Risky Behaviors for Men’s Health
Friday, June 10, 2011
LifeTime WeightLoss in Anika Christ, Stress and Sleep, men's health

Written by: Anika Christ, RD, CISSN, CPT - Life Time Fitness

Did you know that women tend to outlive men by seven years?  Maybe you’ve heard of this life expectancy gap between men and women, but have you ever wondered why?  There are many different factors that can positively or negatively impact our health, but health professionals believe that ‘behavior’ is the most pertinent.  Some key behaviors men portray on a regular basis can actually risk their health. Let’s take a look at a few of them and identify more positive alternatives. 

Got social network?

Social networking has become a very prominent communication outlet in today’s world. The majority of our population may consider this term primarily as an online community, but this includes other venues, such as book clubs and other group meeting settings.  Social networks not only create a foundation of belonging and relationships amongst a population, but they can positively influence health as well.    

Men tend to be less inclined to involve themselves in social networking.  This could be due to the “masculinity” or independence men feel they need to project versus wanting or needing the help and support of other people.   Whatever the reason, men seem less inclined to participate and therefore lack the benefits of social networks. 

Solution:  Identify an area of interest of yours and research whether there is an organization in your community that offers it. It could be joining the run club at your fitness center or finding a card club in your neighborhood. Finding others with similar interests is a good way to build relationships with others and a foundation for support when you need it. 

Stress and aggression

We all experience stressors on a daily basis and many of us undergo chronic stress that can take a toll on our body and health.  Research continues to suggest that stress is a primary cause for many of our adverse health conditions in today’s world.  Because we can’t always delete all of our stressors, it is important to learn how to positively deal and cope with stress.

When under stress, men tend to be hardwired to cope through aggression. Unlike women, who tend to share and talk through their stress with others, men tend to internalize stress, which can lead to a buildup of aggression. As a result, men engage in unhealthy behaviors to help relieve that stress, such as drinking or smoking.  Although men may feel aggression relieves stress, the two conditions actually feed and fuel each other in a vicious cycle. 

Solution:  Men can take notes from women on this one.  Although it may feel like you are burdening someone else with your stress or problems, identifying a few people you can count on to share your thoughts and feelings with is beneficial.  Other stress relievers could include scheduling a monthly massage, taking long walks, planning a low-key fishing trip, or getting regular exercise.  Make a list of things you enjoy doing (that aren’t stressful), and reference that list when you are stressed. 

Avoiding checkups and lab testing

If you are a man, ask yourself when you last visited the doctor.  Men are significantly less likely to visit a physician to receive preventative health care exams compared to women. This alone could be the most crucial behavior that impacts the life expectancy gap between the sexes.  Because of this reluctance to go to the doctor, men are more likely to be diagnosed in a later stage of a terminal illness, and less likely to even notice symptoms. 

Many men have the mentality of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” so if they cannot see or feel an external stimulus, they will think there is nothing ever wrong.  Prostate cancer is a prime example of a condition that goes undetected for both lack of symptoms and regular exams. Some of the reasons influencing men’s decisions to not see a doctor include wanting to avoid the expense, fear and embarrassment of being vulnerable — especially with more intimate procedures.

Solution:  Talk to friends who have a regular physician they trust and like — and make an appointment. A physician will give you annual, age-appropriate screenings. Document an ongoing list of questions/concerns for discussion. Forming a regular relationship with a doctor is the first step to being proactive about your health and will help you make lifestyle changes and informed decisions as needed.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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