Why is that?
This typically is not due to a lack of perceived problems on the part of men. Besides high blood pressure or high cholesterol which is hard to be aware of subjectively, aches and pains, or digestive disturbances are typically hard to ignore. And although all men are different, we are classically problem solvers. We love to troubleshoot, find solutions, and fix things. That’s another classical stereotype about men right? That women often want to talk about something while men simply want to fix it. So why doesn’t that seem to apply to their health?
There are many possible reasons for this. Men generally do know what their health concerns are. No, it’s unlikely that a lack of awareness is what fosters the male pattern of doctor avoidance. It is more likely a combination of conditioning (and possibly genetic hard wiring) that promotes men to be stoic, to tough things out, or to use mind over matter in a battle of will over physics. In playing sports, it sometimes pays to use the mind over matter trick to stay in the game. But in regards to long term health maintenance, this tactic rarely pays off. Just like cars or other machines, our bodies give us subtle signals before our body/the engine simply won’t start or the grinding noises appear. And while we can replace parts in machines, with our bodies it is much easier to prevent problems in the first place than try to “fix” them later. Treating high blood pressure in your 20s or high cholesterol in your 30s is much easier than treating heart disease in your fifties.
All of us have to die of something at some time —that’s inevitable. Yet, most of what does us in here in the U.S. is preventable or is possible to delay. As of 2007 (the last year for which this data is available), just about 50 percent of American men’s deaths are due to heart disease or cancer. Both of these conditions are possibly preventable. Hypertension and high cholesterol both contribute directly to heart disease and potential heart attacks, and both of these conditions are included in even the most basic health exam. In terms of cancer, the top leading causes of cancer related deaths are from lung cancer (i.e. smoking), prostate, colon, and skin cancer. Besides the lung cancer which, and this is not rocket science, can be prevented almost always by simply not smoking, the other three cancers are also part of regular yearly screenings after age 50. So right there, half of the most typical causes of death are possibly preventable. While the third leading cause of death for women can be prevented (stroke), number three for men is accidental injuries and that opens up a topic too big to discuss here. But the percentage of deaths from number three (accidental injuries) drops to 6.6 percent.
Looking at causes of death is sobering and obviously, it’s hard to enjoy your retirement if you’re not around to be retired. But equally important to staving off death is preventing illnesses, which decrease your quality of life. The knee and back pain which accompany obesity are not too much fun. Dealing with insulin or several other medications to control diabetes, hypertension or all of the above is also less than enjoyable. And the key is that most chronic illnesses do not develop overnight — they develop over decades. These are the reasons to eat as much salad as steak or to exercise at least as often as we watch sports. So, in the interest of long life and medication-free living, we should all thank the wives who “encourage” those visits to the doctor. And exercise can be fun, healthy food can be tasty, and the ability to golf or go hiking into your 70s and beyond makes it worth the discipline required. Now here’s another little secret; you don’t need to wait for someone else to make that appointment for you. It’s OK to make your health a priority for you and your family. We hope to see you soon.
Dr. Kraft is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed acupuncturist. He may be reached at Health Moves 17311 135th Ave NE Ste. C-800 Woodinville, WA 98072, Phone: 425.402.9999 or www.Health Moves .org.