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Men: Improve Your Health

Exponent article by Dr Brian Kassarr
Counseling & Psychological Services

If you're a guy you probably take poor care of your health. Men often refuse to seek medical treatment or engage in preventive behaviors despite the following facts: 75% of deaths among college students are male; men have higher death rates from chronic diseases, and men die 6 years younger than women. Men are also likely to engage in high-risk activities such as heavy drinking, unprotected sex, and failure to wear helmets during recreational activities. Accidents, HIV/AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis are among the leading causes of death for young men; most of these are preventable or highly treatable with early detection, yet many men do no engage in risk reduction or preventive practices.

In addition to the above health risks, college men are also at risk for testicular cancer. Males between the ages of 18-35 are in the highest risk group. Testicular cancer is usually very treatable if it is detected early, yet most men do not perform a monthly self-exam to check for abnormalities.

Given these statistics, why do men put themselves at such high risk for injury, illness, and death? One reason is the cultural beliefs around "masculinity." Risk taking and engaging in dangerous activities are often viewed as a testament to one's manhood. Our culture dictates that "real men" drive fast, have unprotected sex, don't wear helmets, don't put on sunscreen and don't feel their balls. To do so would admit vulnerability or weakness, something that is frowned upon for today's men. It's a shame to think that having a paralyzing head injury or artificial testicle is more manly than taking common-sense precautions.

Health agencies often reinforce this gender bias. Rarely are there men's health campaigns or educational programming for men. This perpetuates the ideas that "men don't have health problems" and may impede men's willingness to seek treatment or engage in preventive practices. Compare the abundance of women's health campaigns to the dearth of men's health awareness. Tom Green's "Feel Your Balls" campaign and cyclist Lance Armstrong's book about his experience with testicular cancer were perhaps the first mainstream acknowledgements of the disease and the need for self-exam.

Here are 5 things men can do to improve their health:

  1. Get a physical. Experts recommend a complete health physical every 1-2 years for college men.
  2. Conduct a testicular self-exam once a month to check for abnormalities. Visit a health professional or to learn how.
  3. Protect yourself. Wear a helmet when engaging in recreational activities. Use a condom during sex and educate yourself about STD's.
  4. Reduce the amount of alcohol you consume; it contributes to health problems and increases your risk for accident/injury.
  5. Talk to other men about health issues and encourage each other to take care of their health.

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
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