This is Men’s Health Week, not just another Hallmark holiday, and it culminates in Father’s Day. Over the last several years as I tested and wrote REFUEL, I’ve discovered that there is a huge gender gap in health and health understanding, and that there is something to do about it!
For example, men die 5.2 years earlier (>300k/year of heart disease, the leading cause according to the CDC), get 3x the heart attacks before the age of 65 and double between ages 65 and 74, get diabetes at a lower Body Mass Index (31 v 33), suffer 92% of the workplace deaths and have 4x the suicide rate.
And that’s just for starters: more cancer, more disability. Only 5% of all weight loss studies have focused on men, but they are 50% of the adults with obesity.
These data are virtually unknown among physicians: most of us think of the prostate and sexual function as a major part of men’s health, and are so busy with the patients in front of us that the gender gap has not been part of our thinking..
REFUEL has given me the opportunity to speak, write, create resources in addition to the book, and find best-in-class primers. It’s clear that to reach men, you have to meet them where they are. Most guys care about testosterone: thus, the February Low T Op-Ed in the New York Times and the Readers Digest adaptation this month showing most men don’t need testosterone and can control their own health have been well-received and shared. Same thing for the Huff Po essay on how testosterone affects women and children.
Less well circulated: how men think about food and sex, how men shop in a grocery store, the reminder that you are what you eat, the tongue in cheek question of whether sex is medically necessary, and general men’s health data.
Ditto the 1 minute REFUEL YouTube series explaining basic men’s health in 12 easy segments. Though it’s just a matter of time –and marketing!–before guys find that these 12 minutes will change their lives, for ever and for the better.
There is a darker side to men’s health–the mental health side.
Most violent people are men, though of course not all men are violent. The recent tragedies in Isla Vista and Seattle Pacific University reinforce the need for connection, compassion and care. Men find it easy, I think, to think of these characteristics as not masculine, but that’s wrong.
The most masculine thing a man can do is care for himself and his loved ones well.
And when he needs help, and most men know when they do, accept it and if no one is offering, ask. Having a large network is not the same thing as having many friends, and certainly not good friends.
Good friends are essential for a man’s health, and are both men and women. Women know about health, even if neither men nor women can answer Jimmy Kimmel’s question about gluten.
And noticing when help is available–even in the form of a nightstand gift from your bed partner, for example–is the first step to getting healthy.