Understanding how our bodies work is the first step to prevention and then next and very vital step is knowing when something is not right. Early diagnosis saves lives and not only impacts your life but those closest to you.
The articles are aimed at increasing awareness about diseases, that if diagnosed early, can be monitored or treated to ensure that they do not reach a point where the outcome is fatal.
Both men and women are aware of the external components of their bodies but what lies beneath the skin is where silent killers prefer to lurk. Most of us did biology at school, but the nearest I got to seeing the internal reproductive organs, was the horrifying sight of a splayed dissected frog on a work bench one science lesson.
This means that most of us do not have a working knowledge of the organs or the systems that make up this amazing and miraculous system that reproduces another human being.
This series is not just aimed at men but to their partner in life. They often notice changes in our bodies or our normal behaviour before we do. Also in the case of men, it is often their partners who are doing the shopping and the cooking. Diet and lifestyle play a crucial part in our health and having someone working with you to ensure you are eating a balanced diet is ideal.
Between 16 to 19 million men will die worldwide in the next 12 months. It is estimated that once you take out the non-medical reasons that over 65% of those men will die from noncommunicable diseases. This term applies largely to what I call Lifestyle induced disease.
The top killers of men are:-
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain cancers such as lung and prostate,
- Chronic lung disease,
The formula for most of these diseases that are lifestyle related are:
Diet + Lifestyle choices + lack of exercise + stress.
I will be posting articles on the male reproductive system since this is what makes men unique from women. This is as important for the women in your life as it is to you. Since diet and lifestyle plays such a fundamental role in our health it is also important that if you are in a relationship that you are on the same page about this.
In my years of working in nutrition with clients, I soon discovered that when I reached the point where I was designing an eating programme for someone to improve their health or to lose weight, I needed to ask their partner along. This came about after a wife accosted me in the supermarket one day. She gave me a severe talking to about how her cooking had been good enough for 25 years for her husband and how dare I suggest otherwise. I do most of the cooking in our household and I do understand the issue. Actually we did all work together and her husband lost five stone and was able to come off his blood pressure meds.. She also lost two stone and gave him a run for his money.
My point being? If you do decide that you need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle to improve your health or diet, don’t do it in isolation. Work together with your partner and explain the reasons why you want to make the changes and the benefits at the end of the day. In some cases this could mean you being around for several more years so it is an important discussion.
The male reproductive system
Although this first comment has raised many a laugh over the years…the drivers behind our reproductive systems are indeed ‘all in the mind‘. Of course we will have certain organs in place before birth. However, it is the master controllers in the brain that will send out messages at various stages in our lives to increase or decrease the reproductive system’s development and activity levels.
You can find the posts on the brain in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe/
For the purposes of this series though I want to focus on the physical aspects of the system.
Although the male reproductive system is not quite as complex as the female system it still is prone to infections and diseases that can affect men at different stages in their lives.
As with women, men’s reproductive organs are divided into two parts, the internal and external organs and the gonads called the testes. When boys reach puberty, between 10-14 years old, gonadotropic hormones are secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain and the gonads grow and become active. The gonadotropic hormones also stimulate the production of the androgens or testosterone hormones, which in turn will promote the growth, and development of external genitalia as well as stimulating changes in the larynx. One of the outward signs of a boy reaching puberty is his voice breaking and then becoming deeper over the next few months.
The male reproductive organs are external and internal and include the testicles; duct system made up of the epididymis and vas deferens, the spermatic cord, the seminal vesicles and the penis.
The testicles or testes are oval shaped and grow to about 2 inches (5 centimetres) in length and 1 inch (3 centimetres) in width. They are formed in the embryo from a ridge of tissue at the back of the abdomen. They gradually move down the abdomen during the pregnancy, reaching the scrotum in time for the birth. They consist of seminiferous tubules, where sperm is manufactured and interstitial cells which produce the hormone testosterone. As a boy matures he produces more and more testosterone, so in addition to his deepening voice, he will develop more body hair, bigger muscles and produce sperm.
Alongside the testes are the epididymis and the vas deferens of the male duct system. The epididymis consists of elaborately coiled tubes that are attached to the back of each testis. These carry the sperm into the vas deferens, an extension of the epididymis that has become a muscular tube that takes the sperm up into the penis in semen.
The testes and the duct system are protected by a skin bag called the scrotum. One of its main roles is to maintain a slightly lower temperature than the rest of the body otherwise the testes will be unable to produce sperm.
There is a complex connective system between the penis and the testes called the spermatic cord that not only suspends the testes but contains and protects the blood vessels, sperm and hormone carrying tubes, nerves and lymph system that supply the scrotum. It is also covered by a number of layers including the cremasteric muscle, which is responsible for contracting the scrotum in extremes of temperature or during ejaculation.
As the sperm move up the vas deferens they pause in a storage area called the ampulla where they are bathed in seminal fluid from the vesicles situated just above each side of the prostate gland. This fluid stimulates the sperm to move spontaneously and actively as it passes through the prostate gland and penis into the vagina.
The prostate gland is a very small walnut shaped structure that sits at the base of the bladder and surrounds the ejaculatory ducts at the base of the urethra. Its role is to produce an alkaline fluid that mixes with the semen from the vesicles before it is passed into the penis to be ejaculated. This probably acts as a booster for the sperm keeping them active and therefore more likely to fertilise an egg should the opportunity arise. Unfortunately problems with the prostate can arise as men age and this either results in difficulties with the bladder or actual disease of the prostate. I will cover that in more detail later in the series.
The shaft of the penis contains a central tube, the urethra, leading to a small hole in the head of the penis called the meatus. This enables urine to pass from the bladder and out of the body or allows for the ejaculation of semen during intercourse. Because the urethra has a dual purpose, a strong muscle ring at the connection between the bladder and the tube ensures that urine only passes through when intended.
The penis is made up of groups of tissue that are responsible for erections. These tissues are supplied with a rich network of blood vessels, which become distended when a man is aroused. The blood is unable to flow back into the body and the penis therefore stiffens and rises as the internal pressure increases. After ejaculation the blood flow reduces to normal levels and the penis returns to a flaccid state.
All boys are born with a fold of skin that protects the glans from injury. This is called the foreskin and during an erection this peels back to allow the tip to be stimulated during intercourse. A lubricant called smegma is produced by the foreskin and the skin on the glans to make this action smooth, but poor hygiene, or irritants can lead to severe infections. Circumcision is often carried out on baby boys for both religious and health reasons.
Next time- The hormone element – Testosterone.
©sallygeorginacronin – Forget the Viagra, Pass Me a Carrot – Men’s health workshop manual 2012.