Peter Fleming learnt the hard way what happens when you ignore a health problem; and it almost cost him his life.

This month is Movember so the 46-year-old has a simple health message for men out there: don’t ignore any symptoms and get regular medical check-ups.

Peter ignores blood pressure reading

In 2015, Peter was at a Movember men’s event at Pukekohe Park Raceway in Auckland. A nurse was there taking drivers' blood pressures before and after they drove around the racing track in a V8 car to compare the difference.

“She took my blood pressure and said, ‘Good God, it’s frighteningly high. Come back and see me in a few minutes and I’ll take it again’,” he says.

“My mates and I thought that was hilarious – if you are still around in a few minutes! I didn’t go back to get it checked.”

Peter, a sales director at JPS Marketing, says there were other signs things weren’t right with his health. “I do a lot of work in Australia and a couple of times I found myself breathless but I ignored it. I thought it was because I was rushing around and busy.”

He says the reason he ignored the signs was because, “I’m a bloke and that’s what we do”.

Six months later, Peter collapsed in his bathroom after suffering an aortic aneurysm (a tear in the wall of the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body). He was rushed to hospital and had bypass surgery.

Lucky to be alive

Peter was told by doctors he was lucky to have survived. “Like an idiot, I chose to ignore the symptoms and I nearly died… the silly thing is that if I’d listened, I could have avoided a near-death situation,” he says.

The father-of-one considered himself reasonably fit and thought he was healthy before the aneurysm, but a little overweight.

He also knows the importance of keeping mentally well, having experienced depression in the past.

Following his heart surgery, Peter met two other men in their forties in a rehabilitation programme who had been through the same thing. The trio are keen to help other men who have been through the experience.

“We want to put together some sort of resource to help other men. We would like men to know there are others out there who have been through the same thing and that there’s somebody to talk to if they need to. I’m a great believer in giving back.”

Show your support for Movember!

Peter has supported Movember for the last couple of years, raising several thousand dollars along the way. “I’m a huge supporter of Movember, it’s just brilliant,” he says.

The Movember Foundation funds a wide range of programmes that support men’s physical and mental health, including programmes run by the Mental Health Foundation.

If you would like to take part in Movember, it’s not too late to sign up.