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Man up for your health – there’s no downside

Man up for your health - there's no downside

It’s men’s health month, and I’ve been seeing lots of things around social media encouraging men to go to the doctors for check-ups.

This is good advice; men are terrible at this, in general. As is the way of blokes, because they don’t really have to go to the doctor for routine things, as women do, they tend not to show up at the doctor’s door until something really bad happens. This makes for not-great outcomes for men. Men live an average of four fewer years than women, and one man dies every three hours of a potentially avoidable illness. Isn’t that sad? That’s something we really (and I’m talking men and women, here) shouldn’t be putting up with.

It seems timely – and maybe not a coincidence – that it is also Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Bowel cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in New Zealand, and Kiwi men have the third highest rate in the OECD. The thing with this cancer is, though, that most cases are curable, if caught early enough. The problem, as the people at Bowel Cancer New Zealand say, is that too many people literally sit on their symptoms, waiting too long to seek help.

You see where I’m going here. It all comes back to tuning into your body, and not being scared to get checked out if things aren’t feeling right. And doing that sooner, rather than later. This applies whether you are male or female, but it’s something for men, especially, to think about and apply in all areas of your health.

That stoic, “she’ll be right” attitude is fading in Kiwi males these days, I think, but there’s still perhaps a bit of a feeling that paying attention to your health and spending time and energy looking after your body is a bit unmanly. Which is silly, of course, because without our health we have nothing, and if we want to stay as well as we can for as long as we can and be around for the people who love us, we absolutely need to give looking after ourselves some importance.

With that in mind there are some things men can do to eat better. This doesn’t have to be tricky or difficult, and it doesn’t have to involve being nagged into doing things (although I give permission to all the women out there to nag away at your favourite men if they’re not as healthy as they could be).

It starts with adjusting your attitude. Men do not need giant steaks to be manly. And they don’t need lots of booze, either. Having a serious look at your consumption of both red meat and alcohol – and cutting back on both if you need to – could be the start of a healthier you. So could adding more vegetables to your life. This is guaranteed to make you feel and look better; there’s no downside here. If you need to lose weight, this will help, and it’ll help cut your risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Add in some regular exercise and finding ways to cope with stress, and you’ll be unstoppable.

For more advice for men, click here.

First published: Jun 2016

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