Both Sexes Make Mistakes in Caring for Health
WebMD takes aim at common health blunders men and women make.
We are besieged daily by health advice: Take this, eat that, don't do the
other. Yet even the most health aware -- not to mention the doctor averse --
can make mistakes in caring for themselves.
Common Health Mistakes Men Make
The conventional wisdom says that the average man takes better care of his
car than his body. "All male health blunders come from the essential male
blunder, and that is the notion (many men have) that a real man is a man with
no vulnerabilities," Terry Real, MSW, a family therapist and author in
Watertown, Mass., tells WebMD
"Unless something is falling off," Larrian Gillespie, MD, a
urologist in California, tells WebMD, "men won't go to the doctor."
Men have a shorter life expectancy compared with women, Real says, because
they don't take care of themselves. "They don't recognize that they need
help, they don't seek it, and when they do seek it, they don't do what the
doctor says." The bottom line, Real says, is that men die. "I could
call that a big blunder -- costly."
Men experience depression differently than women, says Real, who
is author of You're Not Crazy It's Your Hormones. "A woman knows
she is depressed, feels the pain, asks for help. But even if a man knows what
he is experiencing, he won't ask for help."
Some of the symptoms of depression include feeling sad, sleeping too little
or too much, a drop in libido, and a feeling that nothing in life is giving
"Many more men than women have what I call hidden depression," Real
says. "It isn't as pronounced because they are doing everything they can to
ward it off -- drinking, running around with women, lashing out and being
irritable or even violent, or watching too much TV. Many health professionals
will miss the signs."
Yet treatment of depression is a health success story. Real says that nine
out of 10 people who seek some form of help report substantial relief. "The
problem is, fewer than one in five will seek help."
Women Can Help
Real aims this message toward women, ironically. "Women get men to see
that this is a chemical imbalance, biological and genetic, and thus there are
medications that work. Depression is not moral weakness! There was also
a time when men didn't get help for diabetes. Soon depression will be in that same
routine category of treatment."
Some other health errors men tend to make:
- Denying the obvious. Blood in the stool, weird rashes or moles, sudden thirstiness. "Men are great
deniers," Gillespie says.
- Denying even something as serious as a heart
attack. Most men have read about the symptoms of a heart attack
(which can be different for women): fatigue, numbness in the left arm, chest pains,
shortness or breath, nausea, or a feeling of extreme weight on the chest.
Sometimes all of these begin to appear. "Yet, men will drive themselves to
the hospital," Gillespie says. When the signs of a heart attack appear you
should immediately call 911.
- Not being screened for colon cancer. Most men (and women) should have colon
cancer screening starting at age 50 and every five to 10 years thereafter.
- Not getting a prostate exam just because you think it is unpleasant. A
digital rectal exam can evaluate for prostate size and irregularity that may be
suspicious for an enlarged prostateor cancer.
- Not checking yourself for testicular cancer. This is a cancer that more
commonly strikes younger men, 15 to 35. The earlier it is found, the greater
the chance for successful treatment.
- Eating an unhealthy diet. "Men are the biggest purchasers of
drive-through," Gillespie says.
- Smoking. This applies to both men and women. "This is a real
issue," Gillespie says. Tools that can help you quit smokinginclude nicotine patches, gum, nasal
spray, inhalers, and lozenges; call-in "quit lines;" and prescription
drugs such as Zyban. Your doctor can go through the options available and then
both of you can come up with a regimen together.