4 Women’s Health Tips
When it comes to staving off sickness, men can learn a lot from women
“Men consistently misperceive their level of risk,” says psychologist Dr Will Courtenay, author of Dying to Be Men (R338, kalahari.com). And that misperception can allow serious ailments to go undetected. Even when something’s clearly wrong, guys sometimes endure the pain; studies find men are more likely than women to ignore a medical problem. Man up and take a cue from the softer sex.
Men are twice as likely as women are to say they haven’t seen a doctor
in the past year, according to a 2010 survey. Men also lag behind women in visits to their dentists.
For women, the annual gynaecological exam becomes routine. “That’s just part of being a woman,” says Courtenay. “There is no corollary for men. We don’t take our sons to the doctor every year and say, ‘You know, it’s really important that you talk with your doctor about your health.’ ” But we should. Call your GP and schedule a physical. Have the blood tests. You know the drill. Going once a year won’t kill you; going less often might.
More women than men eat two or more fruits a day (36% vs 29%) and three or more vegetables a day (31% vs 21%), a US Centers for Disease Control survey reports.
Women, being weight conscious, choose low-kilojoule foods such as vegetables, says Dr Paul Rozin, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. The irony: “While women tend to think they’re bigger and heavier than they actually are, men often think they’re skinnier and lighter than they are,” says Courtenay. Plus, men have higher levels of heart-harming LDL cholesterol. They’re also more likely to have high blood pressure before age 45, and they have a higher risk of heart disease before age 60. The fix? A 2011 Greek study suggests a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, nuts, produce and olive oil.
Of people with major depression, women are nearly three times as likely as men to seek professional help (75% vs 26%), according to a 2012 study in Depression and Anxiety.
“Women are more likely to talk about their emotional problems, while men are socialised to be stoic and avoid showing weakness,” says Dr Linda Carli, a senior psychology lecturer at Wellesley College. Men also may be less likely to recognise behaviours like anger and irritability as signs of underlying depression, Courtenay says. Psychological pain is just as legitimate as physical pain; if you broke your arm, you’d wear a cast. Find a therapist who can help.
By the time 2012 draws to a close, 44 500 men will be newly diagnosed with melanoma and 6 060 will have died, the International Agency for Research in Cancer estimates. That’s 12 250 more cases than predicted for women, and 2 940 more deaths.
Women pay attention to their skin and take precautions early, says Dr Michael Steppie of the Skin Cancer Foundation. So should you; skin cancer is men’s most common cancer. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, and see a doctor if you notice a mole changing colour, size or texture.
Beware Depressed Mode
Classic signs of depression include losing interest in activities, sleeping too much or too little, and feeling hopeless or worthless. Here are three less obvious symptoms in men, according to Dr Will Courtenay.
Normal: You grab a beer or two with a buddy after a stressful day at work.
Warning sign: You drink every day, sometimes alone.
Normal: You can barely resist telling someone off.
Warning sign: You can barely resist clocking someone.
Normal: A big project has you logging major hours in the office.
Warning sign: Regardless of your workload, you practically live at your desk –hey, it beats having to deal with your life.