In 1994, Congress passed a bill to institute June as Men's Health Month. Since that time, it's been wonderful to see hundreds of workplaces, health care professionals, sports franchises and other institutions encouraging healthy behaviors among men and boys.
But how can we, as women, encourage our loved ones to take charge of their health and learn about what screenings they need?
A close friend of mine complained to me the other day that she was worn out from continually nagging her husband. "Yeah, I know how annoying and draining it can be to have to nag," I replied in an effort at solidarity. But when I had spent time with this couple, the husband always pitched in, be it with the kids, housework or anything else. He was super-attentive. Nagging was the last thing I thought she had to do.
"He never goes to the doctor—unless I beg him to! And then, when I nag, he gets mad at me. I'm really at a loss."
Chances are it does. While there are those self-reliant men out there who take charge of their health and schedule visits with their health care provider, the sad truth is that the majority doesn't: Men are 25 percent less likely than women to have visited a physician in the past year, finds the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Another disturbing fact: men are 40 percent more likely than women to have skipped recommended cholesterol screenings.
And this is shocking, but true: women visit the doctor 150 percent as often as men!
“Why don't you write him a letter?” I said, in an effort to help. After all, if one approach doesn't work, maybe it's time to try another. And being a nurse, wife and mother, I offered some suggestions for her to include in the letter. (Feel free to adapt these suggestions for your man.)
This letter comes purely out of love and concern. And being that this week is Men's Health Week, I have the perfect excuse for writing it.
It troubles me that you don't pay attention to your health and see a doctor regularly or schedule appointments when you need them.
It's a fact that we women are the ones who make the vast majority of health care decisions for our families. But I need you to give me a hand here. Your reluctance and hesitation don't just affect your health and well-being; they affect both of us.
For one, if you do nothing, it puts all the worry on me. I know that's not your intention—but that's the outcome. And for another, if you're not healthy, how can we do all the things we love to do and share together? Think about travel, exercise, sex … all things that are compromised or made impossible by bad health.
I'm not pulling out these facts to scare you, but imagine my worry when I see these statistics: Men live an average of seven years less than women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. men are 1.5 times more likely than women to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.
Are you concerned about hearing potentially bad news? I understand that might be worrisome; but try looking at the other side of that. Preventive health care is called that for a really good reason. It can find problems before they start—and prevent many of them. It can also help a doctor discover a condition or disease at an early stage, when it's much more treatable and manageable.
So, let's partner up. I'm happy to help you locate a doctor. I'll even go with you, if you'd like. We can, together, learn about your health and any screenings you may need, like those for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. How about we plan something really fun afterward?
Your health matters to me. Healthier men live happier and longer lives. And I want you around for a very long time.