When was the last time you had a meaningful, constructive conversation with a physician about your health? When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with ANYONE about your health?
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I want to live a long, healthy, happy life. Don’t you?
I want to stick around as long as I can for my family. I’m guessing you do, too.
So, hey, here’s an idea: Let’s take care of ourselves.
It really is that simple. And, it really is more complicated than that.
Here’s why it’s simple: You already know how to take care of yourself.
If not, look no further than the Movember Foundation, the worldwide men’s health initiative that turns every November into a mustache-fest. Here are five pieces of advice from Movember to help you take control of your physical and mental health and look after yourself:
- Check-in regularly with family and friends.
- Get moving.
- Talk about your health.
- Know your family medical history.
- If you notice something out of the ordinary, do something about it.
Simple, right? Common sense stuff.
Here’s why it can be more complicated to take control of your health than that: Failing to act on this common sense advice is how so many men fall short of being effective advocates for their own health.
We know what to do, but we don’t always do it.
“Men don’t talk, they don’t take action, and they die too young,” said Mark Hedstrom, director of Movember in the United States. “That’s really important to get out there. You have to be proactive, guys. You can’t sit back and wait for something bad to happen.”
You know this. You know that complacency kills. You know that when it comes to the leading causes of death among men – heart disease and cancer – steps for prevention and early detection could mean the difference between extended life and imminent death.
Yet, when was the last time you had a meaningful, constructive conversation with a physician about your health? When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with ANYONE about your health?
This isn’t about marching off to your physician for a physical and blood work. In fact, recent studies have actually begun to call into question the need for an annual physical if you’re asymptomatic. This remains controversial, so if you are looking for a way to start a health-related conversation with a physician, here’s one hell of an ice-breaker.
That aside, being your own healthcare advocate is also about common sense. It’s about paying attention to your body and mind so you know how to recognize if something is not quite right, and about knowing what questions to ask when do go to the doctor.
It’s about speaking up on your own behalf – and not just with your doctors. Talk about your health with friends and family members. You might think they’d rather not hear about it, that you’d be perceived as a complainer. Or you might be one of those guys who thinks the quiet, stoic approach is the path to manliness.
Well, forget that nonsense. Your friends and family members want a healthy you. When you talk about your physical, mental and emotional well-being, you take control of your health.
This is particularly true in the examination room.
While your doctors might ask surface questions about symptoms and recent medical history, they usually don’t spend time trying to drag potentially vital information out of you. They have other patients to see in a limited amount of time.
That’s why you should use the time wisely. Pleasantries about last night’s game or the latest episode of that TV show can break the ice. But after that? Get down to business.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge because there’s a preconceived notion among physicians that men don’t ask those questions,” Hedstrom said. “You really need to start asking that question: What does that test result mean? Do I need a colonoscopy? That sort of thing. Men taking action and having a conversation about their health is going to change that.”
You don’t need a medical degree to know what questions to ask. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests, among others:
- What is this test for?
- What is my diagnosis?
- Why do I need this treatment?
- Are there any alternative treatments?
- What are the possible complications?
- Do I need to change my daily routine?
The answers will not always be definitive. Cancer, heart disease and other physical conditions don’t always lend themselves to certainty.
But you want to live a long, healthy, happy life, don’t you? I know I do.
So, take control of your health, men. Let’s figure out what we need to do to make sure we’re around for families as long as possible.
“That’s the most important thing,” said Movember’s Hedstrom. “It’s quite frankly why I show up to work every day.”
Photo: FreeImages.com/Adam Ciesielski