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A Healthier Husband

Health Hurdle #1: Checkups and Screening Tests

Smart nudge: Get yours done at the same time.

Men see their doctors for preventive care about half as often as women do, reports the national Men's Health Network. While they may not need as many checkups as we seem to (all those gyno visits!), they do need more than they're getting. This gap is one reason the average life expectancy for men is only 75.2 years, compared to 80.4 years for us. "Women are more accustomed to going to doctors regularly for gynecological exams and pregnancy visits. Also, seeing a doctor isn't viewed as a weakness," says Mark A. Moyad, M.D., M.P.H., a preventive-medicine expert at the University of Michigan Medical Center. "The challenge is helping guys get the regular care that prevents major health problems — or catches them early."

Your best strategy? Make it a joint project: Go for your routine checkups together. "Women and men have many identical health issues," Dr. Moyad notes. "Both sexes need to protect their hearts; lower their risks for diabetes, stroke, and cancer; and be alert for signs of osteoporosis and depression." Dr. Moyad and his wife go for their annual cholesterol and other screening tests together. "It even fosters a little healthy competition," he says. "We each try to have the best numbers."

Say it like this: I'll get my blood pressure and cholesterol checked with you. "Most men will agree to go," says Dr. Moyad. "Now it's a partnership."

Health Hurdle #2: Prompt Attention to Scary Symptoms

Smart nudge: Express concern; don't blame or shame.

If your husband isn't taking care of a health problem, you're probably feeling very frustrated, says psychologist William Pollack, Ph.D., director of the Harvard-affiliated Center for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital. "But accusing him of dragging his feet will only backfire. It can make a guy feel like a bad boy, and he may become even more resistant."

Nor should you schedule a doctor's appointment for him unless he asks you to. "In my experience, most guys won't go if something's forced on them," Pollack says. "Instead, gather information about the best doctor in your area for the condition, then ask your husband to make the appointment." Offer to go with him, Pollack suggests. "He'll feel supported."

That's what helped get Ira Morrow, 54, a retired forklift operator from Vermilion, OH, to the doctor when he began having breathing difficulties. He was then referred to a specialist, who diagnosed silicosis, a lung disorder triggered by one of Morrow's earliest jobs as a sandblaster. Ultimately, he had to decide whether to have a lung transplant. "My wife, Linda, listened, but she never nagged, never insisted," says Morrow, who had the transplant and reports, "It turned my life around."

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