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A Healthier Husband

Health Hurdle #2: Prompt Attention to Scary Symptoms continued...

What medical issues might prompt your gentle urging? Inattention to already diagnosed health problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, as well as difficulty sleeping or pain that doesn't get better in a few days. But you also shouldn't overlook these less obvious signs of trouble.

  • A growing belly. This can be a warning sign for metabolic syndrome, a condition that raises his risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and possibly even some cancers. About 25 percent of men have the syndrome.
  • Discouragement or irritability. These may signal depression, but the disease can also masquerade as anger, fatigue, or sleep problems. An estimated six million American men have depression.
  • Less interest in sex and/or erectile problems. He may have low testosterone, which can also manifest itself as fatigue, depression, or trouble concentrating. A low level of the male hormone is a problem for an estimated four to five million men.

Say it like this: I'm concerned about what I've been noticing, and I'll feel better if you see a doctor. Then follow up with facts about what you see, Pollack suggests. "Avoid criticism." If your spouse continues to ignore the problem or if it's serious, it's time for something stronger: I'm worried about you. I love you, I want to have you around a long time. It's important to me that you see the doctor. And if you think he's really in danger, says Pollack, try: If you keep going on like this, I'm afraid I'm going to lose you.

Health Hurdle #3: Exercise and Diet

Smart nudge: Adopt a healthy lifestyle with him — or without him.

Blame it on "hungry man" portions and an NFL season that never seems to end: Sixty-seven percent of men are overweight, reports the American Obesity Association.

How to get your husband to shape up? Tailor your tactics to his personality, Dr. Moyad suggests. One guy — like a patient of his who lost 50 pounds — might be inspired by a motivational speaker. Another could do well with a group program. Whatever he tries, keep supporting him, says Siegfried J. Kra, M.D., a cardiologist at the Yale School of Medicine and author of How to Keep Your Husband Alive. "By himself, he may do fine for a while. Then, unless he gets reinforcement, he may give up."

Tampa disc jockey "Marvelous" Marvin Boone, 52, credits his wife for helping him stay slim. Shortly after losing 120 pounds, Boone, who hosts a greatest-hits radio program, married Pamela in a Las Vegas ceremony that featured an Elvis impersonator escorting the bride down the aisle. Since then, Boone says his wife has "loved him tender" by revamping their menu. "Although Pamela was always very slender, she did eat a lot of fast food," says Boone. "Now we're into fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish. We're doing it together."

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