The Weaker Sex

at 11:43 PM

"Men are the stronger sex." That's a relentlessly enduring cultural belief. Despite its tenacity, it seems nothing could be further from the truth.

On average, men die more than five years younger than women, and they're more likely to die from all leading causes of death. They're also more likely than women to suffer severe, chronic diseases. June is National Men's Health Month - and a good time to reflect on these facts. And the news isn't all bad. When I started researching men's health 20 years ago, men were dying 8 years younger than women.

Although the gender gap has narrowed, an estimated half of all men still die early deaths that scientists say could have been prevented. And there are significant differences among men. Black men die six years younger than white men. The main reason why men die younger is what we do - and don't do.

Compared to women, we have worse diets, are more overweight, have higher blood pressure and do less to control it, have riskier driving habits, use less sun protection, and use more drugs and alcohol. And the list goes on.

Making matters worse, we don't see doctors enough. Twice as many men as women don't even have a doctor, and 3 times more men haven't seen a doctor in over five years.

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The way doctors usually discover diseases early - when they're treatable - is through screenings, like checking blood pressure and cholesterol for heart disease, and checking skin and colons for cancer. Half of all new cancers can be detected early with screenings.

But doctors can't screen you if you're not in their office. So, men don't get screened - and often get diagnosed too late.

Complicating things further, men are more likely than women to think they're invulnerable to risk - even for diseases they're more likely to die from. Men who think they're invulnerable, don't take precautions. Now if you're a guy, there's a good chance you took your car to a mechanic for its last 3,000-mile check-up. But how's that maintenance schedule for your body? Did you make it to your last check-up?

If not, you can still make before time runs out - on Men's Health Month, that is.

With a Perspective, this is Dr. Will Courtenay.

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Dr. Will Courtenay is an East Bay psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of men and boys.

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