It’s normal for your health to take a backseat from time to time. We’ve all avoided the dentist at some point or ignored a foot ache long enough to see it go away on its own. However, understanding why we deprioritize our health and what to do about it can make you better equipped to take action.
In Episode 8 of the Don’t Change Much Podcast, host Dan Murphy is joined by TV and radio broadcaster Jody Vance, who talks about her father’s reluctance to acknowledge that something was wrong and why he ultimately became an advocate for putting health first.
Why men ignore health issues
There are a number of reasons why men ignore the warning signs that something is wrong. Here are a few common ones:
One reason men don’t want to acknowledge that something may be going on is due to fear. Jody shares that her dad knew there was something wrong before his prostate cancer diagnosis, but he was scared to learn the truth.
“Everything else, every other box in his life was checked. Healthy, healthy, healthy. And yet he felt the urge to urinate multiple times an hour. And he didn’t get that checked. Here’s the teacher who would’ve told other people to get checked, and yet he didn’t…(due to the) fear of what he actually knew. He was afraid to find out.”
On the flip side, Jody says being proactive can provide peace of mind, “I had a colonoscopy, even though I’ve had no symptoms of anything…I had incredible peace of mind when my gastroenterologist looked at me and said, see you in five years. Because an all-clear feels great.”
Not talking about it
There’s a misconception that men’s health shouldn’t be talked about. It lines up with the idea that a “strong” man shouldn’t acknowledge vulnerability.
Jody recently joined the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF) as a National Champion alongside Kevin Bieksa and Kelly Hrudey. She acknowledges how both Bieksa and Hrudey don’t shy away from talking about health issues and encourage other men to do the same.
“(Kelly) talks about why he has bad days and where he finds his good days, and then he shares it…You’ll find when you share a little with someone you trust, whether it be a professional or a friend or a trusted relative, or even somebody who doesn’t really know your full friend circle, (it can help).”
Between things like work and family, it can feel like there isn’t very much time left for anything else. When you hear from your spouse or friend that “you might want to get that checked out,” all too often, the response is, “I’ll get to it when I have time.” Being proactive could mean preventing something manageable from turning into something deadly.
The need to solve one’s own problems is a barrier to treatment among men concerned about their mental health. It’s an obstacle we can be mindful of regarding our health. Remember that Tony Stark may have built an arc reactor for his heart, but he still needed Rhodey and Pepper when the chips were down.
Tips to make your health a priority
Taking care of your health doesn’t have to mean flipping your life upside down. Here are a few ways to be proactive:
Access helpful, free resources
As a National Champion, Jody is quick to point out, “the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation has easy, consumable resources. It’s a one-click environment built for men.”
Walk and talk
Talking about anything other than sports, family or work with friends can feel like throwing with your opposite hand. Having conversations about health isn’t easy. You (and your friends) might feel more comfortable having these conversations during activities like hiking or walking your dogs.
Don’t ignore it
If you feel like something is “off,” or if you have an issue that isn’t getting better, you may want to see a healthcare specialist. You can also check in with those who are close to you and see if they have noticed anything. Their insights may be useful.
The last thing you’ll want to do is ignore ongoing issues. Early intervention can be a game changer. As Jody puts it, “If Terry Fox has taught us anything, let’s honour the fact that early detection in all forms of cancer is a lifesaver.”
Bumping your health up on the to-do list can be as simple as scheduling it. Make time in your calendar to get some exercise, eat a healthy lunch away from your desk or set a nightly reminder to go to bed at the same time.
Jody suggests, “put your one-hour dog walk in Pacific Spirit Park so solidly in your calendar that it’s immovable.”
Follow this tip and our next to make getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week a breeze.
Physical activity strengthens your heart and lungs, improves energy levels, and helps reduce stress. You can buddy up with friends to help motivate you to exercise and make it more enjoyable.
Exercise stimulates your brain’s reward systems and can make you feel good. Those positive feelings will motivate you to go on your next walk, join a pick-up game, or play a round of golf. As an added bonus, connecting with friends or family can also make you feel good.
Quarterback your health like Tom Brady
No, you don’t have to eat avocado ice cream. Position yourself to make the right play by checking out some of these tips:
- Eat more turkey, fish, or beans for a healthier heart.
- Set a regular sleep schedule to feel more energized during your day.
- Fight off the “Sunday Scaries” by writing a Monday to-do list on Friday afternoon.
Make taking care of yourself effortless by downloading the Men’s Health Checklist. Build a personal health-maintenance schedule and put the ball (and your health) in your hands.
How about you? What are some ways that you prioritize your health? Let us know in the comments below.
Men’s Health Checklist
Find out what tests you need and when. Stay up-to-date on screening, exams and vaccines, and assess how stress impacts your mental health.
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