Men are more likely to put their health at risk than women. This Men’s Health Month, we need to appreciate the need to fix that
There is a silent crisis when it comes to men’s health. I am not sure how and where this fallacy birthed that “real men” must be stoic and reckless when it comes to their well-being. “I am fine. Nothing will happen to me.” Two obstinate sentences that have caused so much grief to children, mothers, wives, siblings, and friends. I have heard two of my male friends in their forties say that and then die of heart attacks.
How and when did we start to consider irresponsibility as macho? Not getting annual checkups done. Or not paying attention to diet and lifestyle? Ignoring the healing powers of sleep. Avoiding health screenings. Overlooking doctor’s orders. Considering themselves as indestructible. Studies will tell you that men are more likely to put their health at risk by indulging in unhealthy behaviors, binge-drinking, mindless eating, smoking, and making other lifestyle choices that hurt them.
Over the years, my husband has become a big fan of yoga and Ayurveda, but the first time I recommended panchakarma to him, he thought it was a waste of money for him. He was supportive of me getting a panchakarma treatment done. “You should do it, babe. I don’t need it.” Talking to friends and cousins, I have come to realize that most men believe that going to the doctors is unnecessary and a waste of their resources and time. They’d rather pop a pill and feel okay in an instant.
The Dangers of Machismo
I have seen uncles brag about their drinking capacity when they can barely hold any liquor and fall sick after a couple of drinks. But that doesn’t stop them. A cousin, despite his severe allergy to shellfish, continued to eat lobsters even though he went into anaphylactic shock (He could barely breathe) and had to be rushed to the hospital. He shares this story with pride and joy. A friend’s father, who was asked by their family doctor to exercise daily, would go to the terrace, and sneak up some snacks with him. When my friend caught him, he laughed it off.
“Exercising is boring, beta,” he said. When his wife, my friend’s mom, asked him to do Surya namaskars for weight loss he’d fold his hands and bow his head, “That’s what I am doing: namaste to Lord Surya.” I have seen a friend pop pills at parties just so he can drink wine and avoid acid reflux.
The Right Balance
According to ancient Ayurvedic texts, a person is said to have good health or swasthya (in Sanskrit) when they enjoy a balance of physical and psychological elements (samadosha), of energies produced in the body (samagnischa), and of tissues in the organs (samadhatu) combined with proper elimination of wastes (malakriya), a happy soul (prasannatma), a happy, functioning mind (prasanna-manaha) and proper functioning of the five senses (sama-indriya).
The number #1 threat to men is heart disease? I shared above that two of my male friends died of heart attacks. Here are a few more statistics, credit of Summit Medical Group
- 350,000 men die of cardiovascular disease each year (CDC).
- More than 700,000 men are diagnosed with cancer each year; 300,000 of those cases will result in death (Men’s Health Resource Center).
- 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. It’s the second leading cause of death in men (Cancer.org)
- More than 60% of adult American men are overweight or obese (National Institutes of Health).
A Group at Risk
Let’s take a look at men’s mental health. In 2020, men died by suicide 3.88x more than women. Research tells us that even though men experience a higher rate of suicide, they are less likely to seek help and are more prone to suffering in silence. Nearly one in 10 men experience depression or anxiety but less than half will receive treatment? We know that cultural biases might stop men and boys from talking about their feelings or complain about any discomfort. Because the stigma of men speaking out is seen as a sign of weakness. “Real men” can endure. What a troubling mindset! We know that hiding emotions can also take a toll on men’s health.
A Time to Reflect
Dear men, take the time to nurture your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. There is nothing manly about ignoring your well-being. Have a proactive approach to your health. The men in our lives are important to us. Men’s health isn’t just a “man’s issue.” The shortening life spans of our fathers, brothers, partners, friends, and sons is devastating. In the United States, life expectancy in 2021 was 79.1 years for women and 73.2 years for men. When you don’t take care of yourself, you create stress and anxiety for those who love you.
According to U.S. Preventive Medicine, “June is Men’s Health Month, an observance to raise awareness of preventable health problems, encourage early detection and treatment of disease, and improve overall well-being among men and boys.” This June, can we change the health outcomes for men? Can we normalize talking about men’s health issues inside of pushing it to the sides?
“Recognizing and preventing men’s health problems is not just a man’s issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men’s health is truly a family issue.” ~ Congressman Bill Richardson. https://www.summitmedical.com/blog/four-important-facts-about-mens-health  https://www.mhanational.org/infographic-mental-health-men