Men: Take charge of your health
At a very young age, most American boys are taught the importance of being tough. Throughout their lives, this “buck up and be a man” ideology is reinforced via many means of influence, such as in television and movies, through sports and socially.
Compounding the effects of an already out-of-balance situation is a shortage of health-related advertising, publicly-supported health initiatives and medical services aimed at serving men. Mix in a lack of social networks and community of support, and you’ve got a recipe for a full-blown men’s health crisis.
It’s high time we bring this conversation out into the open, where it belongs.
Movements like “Movember” and National Men’s Health Month (June) have helped to increase awareness about this healthcare disparity among American men in recent years. Well-known, outspoken advocates for men’s health issues have also contributed to an uptick in men’s engagement in preventative healthcare measures.
However, there’s still a misperception that men are healthier than women, when in reality, they live an average of five years fewer than their female counterparts. This might have something to do with the fact that more than 95 percent of men can remember the make and model of their first car, but less than 60 percent can identify their primary care physician.
Something else to consider — there’s no OB/GYN equivalent for men. Females are encouraged to check in regularly with their gynecologists starting with their first menstrual cycle. For men, this transition into young adulthood is more likely to be accompanied by a man-to-man discussion that may or may not include the topic of Playboy Magazine.
Additionally, fewer than 20 percent of state public health departments have men’s health specific services. The National Institute of Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services all have offices or divisions devoted to women’s health. None of them have similar departments for men. The NIH budget for research issues related to men’s health is literally zero.
It is imperative men become their own best advocates for their health if they want to live their longest, healthiest lives. Here are a few tips for how to make that happen:
- Become interested in your own health care. When questions arrive, seek answers from a reliable source. Be your own advocate and an advocate for those you love.
- Learn to listen to your body. If something’s not feeling right, get it checked. Now.
- Know what preventative check-ups are needed at what age. The Men’s Health Network has a great resource called “Get It Checked,” which provides a roadmap of what to do when.
- If you don’t have a regular physician, get one, and visit yearly.
- If you’re anxious or depressed, seek help. Depression affects men of all ages and circumstances.
- If you are a business owner or community leader, prioritize programs that include and/or emphasize the importance of men’s health issues.
- Talk to the other men (and women) in your life about issues related to health.
Dr. Sal Giorgianni was a career pharmacist who worked in product development for Pfizer and taught at his alma mater, Columbia University. He and his wife Joan, own Dragonfly Botanica Apothecary & Teas in Melbourne, where they sell high-grade teas, local honey, jams and homemade oils blends. Sal also counsels military retirees on proper use of medications.