Men health issues | Keep a Man Healthy


The way to a man's health is through a woman

Women become involved in men's health for three reasons: they are used to making the healthcare decisions in their families, they tend to know the most about health and the healthcare system, and men's health affects their own health, sexual pleasure and way of life.

First, most women see themselves playing a role in their partner's health. According to Gary Brice, Executive Director of the McLaughlin Center at DeGraff Memorial Hospital in Upstate New York:

Women traditionally—and still today—take on the role of care giver for their family. They coordinate care of their children and sometimes their parents. And they also do it for their husbands. It is very common for the wife to set up the doctor's appointment—to be the recognizer of symptoms.

Second, women tend to know more about health than men and to be more active about prevention and treatment. Many women become experienced health care consumers through years of pelvic examinations as well as through taking children to the pediatrician. The monthly period and breast self-examination also help women become attuned to their bodies. Probably most importantly, most women don't see their bodies as invincible or have trouble admitting heath problems or weaknesses.

Finally, women become involved in men's health because they are concerned about their own well-being:

Erectile dysfunction
The 30 million partners of men suffering from impotence suffer too, losing not only intimacy but self-esteem, many assuming that they have become unappealing or that he's cheating.

Premature ejaculation
According to recent studies, 25-30% of men ejaculate certainly within 2 to 3 minutes. This may affect many women’s ability to enjoy intercourse. Additionally, studies are coming out showing tremendous negative impact on relationships, self-esteem, and even quality of life for men and their partners as a result of premature ejaculation.

Sexually transmitted diseases
If he has a sexually transmitted disease, she probably will get it, too. This is a widespread problem; one in four American adults has an incurable STD. Many STDs are more hazardous to women than men, yet are less easily detected because they occur inside the vagina. While the man's symptoms may be obvious, the women can be infected for several months before she or her doctor discovers the disease. By that time the infection may have caused pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious condition that can lead to ectopic pregnancy, infertility, or persistent pelvic pain. Also, condyloma and possibly herpes have been associated with cervical cancer, and of course, AIDS is deadly.

Birth control
As many women as men choose sterilization for birth control, although vasectomy is safer, less expensive and more easily reversed than tubal ligation. The reasons are male myths and ungrounded fears about vasectomy.

Male infertility may make pregnancy impossible or difficult. About 40 percent of the time, a couple's inability to conceive results from a problem in the male partner.

Risky health habits
A man's risky health habits endanger his partner; smoking leads to secondhand smoking, alcoholism can lead to car accidents or abusive behavior, and so on.

If he becomes disabled, chances are great she will become his primary care giver. His disability can limit a couple's social activities. Many women look forward to golfing, traveling, or visiting grandchildren with their partners during their retirement. They are concerned about their quality of life in the future.

The ultimate effect is living alone. Because many men smoke more, drink more, don't eat a nutritious diet, visit the doctor less frequently, and generally refuse to take care of themselves, they die. As a result a woman can expect to live 7 years longer than her partner — 10 percent of the total life-span. The difference in life expectancy between a black man and a white woman is even greater, 14 years.


What can a woman do to keep a man healthy?
The Male Health Center recommends that a woman take these steps to help her partner live longer and better:

Understand the male approach to health.
The first step is to learn about common male feelings of fear, embarrassment, and above all, invincibility.

Educate yourself about male health problems. Before you can help the man, you need to learn about his particular health concerns. The book, How Men Can Live as Long as Women, available through the Male Health Center and this Web site, can be a resource tool.

Share what you learn with your male partner.
A woman can talk with her partner about his health, pass along an article or book, or give him the number of a hotline. The fact is, some men need to be prodded along to pay attention to their health.

Watch for signs and symptoms.
If a flashing red light goes off in a man's car, chances are he will take it in for service right away. But when a warning sign goes off in his body, he may well ignore it. Women can help by knowing which symptoms are flashing red lights, and by encouraging the partner to have them checked out right away.

Talk about it.
Many men have trouble telling a doctor or a partner about a health symptom. A woman reported that she asked her husband where it hurt. He just said, "It hurts all over." He didn't have a vocabulary for expressing what was happening with his body.

Find out when men need to have a check-up.
While most men know the maintenance schedule for their cars, few know how often they should visit the doctor at various ages. Also, few men know how to do self-examinations for cancers. For example, few men know that they should examine themselves each month for testicular cancer, the most common cancer in men under 40. A survey showed that 97 percent of college students were unaware of this test. When a group of college students was instructed in the simple examination, six months later, 79 percent were doing it regularly.

Go along with him to the doctor.
A woman likes for the man to deal with the service department at the garage or the car dealership. And men don't mind. They're comfortable at the garage. But they aren't experienced with dealing with doctors. Women, however, have tremendous experience dealing with physicians and can help the man get the most from the visit. After a visit or two, a man can become more skillful and can go on his own in the future. For example, frequent changes of "preferred providers," shorter office visits under managed-care programs, and increased options for treatment have made it crucial that people ask questions, point out symptoms, push for tests they need, be able to answer their doctors' questions, and offer insights that can help with diagnosis and treatment. While a passive approach to healthcare has created problems in the past, in the future it will have even greater consequences.

Help him write a list of questions for the doctor.
The average woman asks four questions during a doctor appointment; the average man asks none. At the Male Health Center, we can tell when a woman has helped a man before a visit because he comes in with a list of questions.

Work on a problem together.
Many health challenges are best handled by the couple together. For example, impotence is a male problem that can be most effectively dealt with when the man and woman come in together. The same goes for other sexual dysfunctions like premature ejaculation, depression and stress. Especially when surgery is involved, we at the Male Health Center have observed that men whose partners are actively involved tend to recover more quickly.

Keep a health diary.
In our current healthcare system, people change providers frequently. Since the only constant is the patient, a health file is important. We at the Male Health Center recommend that you keep a health diary of when you had your last check-up, what the doctor recommended, etc. You can help him start and maintain his health diary.

Compile his family's health history.
Ask his parents about their health problems, because he may inherit them. Doctors are discovering many links between inheritance and the risk of disease. They are urging people to compile a history of the diseases that run in the family so that the proper preventive steps can be taken. Most people don't know how old Grandpa was when he had his first heart attack or what caused Uncle Bill's death. Did his dad have prostate problems? Compiling his family's health history will help him and his doctor identify his health priorities.

Learn how to be his personal nurse.
If he develops a serious, long-term illness, the women may become the primary care giver. She needs to learn how she can help him, and also how she can take care of herself during this stressful time.

Motivate him to exercise and follow a healthy diet.
Changes in diet and exercise are often most lasting when a couple adopts them together. Also, if she does most of the shopping and cooking, she can change what he eats at home.

Talk with other women and men.
Find out how male problems affect other women, and what other women have done or not done about them. If he has a certain problem, find other men who he can talk to with the same problem. Talking with another man who shares the same health problem has enormous impact. Possible sources are other women, support groups, and health organizations. The man's physician can also perhaps explore other male patients to see if they might contact your husband to share experiences.

Encourage him to share his feelings.
From an early age, men are taught to "take it like a man." The messages from society and the media are strong, but a woman can go a long way toward changing this mentality by telling him it's okay to show emotions, to cry, to touch, and to talk about his problems. She can also make a difference for her son by giving him these new messages when he is young.


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