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Time for blokes to ‘man up’ and get healthier

It’s Blue September, which means men will hopefully be getting the message that it’s important to keep an eye on their prostate health.

One in 10 New Zealand men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime – and many of the 550 deaths each year from the disease could be prevented by early detection and healthy lifestyle choices. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

I think this is a good opportunity for men to look at their overall health, too. The sad statistic is that every hour, two Kiwi men die of a preventable illness – deaths that could be avoided by keeping an eye on a few warning signs, regular health checks and a few lifestyle changes. I don’t think Kiwi men or women should just accept that.

This could be the point in the blog where the men will stop reading. Kiwi blokes are known for their “she’ll be right” attitude, which is undoubtedly part of the reason for the above depressing statistic. So here’s something for the women. We all have men in our lives –fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and partners – and we have a responsibility to nag them, just a little bit, nicely, about looking after themselves. (My husband says I do this quite well. “You are very subtle with your nagging”, he said. I think he meant that as a compliment.) So today I’m going to pass on my nagging tips for the use of anyone who wants to look after a man they love.

The first message to get across to your man is this: men who care about health – and healthy eating – have a definite edge. Sell the benefits. At work he'll have more energy; he'll think quicker and more clearly and if he’s older, he’ll be able to keep up with the younger guys. Eating well will pay off in the way he looks: he'll be slimmer; he'll look better in clothes; his skin and hair will be healthier. He’ll have more energy for sport and the kids. He’s likely to have increased libido and better sexual performance. And he will live longer by reducing his risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cancer. If none of this grabs him, appeal to the ‘breadwinner’ instinct: how will the family cope if he’s not around?

Once you’ve established the benefits of eating well, it’s time to make a few small changes. Help him tweak his plate at mealtimes so it’s 1/4 meat, 1/4 carbohydrate and 1/2 colourful veges. Yes, men love meat, but it doesn’t need to cover half the plate, and those veges are really important.

Finally, it’s time to do a not-so-gentle nag about getting a check-up. Tell him to think of it like a WOF. Just like a car, his body may seem to be running fine but serious health problems like high blood pressure and high blood sugars have no symptoms. By the time you do notice anything, the disease may have already done damage.

The same goes for two of the biggest cancer killers of men: bowel and prostate cancers. Checks for both involve having to talk to doctors about things ‘down there’ and possibly having slightly uncomfortable examinations. So many men put off seeing the doctor, even if they have symptoms. But you know what? Women have to do this kind of thing regularly, too, and once the few moments of discomfort are over, they’re gone. These cancers are highly treatable – and curable – if they are caught early. So here is where it’s time for some tough love. Tell him it’s time to man up and get checked out. As men’s health campaigners say, too many men are literally dying of embarrassment.

First published: Sep 2013



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