According to Boston University’s New England Centenarian Study center, more than 85 percent of people who live to over 100 are women.
While scientists and researchers debate this problem from a genetic and evolutionary point of view, there’s no denying that much of this predicament has to do with the male-reluctance to look after their health.
Compared with women, men are less likely to visit their doctor, and, even when they do, they have shorter visits. Men are also more likely to seek help for health problems once their ailment, symptoms or illnesses advance.
Much of the problem could stem from social norms and expectations placed on men. Historically, they are expected to be ‘tougher’ than females and ‘man-up’ when it comes to pain.
But, there are a few things that men can do to safeguard their lives. The most important thing is to stay on top of your numbers. Think of your body like a car: it needs monthly self-checks and servicing every six months to a year depending on age etc.
No matter what your age, everyone should know his or her blood pressure, BMI (Body mass index), cholesterol and glucose. These numbers are easily obtained through a simple blood test or checkup. Note that you will need to see your doctor first to obtain a pathology request form and may need to fast beforehand.
Your BMI can even be assessed at home; it is simply a measure of your weight (kg) divided by your height (meters) – suitable for those aged 18 years and above. It is a great way to determine whether you are underweight (a BMI below 18.5) or overweight (a BMI of 25 or more) and the associated health risks of those two conditions. The number can be adjusted for age, sex, and ethnicity so if you are concerned, see your medical professional.
Other essential tests for men include:
STI, STD & HIV testing: Most people living with AIDS have no idea they carry the infection. Even those in low-risk groups should be screened for the disease. Usually, this is done through a blood test, but oral swabs are an option for the needle phobic. Screening should be done more than once as it can be years before it is detected. Sexual health screening checks are important to stop the spread of infections and treatment can be painless and effective – it can be as easy as a urine sample test followed by some pills.
Self-checks: Testicular cancer is a very common disease in men between the ages of 20-39, though it can also affect men that are older than this. It also has one of the highest survival rates if spotted quickly. Pain is only an occasional symptom so you need to perform regular self-examinations.
Teeth, eyes, and ears: Often neglected, these three tests are vital to staving off long-term health risks and should be done at least once to twice a year. Those with tooth decay and plaque buildup are at a greater risk of heart disease, psoriasis and a whole barrage of other ailments. Likewise, your eyes can tell you a lot about your overall wellbeing. Eye tests help your doctor diagnose many diseases and conditions early on, such as diabetes, tumours, high blood pressure, infectious disease, as well as your risk of macular degeneration or even blindness later on.
Skin check-up: Our skin changes as we age and although wrinkles and sunspots are almost certain, moles, spots, and lesions have a tendency to change slowly and go unnoticed. Many of these can be cancerous, so it is important to get regular skin check-ups and seek medical advice for any unusual shapes and colours – especially if you have a history of melanoma or skin cancer.
Depression/anxiety: Research has proven that men are at a greater risk of suicide and depression than women. Once again, social norms and expectations play a role in the way men deal with their emotional health. Those with a personal or family history of mental health issues, or substance abuse, unemployment, significant life-changing events, and violence could increase risk.
Prostate, bowel, and colon: In New Zealand, prostate cancer is the most commonly registered male cancer and the third most common cause of cancer deaths. Testing for these areas of the body become paramount as you age. But a family history of these diseases should be cause for encouragement when it comes to annual check-ups. While tests can be a little more invasive and uncomfortable they can also be life-saving when signs of cancer are caught earlier on. Some new test can even be done at home, check with your pharmacist and GP if you are concerned.
Osteoporosis/arthritis: A bone density test can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs and determine your chance of breaking a bone. Usually reserved for the older people amongst us. After 50, you should have your height checked – without your shoes – every year by your local healthcare provider to see if you have lost height and examine your spine.