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A Men’s Health Network Resource for Women
What does men’s health have to do with you? Plenty! Men’s health issues don’t affect only men; they have a significant impact on everyone around them. And because women live longer than men, they see their fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands suffer or die prematurely. Women are in a unique position to be able to help fight the obstacles men face in getting the health care they need. The following sections offer a place to start.
And don't forget about National Women’s Health Week (NWHW), a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health (OWH). Kicking off each year on Mother’s Day (May 13-19, 2018), it empowers women 18+ to make their health a priority and encourages them to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:
- Visit a doctor or nurse for a checkup (well-woman visit) and preventive screenings.
- Get active.
- Eat healthy.
- Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
- Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, texting while driving, and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.
Thank you to our editors for pioneering new and better ways that women can help men lead healthier lives.
Betty Gallo, Founder of The Dean & Betty Gallo Prostate Cancer Center
Vivia Font, Actress, Spokesperson for Men’s Health Network
Lucy Rojo, ND, PhD, Lecturer at National College of Natural Medicine
Gail Lowery, National Cancer Institute, Asst. Partnership Manager
Meri Raffetto, RD, LDN, Owner of Real Living Nutritional Services
Nancy Yanes-Hoffman, Author of Change of Heart: The Bypass Experience
Women’s involvement is critical in improving the state of men’s health. Women typically pay better attention to their health than men and can help men to adopt healthier habits.
Some of the problems facing men’s health can be solved within an individual family with a few simple changes. Other problems need to be addressed by society at large and require the support of women not only in the family, but also as health care providers, activists, authors, and contributors to social values and attitudes.
Working women understand the difficulties men face in taking time off to get to doctor’s appointments all too well. Women can also relate to the tendency of many men to put their family’s health above their own. However, the obstacles men face in admitting health problems to a doctor can be surprising or seem strange from a female perspective.
Most men are taught from an early age to cope quietly with pain instead of telling others about their ailments. Being told, either by family or peers, that big boys don’t cry over skinned knees often leads to reluctance to seek medical attention for health afflictions decades later, especially if symptoms are related to sexual health or not plainly visible.
Women can save lives by looking for and recognizing the signs of common health problems affecting men. Take Ashley Marlowe’s case for example: recognizing chest pain and difficulty breathing as a sign of heart problems, Ashley encouraged her husband to see a doctor. He continuously protested, but undeterred, Ashley called an ambulance when the symptoms grew worse. Her husband was shocked to learn that he had had an advanced heart attack. If it hadn’t been for Ashley’s timely actions, her husband’s life would have been in grave danger.
For a list of common illnesses affecting men and their telltale symptoms check out our Blueprint for Men’s Health.
Not all health problems have symptoms that will be noticeable to a man’s partner. Even men who are the picture of health can be in a losing battle with prostate cancer, diabetes, or other silent killers. The best way to detect these kinds of illnesses is by getting regular checkups.
Jean Bonhomme, MD suggests that women try to bring their partners into the “family health schedule” if he feels that seeing a doctor when nothing is visibly wrong is a waste of time or money. When the father sees the rest of family getting physicals every August, he might be willing to join in order to help set a good example for the children.
As inconvenient as it may be, the fact that young women often have to go to a physician for reproductive health issues such as birth control, common infections, or prenatal care means that women are aware of the need to visit a health care provider regularly. Although doctors suggest that men begin getting annual Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests in their forties, men in their twenties can take advantage of free health screenings to form good habits and build trust with their physician.
Monitoring the results of individual tests is clearly important, but watching for changes over time by comparing regular exams that begin at an early age can be much more telling. If your partner is not keeping track of the test results, you can mention that both men and women need to keep a lookout for changes. Ask your partner to help you review family medical history and talk about upcoming doctor’s appointments with each other. If you have any concerns about his health, you can ask him the day before the appointment to ask his physician about them. Write questions or key words down as you talk about them, and give him the list before he goes. He might appreciate the concern, and getting questions ready ahead of time can help make the most of the trip to the doctor.
In addition to regular doctor visits, self-checks are a crucial and easy way to protect your and your partner’s health. Despite their name, self-checks are much more thorough when done by a partner. For example, skin cancer in men is predominantly seen on their backs, which of course, is much easier to be seen by a partner. Getting your partner involved in your self-checks and being involved in his helps insure that they become a routine.
If the men in your life continue to avoid getting medical attention, the following approaches may help:
- Find health providers which have weekend and evening appointments or have offices close to his work.
- Schedule simultaneous appointments for the both of you and make fun plans to do something together afterwards.
- Find out whether he is more comfortable seeing a male or female health care provider and make sure he’s seeing the one he prefers. On a related note, try to avoid physicians who tend to scold.
- Recruit male friends or relatives with good health habits to help reinforce your message.
- Point out the connection between good health and good physical and mental performance in sports, work stamina, etc.
- Gently remind him that his children will be influenced by the example he sets when forming life-long health habits.
- Decide on an exercise routine that involves, and is enjoyable to, the both of you. If necessary, make the exercise out to be something for you that you need his support for even if it’s primarily for his own benefit.
- Encourage him to celebrate Men’s Health Week by seeing a doctor about annoying health problems or getting a thorough check-up. You can give him the gift of health by setting an appointment for him as a Men’s Health Week gift.
Resources & Brochures for you
For a schedule on when and how often men and women need to get checks for certain cancers, high blood pressure, and other illnesses, please visit Get It Checked.
For a more thorough overview of men’s health issues, including a section for women, please download the book Blueprint for Men’s Health.
To learn about the aging male issue of enlarged prostate, visit the Prostate Health Guide.
For a list of free and low-cost clinics offered by Men’s Health Network, please visit Health Clinics Online.
For insight into the male perspective on men’s physical and mental health including issues relating to fatherhood and relationships, please visit Armin Brott’s MrDad.com.
What Women Need to Know About Men's Health
Lo Que Las Mujeres Necesitan Saber Acerca De La Salud Masculina
What Women Need to Know About Men's Health: Sensitive Issues
- Brott, Armin, Blueprint for Men’s Health. Men’s Health Network.
- Dunnewind, Stepanie. For New Fathers, A Little Help With the Pop Quiz. Seattle Times, Thursday, July 11, 2002; Page C09.
- Eisner, Robin. Men Avoid Going to the Doctor, So Tell Dad on Father's Day to Go for You. New York, June 14.
- Galpren, Steve. Manhandling Health Men Come Up Short When It Comes to Long, Healthy Lives. Life Extension Foundation: Daily News, The Cincinnati Post, Scripps Howard News Service, June 11, 2001.
- Lifetime Television for Women
- Meyer, Michele. Why Guys Don't Go To The Doctor. Parade; New York; Jun 9, 2002.