What Men Can Learn About Health From Women

Men are more prone to certain health mistakes.

December 12, 2012, 5:27 PM

Dec. 13, 2012— -- "Men consistently misperceive their level of risk," says psychologist Will Courtenay, author of "Dying to Be Men." And that misperception can allow serious ailments to go undetected.

Even when something's clearly wrong, guys sometimes endure the pain; studies find men are more likely than women to ignore a medical problem.

Man up and take a cue from the softer sex. And for more essential guy health and wisdom delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free Men's Health Daily Dose newsletter!

Doctor Visits

Men are twice as likely as women are to say they haven't seen a doctor in the past year, according to a 2010 CDC survey. Men also lag behind women in visits to their dentists.

For women, the annual gynecological exam becomes routine.

"That's just part of being a woman," says Courtenay. "There is no corollary for men. We don't take our sons to the doctor every year and say, 'You know, it's really important that you talk with your doctor about your health.'"

But we should.

Call your primary-care doc and schedule a physical. Have the blood tests. You know the drill. Going once a year won't kill you; going less often might. (And while you're at it, make sure you know the top 10 Questions Every Man Must Ask His Doctor.)


More women than men eat two or more fruits a day (36 percent vs. 29 percent) and three or more vegetables a day (31 percent vs. 21 percent), a CDC survey reports.

Women, being weight conscious, choose low-calorie foods such as vegetables, says Paul Rozin, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

The irony: "While women tend to think they're bigger and heavier than they actually are, men often think they're skinnier and lighter than they are," says Courtenay.

Plus, men have higher levels of heart-harming LDL cholesterol. They're also more likely to have high blood pressure before age 45, and they have a higher risk of heart disease before age 60.

The fix? A 2011 Greek study suggests a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, nuts, produce, and olive oil. In addition, load up on these 3 Surprising Heart-Healthy Foods.


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Of people with major depression, women are nearly three times as likely as men to seek professional help (75 percent vs. 26 percent), according to a 2012 study in Depression and Anxiety.

"Women are more likely to talk about their emotional problems, while men are socialized to be stoic and avoid showing weakness," says Linda Carli, a senior psychology lecturer at Wellesley College.

Men also may be less likely to recognize behaviors like anger and irritability as signs of underlying depression, Courtenay says.

Psychological pain is just as legitimate as physical pain; if you broke your arm, you'd wear a cast. Find a therapist who can help—a mental health screening is one of the top medical exams every man should look into. Find out the other 3 Health Tests You Should Never Miss.

Skin Cancer

By the time 2012 draws to a close, 44,250 men will be newly diagnosed with melanoma and 6,060 will have died, the American Cancer Society estimates. That's 12,250 more cases than predicted for women, and 2,940 more deaths.

Women pay attention to their skin and take precautions early, says Dr. Michael W. Steppie, of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

So should you; skin cancer is men's most common cancer. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, and see a doc if you notice a mole changing color, size, or texture. Not sure if your bump is the big C? View our slideshow of What Skin Cancer Looks Like.


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