It's a Guy Think
Doing Battle Against Bad Ideas Men Have About Their Health
By Buzz McClain
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 4, 2004; Page HE01
Wonder why men die younger than women? Check out your 'tude, dude.
The things many guys believe about health -- that as long as they can make it to the doctor they really don't need one, that jumping on the Redskins bandwagon counts as exercise, that the Bloomin' Onion counts as a vegetable -- are at least partly responsible for the fact that we die six years earlier than women, on average.
According to the Men's Health Network, a Washington-based information clearinghouse, males die of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes at higher rates than females. Men die in accidents more frequently and of general injuries at three times the rate of women. We kill ourselves four times more often. In fact, practically the only health categories where we outperform women are in diseases of body parts we don't have (i.e., ovaries) and illnesses we don't live long enough to get as often (Alzheimer's).
Advocates of men's health say things need to change.
"We need to reach men where they are," said Scott Haltzman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I. "If we're serious about helping men, we ought to be talking about the risks of heart disease and prostate cancer at NASCAR. We ought to have posters up at bars or men's clubs, or hit the bowling alleys. Try to get them the message that their health is at risk."
Or, maybe, what men need is a competition -- just the sort of thing guys like. If we increase our life spans compared to women, we win the game! Hoo ha!
Of course, that would require us to adjust the above-mentioned attitude. Luckily, we're here to assist. Below we list some things guys tend to think, followed by ideas from men's health and medical experts about how to change them.
Remember: The game is riding on the outcome here. You don't want to let your teammates down. Loser pays for beer.
YOU SAY "A checkup? I don't even have time for a haircut."
THEY SAY The number of men who haven't seen a physician in the last year is nearly twice that of women, said Haltzman. Not coincidentally, he said, "men tend to die of [nearly] every disease," he said, "at higher rates than women at every stage of life. Think about that."
And yet men remain reluctant to go to the doctor. Haltzman, a psychiatrist specializing in men's health issues, offered this spin: "We put our women's and kids' health priority above our own. Instead of looking at us as being stupid or lazy [for not attending to our health], look at it as making sacrifices."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Prostate Cancer: Medical oncologist E. Roy Berger, M.D. discusses the issues of prostate cancer. Live, 10 a.m. ET.
Heart Disease: Cardiologist Sidney Smith, M.D., director of the Center for Cardiovascular Science and Medicine at the University of North Carolina, discusses cardiovascular health. Live, Thursday at 2:45 p.m. ET.