For those of you living under a rock, we are now near the tail end of Movember, the month dedicated to men’s health, moustaches, Maya’s birthday, and turkeys.
Okay, so the last two on the list aren’t exactly a part of Movember. However, Maya demands to be a part of everything and since I would like to see the sun rise tomorrow, I allow her to believe whatever she wishes. Plus, she just had her birthday, so whatever.
Regarding the turkeys: I’ve heard through the grapevine that they are planning an uprising of their own in November. I haven’t yet learned of their motive or why they’re so pissed, but their revolt is sure to be memorable. And tasty, should the humans win that is. (Update: I saw this as of today. The revolution is upon us, people.)
So, we are all taking this month to educate ourselves about men’s health issues, right? Right? Hmm…. I’ve worked in healthcare for the greater part of my adult life, and this is what I’ve discovered: most of the men I know can draw and label a random carburetor,
but they’re not familiar with their own bodies.
We women… Well, we get a head-start on the whole bodily-humiliation thing in our teen years when we have the joy of spreading our legs so that a strange doctor can poke around with odd tools and extract bits of our bodies for pathology. By the time we reach the age that most men are going in for their first prostate exam, many of us women have had humiliations galore, especially through childbirth and its delightful after-effects. We’re pros. We’ve got this down.* Men, we’re here to help you through this (and maybe snicker just a tad since it’s finally your turn to received a personalized glove treatment.) Because even though there are many times we would love to throw you out the window, we do want you here with us, guys. You are our fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, partners, and friends. You help make our lives complete, and you fix our carburetors.
Yes, Movember is dedicated to bringing awareness to men’s health issues– specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health, but it is much more than that: Movember is the starting point in motivating men– young and old– to take action and be proactive with regard to their health care in general. The easiest and probably most effective change anyone can make is in their diet.
I know men have a tendency to block out voices once those voices begin their “healthy diet” and “exercise” talk, but your physical health affects not only your body but your mental health as well. When you eat crap, you feel like crap physically and mentally. Alright, so at first you have a major food stone going on with your fast food and buffalo chicken wings, loaded nachos, and homemade brews. However, in the long run, you’ll start to look and feel like Jabba the Hutt and then your energy, sex drive, and mental clarity go right out the window. Moderation reigns supreme.
If you want to start eating healthier but don’t know where to begin, ask for help. I know I would gladly show someone the basics and give pointers on cooking healthier. (Ahem, ahem… Hello, single men.) Not sure how to decipher a nutritional facts label? You’re not alone. Check out this interactive guide from the Mayo Clinic. Don’t even know how to cook an egg? There are hundreds of cookbooks or an app to check out. Try Jamie Oliver or Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.
On to the medical bit: Men, I know that you would rather chew a nail than get a prostate exam. I get it. However, like the countless paps throughout the lives of women, digital rectal exams are one of the (evil) tools physicians use for early detection of cancer in men. You also need to have a regular physical to screen for high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes because the leading cause of death in men living in the United States is heart disease. The greatest risk factors? High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. Yes, this means someone will stick a needle in your arm, and my experience has been “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Unless you are a heroin addict, needles suck. Promise yourself a milkshake or a pint after you donate your two or three ounces of blood, close your eyes, breathe in and out real easy, and get it over with.
Lastly, but most importantly, we need to educate the young men in our lives about the importance of their physical and mental well-being. We need to talk to them about sexual health. We need to discuss the symptoms of testicular cancer because it is the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35. We must destigmatize mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders, regardless of age. We need to show that it’s okay to ask for help. We all need to make the men in our lives feel safe to open up and not shame them for showing emotion. It’s time to allow men to evolve beyond the stoic creatures we see in the black and white photos from the “good ol’ days.”
Movember was created to highlight men’s health issues, but it is far more than that; Movember is about everyone who wants the men in their lives to be mentally and emotionally strong, healthy, and happy.
Movember benefits all of us.
*We know everything, right?
An afterthought here: sexual health is for men of ALL ages. I wrote this about our aging baby boomers quite some time ago, and I think it applies here.