • Manual for Men – reducing your risk of cancer one step at a time
  • Early detection; Skin Cancer
  • Early detection; Bowel Screening
  • National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) Prostate Cancer Programme

There are over 30,000 new cancers cases in Ireland each year……one third of cases can be prevented…… brothers, dads, sons, uncles, cousins, friends ….what would you do?


Over the coming months, we’ll be featuring regular blogs from some of the 40+ partner organisations featured on This week’s blog entry comes to you from the National Council for the Blind in Ireland.


In Ireland, AMD, (Age Related Macular Degeneration) is the leading cause of sight loss in the over 50’s, with thousands of people living with the condition. The condition is more prevalent as one ages and affects the macula .There are two forms, Wet and Dry, which is the most common form. Most people develop the dry form of AMD. Dry, which is currently untreatable, develops slowly but can lead to loss of central vision. Wet is less common but it can cause rapid sight loss. It can be treated but early diagnosis is vital.

AMD Awareness Week, which is celebrating its 10th Anniversary, takes place from the 25th – 30th September with Novartis Testing Units offering free tests. Chris White, CEO NCBI says “NCBI wants to encourage everyone over the age of 50 to take advantage of the free AMD tests taking place this week. The test only takes a couple of minutes and could save your sight. Our nationwide network of NCBI shops will be hosting coffee mornings for AMD Awareness Week to raise its profile amongst the public and to encourage discussion around this very important health initiative. Together we can make the 10th AMD Awareness Week the most successful yet”.

Testing Sites:

Dublin – Tuesday 26th September:

• County Library Tallaght, Library Square, Tallaght, Dublin 24 from 10am – 1pm

• Lexicon Library, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin from 2pm – 6pm

Waterford – Wednesday 27th September:

• Waterford Health Park , Slievekeale Road , Waterford from 10am – 1pm

• Outside Tesco, Ardkeen Shopping Centre, Waterford from 2pm – 6pm

Limerick – Thursday 28th September:

• Castletroy Golf Club, Golf Links Road, Castletroy, Co. Limerick from 10am – 1pm

• Junction of O’Connell Street and Thomas Street, Limerick from 2pm – 6pm

Galway – Wednesday 29th September:

• Ballybane Library, Castlepark Road, Ballybane, Galway from 10am – 1pm

• West Side Shopping Centre, Galway from 2pm – 6pm

Cork – Saturday 30th of September:

• Cork Golf Club, LittleIsland from 10am to 1pm

• Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Link Road, Co. Cork from 2pm to 6pm

As the national sight loss agency the NCBI is there for each person, irrespective of the level of sight loss. 45 year old Leo Hynes from Tuam was diagnosed with Wet AMD a number of years ago. One day when working on one of his much loved Sudoku puzzles, Leo noticed something wrong with his right eye and he knew immediately that it was potentially serious. He takes up the story. “When I moved my eye the curve of the line moved with me and I knew something wasn’t right”.

“I immediately contacted my GP who make an appointment for me to see a Specialist. Tests were done and I was diagnosed with Wet AMD. I was started on a course of injections and was warned not to take part in any sport for 3 months”.

Since then the past 8 years have been a series of ups and downs for Leo. However he says that while he has gone through the whole gamut of emotions, the NCBI has been a constant source of support, advice and vitally, hope.

“I availed of the counselling and the support group, talking is key, nothing seems as bad once it is talked out. It is so important to meet with others in the same situation. I also have picked up tips and suggestions to make life easier, I use the magnifiers and other visual aids and it all helps”.

“Just knowing that I can turn to the NCBI is a source of strength and hope, things would be so much blacker without it”.<–>


Reading this manual can seriously improve your health

Not too long ago, we were unaware of the full extent of men’s poor health and the specific health issues that they face. However, in recent years, a broad range of research has highlighted the health difficulties which confront local lads. This shows that they experience a disproportionate burden of ill-health and die too young …

• Men die, on average, four and a half years younger than women do.
• Males have higher death rates than women for all of the leading causes of death.
• Poor lifestyles are responsible for a high proportion of chronic diseases.
• Late presentation to health services leads to a large number of problems becoming untreatable …

So, is there any good news? … Well, the simple answer is ‘yes’. As the first country in the world to have a National Men’s Health Policy (which has recently been succeeded by the ‘Healthy Ireland – Men’ Action Plan), Ireland leads the way in international men’s health.

Despite this, evidence clearly shows that there are still many challenges to be faced when seeking to improve the health of men. However, it also highlights that men’s health can be improved in many significant ways – if we make the right choices. Men, themselves, have a key role to play in this process, but they require support, encouragement and opportunities to succeed. Men’s Health Week (MHW) in June each year ( offers an ideal opportunity to kick-start this action.

To support MHW the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland ( produces a free, 32 page Man Manual. This booklet (titled ‘Challenges and Choices’) opens with the statement: ‘WARNING … READING THIS MANUAL CAN SERIOUSLY IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH’. It then goes on to issue a series of simple and practical challenges to improve the reader’s health:

1. Order a soft drink the next time you’re in the pub.
2. Try some fruit or vegetables you’ve never tasted before or think you don’t like.
3. Make at least one journey by foot or bicycle instead of going by car.
4. If you’re under 25 and sexually active, get yourself checked for chlamydia.
5. Stressed out? … Walk away from tense situations before you blow up.
6. Find out about the opening hours at your local GP’s surgery.
7. Get your blood pressure checked within the next two weeks.
8. Get a friend to quit smoking with you – and get advice on how to stop.
9. Show a doctor that lump, strange-shaped mole, or rash that’s bothering you.
10. If you get backache, don’t let it become a pain in the ass. Get it sorted.

Each of these challenges is accompanied by a reason why it is important to take action, a menu of possible choices available, and signposting to sources of help and advice. Most importantly, it provides this information in a straightforward, step-by-step, humorous and commonsense way. After all, it was written by a man in Ireland!

Since it was first produced in 2014, 79,200 hard copies of this publication have been given out to men throughout the island. In these days of ‘e-reader books’, that would probably make it an all-time ‘best seller’ in Easons! To see what it’s all about, download yourself a copy at:


L-R: Tim Collins (Irish Heart CEO), Dr. Angie Brown (Irish Heart Medical Director), Janis Morrissey (Irish Heart Health Promotion Manager), Anna Daly (TV3 presenter) Brendan Courtney (Fashion Designer) and Fergal Fox (HSE)

This September, Irish Heart wants you to strike before stroke as it marks the beginning of a month-long awareness campaign supported by the HSE and focused, for the first time, on stroke prevention among men and women over 40.
Research shows that stroke can strike at any age as 2,000 working age people are now affected annually by the disease in Ireland.

This month, prevention is for you. 60% of over 45s in Ireland have high blood pressure which is a major risk for stroke – start with a check and find out what you can do to avoid stroke.

Stroke is a serious medical emergency mostly associated with older age but the reality is that people of working age are now accounting for one in four of all strokes in Ireland and this is growing rapidly in spite of Ireland’s ageing population.

A stroke happens when a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a clot or narrowing in the artery. This causes a break in the blood supply to part of the brain, denying it essential oxygen and nutrients. This affects how the body works and can damage or destroy brain cells – on average about two million cells every minute.

The good news is that 80% of premature strokes are preventable through lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and being active. We’re here to help so don’t miss our free stroke prevention promotional materials and tips on

Our recent survey of our Mobile Health Unit service showed that 2 in 5 men had high blood pressure and that less men than women went to the doctor when advised to do so by our nurses. We would encourage all men in the sheds to avail our free blood pressure check or full health check when in your area and if advised to see your doctor to follow up on this advice.

A blood pressure check is a simple quick and non-invasive test that could prove life-saving. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured in your local pharmacy, with Irish Heart’s free mobile health unit or with your family doctor. The important thing is to do it now. The normal level of blood pressure is usually about 120 over 80. If your blood pressure is 140 over 90 or higher (or 140 over 80 if you have diabetes) you should discuss this reading with your doctor.

Tips for a healthy Blood Pressure

• Know your blood pressure number
• Aim for a healthy weight
• Eat less salt and processed food
• Eat more fruit and vegetables
• If you drink alcohol, keep within the recommended levels
• Be physically active for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week
• If you smoke, try to stop, contact the national Quitline 1850-201-203
• Have a cholesterol check, eat less fatty foods
• Always take your tablets as advised by your doctor

For information on any aspect of your heart health, speak to our National Heart and Stroke Helpline nurses on 1800 25 25 50 or visit

SAMARITANS 29/01/2018

NCBI: 10 BEST FOODS FOR EYE HEALTH 22/01/2018<h/5>
SIEL BLEU 03/01/2018
IRISH HEART – 06/09/2017