NCHSF logo
Back to iNCite index   November 2009  Opens in new window Email iNCite to others

Improving a Man's Health is Often Through a Woman

When it comes to health, women traditionally take on the role of caregiver for their families. She is typically the one who makes medical appointments and sees that children's healthcare needs are met. She often coordinates care for elderly parents and in many cases serves as the healthcare advocate for her husband or special man in Man having blood pressure takenher life. Women become involved in men's health because often men do not seek health information and services due to traditional notions of masculinity, where asking for help from a healthcare provider might be viewed as a sign of weakness. Men can also be fearful, embarrassed, or in some cases, have a feeling of invincibility which might prevent them from seeking care. Healthcare providers should recognize that in many cases a way to improving a man's health is through a woman.

Women tend to be more knowledgeable about health related issues and more proactive about prevention and treatment. Most women know about the importance of monthly self breast exams, and yet few men know that they should examine themselves each month for testicular cancer, the most common cancer in men under 40. Men may be comfortable at the garage talking about car repairs; yet when it comes to the doctor they often feel ill at ease. On average, women ask four questions during a medical appointment; on average men ask none.

Male Body Maintenance

In the world, women almost always have higher life expectancies than men. In the U.S. the average life expectancy for men is 74 years old, compared to 80 years for women. The reasons for this difference are not fully understood. Some people believe women are biologically superior to men and thus live longer. Others argue that men tend to smoke and drink more than women and don't seek medical help as often as women. Men also die younger due to higher rates of accidents, homicides and suicides

The fact is many men need to be prodded to pay attention to their health. Men are more likely to pay attention to the engine warning light in their car than they are to their own bodies' warning signs. They may also know more about the maintenance schedule for their car than how often they should visit the doctor or have health screenings throughout their life. You can help them. Make sure the men you see are aware of the recommended screenings:


Maintenance Schedule

Physical Exam

Once a year

Blood Pressure Check

Every two years starting at age 18

Cholesterol Test

Checked regularly starting at age 35

Dental Exam and Cleaning

Once or twice a year

Hearing Test

At age 18 then every 10 years

HIV Test

If you have unprotected sex with multiple partners or are an intravenous drug user

Sexually Transmitted Infections

If you have unprotected sex with multiple partners or if you develop symptoms

Mole/Skin Cancer Check

Monthly beginning at age 20 then every three years

Rectal Exam (Prostate)

Starting at age 50, 40-45 for those with a family history of prostate cancer

Body Maintenance ManualBody Maintenance Manual

Developed in 2009 in partnership with the N. C. Division of Public Health, the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation now offers a new publication designed to help men keep better track of their health and test results. The Body Maintenance Manual can be accessed online.

Help Women Stand by Their Man

There are several things that work against men when it comes to their health. From an early age men are taught to "take it like a man." This attitude can often make it difficult for men to seek help or medical advice. Women can help by recognizing warning signs of potential health problems and encouraging her partner to see the doctor. Women can talk to her partner, pass along an article or book, or give him the number of a hotline. She can also let him know that it's okay to show emotion and talk about his problems.

It's also important that women encourage her male partner to find out about any family history of physical or mental health problems. There are many known links between genetics and the risk of disease. Compiling a health history can help identify potential diseases that run in the family so proper preventive steps can be taken.

Women need to encourage men to take care of themselves and this includes being knowledgeable about high blood pressure, diabetes and having a healthy body weight. Young men think high blood pressure is "an old man's disease". But studies show more men are experiencing hypertension at a younger age. The increase is due to lifestyle factors including smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. Untreated hypertension damages the heart and other organs and can lead to life-threatening conditions. However, with proper diet and exercise, young men can substantially decrease their risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

doctor visitResearch shows that young adults (18 to 30 years old) with low aerobic fitness levels are two to three times more likely to develop diabetes later in life than those who are fit. Studies also show that young African Americans are less aerobically fit than white men in the same age group, placing them at a higher risk for diabetes. Providers need to be mindful that when it comes to male health, women are often the first line of defense. While she may be the one you're seeing at the office, she may have questions about her male partner's health. Make sure she has the information she needs to guide her partner. Remember she may be the one to recognize early symptoms of a potential health problem. She may also be the person best equipped to remind and encourage him to get the necessary checkups and screenings.

At A Glance

In the United States:

  • Around 8.7 million adult men (20 years or older) have diabetes; almost one third don't know it.
  • Approximately 50 million adults have high blood pressure; about 30% don't know it.
  • About 37.7 million adults have high cholesterol; men over 45 are at higher risk than younger men.
  • It is estimated that over 2 million men have osteoporosis and 12 million men may have low bone mass, putting them at higher risk for development of osteoporosis later in life.

In North Carolina

  • 6.4% of men (18-44 years of age) have been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • 35.6% of men (18-44 years) have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
  • 69% of men (18-44 years) have been diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Source: Male Health Center and BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System)


printer icon To print this newsletter, simply press the print button on your browser.
The North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation, 1300 St. Mary's St., Suite 204, Raleigh, NC 27605
To remove your name from our mailing list, please email
Questions or comments? Call (919) 828-1819

opens in new window About the NCHSF | opens in new window Accessibility | opens in new window Privacy Policy