Men’s Health Week reminds us of all the small things we should be doing – the health routines we can understand and control. Living longer more enjoyable lives takes a little work, but we just have to take those small steps and start.
Let’s face it, men aren’t always the best patients. Compared to women, we avoid going to the doctor, skip more recommended screenings and practice riskier behavior. Not surprising then that men also die about 4 or 5 years sooner, live with more years of bad health, and have higher suicide rates.
One aim of Men’s Health Week is to break down the cultural and social barriers that have led generations of men to view health complaints as a sign of weakness.
Research has shown that men are conditioned from a young age to avoid sharing emotions, feelings or stressors. Just as guys needed to put health issues behind him while chasing down that mammoth millennia ago, in today’s sports competitions, male athletes more often feel pressure to play through pain and injury.
We guys often don’t want anyone infringing on our autonomy. We want to drink, play sports, and eat what we want, whenever we want, just like we did when we were twenty.
We avoid the doctor to avoid being told what we don’t want to hear. When our girlfriends or wives ask about our health, we often lie. We withhold information. We do the same with doctors. When a doctor asks, “Any specific issues to address?” too many of us say, “No, I feel great,” even when we don’t.
Women have a far stronger record when it comes to regular care, in part because women’s health is so linked to reproductive health. Issues such as birth control and abnormal periods bring women to the doctor more regularly and at an early age. Women get in the habit. They get used to making appointments and keeping up on their body’s health.
Women are often more comfortable with asking for help, less threatened by the implicit vulnerability of assistance. When there is family involved, nurturing instincts often mean women are far more likely to assume the role of care organizer and family health manager.
Men can be stubborn, know-it-alls, and mansplainers. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but rather it is a sign of strength.
Once you make the decision to see a doctor, what next? Well, your doctor is your partner in the business of keeping you healthy. You both have a role in improving and maintaining your health.
It’s important you choose a doctor that you are comfortable with and trust. A doctor’s clinic should be a safe and judgement free place. Trust makes it easier for you to be fully honest so they can do their job. Medical details you share with them are legally confidential.
Overcoming the basic obstacle of being reluctant to talk about intimate health issues is not just a manly thing to do but the smartest (and really, the only) option we have. It’s a necessary part of protecting yourself and staying healthy.
Manning up means being honest and open about your health, not the opposite.