More than 80% of American women try to convince their spouse to get an annual physical, but 30% of men think they are healthy and don’t need it, according to a Cleveland Clinic survey. Three doctors who specialize in cancer, urology and heart want to help women not only talk to the men in their life about men’s health, but also how to recognize changes in the health of their men.
Mark E. Reeves, PhD, MD, director of the Loma Linda University Cancer Center; Anthony Hilliard, MD, cardiovascular disease specialist at the Loma Linda University International Heart Institute; and Herbert Ruckle, MD, chair of Loma Linda University Health’s Urology department, say they commonly hear from couples about their inability to connect about health concerns. Ruckle says getting men to understand the importance of their health early on is key to longevity.
“Men in general tend to be more impulsive, engage in more high-risk activities, have more dangerous jobs and tend to more be passive regarding health screening and prevention,” Ruckle says. “This invincible attitude and a tendency toward less healthy behavior, along with the lack of engagement in prevention, leads to the statistically shortened lifespan of men’s lives compared to women. The earlier men begin to take care of their health, the better for them and their families.”
Here are the specialists’ tips on talking to men about their health and how to notice health issues, even if the man in a woman’s life can’t.
- How to talk to your man about their heart, urology or cancer health. The answer for heart specialist Hilliard is simple: the art of the nudge. Instead of women nagging about their man’s health, he proposes slightly nudging by saying how much you love them and want them to be around longer. Small mentions can go a long way. Ruckle and Reeves encourage women to find what the man in their life cares about most and try to use that as a way to introduce seeing a physician. Reeves says telling that special man about the importance of finding cancers early, not just because it will keep them from dying — because Reeves believes most men do not think they are going to — but because it will keep them from doing the things they really care about. For example, explaining to a man that he may be able to survive cancer, but what will his quality of life be like afterward? Will he be able to walk, run or live a full life? Pulling on the strings of fullness of life are great ways to have an impact.
- Real disease prevention starts at the kitchen table. All three doctors agree that food habits play the largest role in prevention, whether a man sees a physician regularly or not. Reeves says habits that are good for cancer prevention are the same things great for urologic and heart health. Ruckle says he tells his urology patients if it grows out of the ground and spoils, it will be good. If it was processed or heavily marketed, it is probably bad. For heart health, Hilliard says he uses the acronym PAW with his patients: pistachios, almonds and walnuts. A super fruit for heart health is an orange, Hilliard also adds. The pectin fiber of the fruit is good for intestinal health because it acts like a sponge in your blood and soaks up a lot of the triglycerides.
- How to spot when the men in your life are hiding health problems. For heart problems, Hilliard says there are signs many women might think are just their men blowing them off. He says depression and coronary artery disease go hand in hand. If the man in your life seems withdrawn from activities he usually does — for example, he no longer wants to fish with his friends — it may be because he has chest pain while fishing. Ruckle says heart health and urology health are also usually paired. When there is an issue in urology, such as erectile dysfunction, there is usually also a heart issue. In addition, Ruckle says blood in the urine is always a bad sign. For cancer, Reeves says screening early for prostate and bladder cancer are key as well as for lung cancer.
Most importantly, all three physicians encourage women to help their men know their blood pressure, cholesterol, waist circumference, PSA and start screening for colon, lung and prostate cancer at age 50. If there is a family history of prostate cancer or a patient is in a known high-risk group, then Ruckle suggests getting screened for prostate cancer at age 40.
Our primary care doctors are happy to answer any questions you or your man might have. Visit either the Loma Linda University International Heart Institute or Loma Linda University Cancer Center to learn more about these specialties or call to make an appointment with a primary care physician at 909-558-6600.