BCLIBERALGOVERNMENTCAUCUS COLUMN By Norm Letnick MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country (809 words) For immediate release May 18, 2012 SECONDOPINION:BADNEWSAND GOODNEWSON MEN’SHEALTH When you read the headline of this column, there’s a very good chance you saw “men’s health,” and immediately thought this will be a column about penisesand prostates. That misperception – let’s call it the P and P Syndrome – is perhaps the single biggest problem in men’s health, says UBCresearcher and urologist Dr. Larry Goldenberg, co-director of the Men’s Health Initiative of B.C.While prostates and penisesare undeniably important, men’s health is also about hearts, brains, lungs and everything else. As with women’s health issues, it’s not about being divisive or trying to “catch up” on what have been some fantastically successful women’s health initiatives. It’s about identifying and addressing those health issuesthat affect men, either specifically or disproportionately. As Dr. Goldenberg explains, raising awarenessis crucial. Quite simply, Canadian men need a little wakeup call. First, the bad news. As a Canadian male, we have a shorter average life expectancy by four years than our mothers, wives and daughters, and also have longer stretches of poor health at the end of our lives. Simply by virtue of being born a man, we have a much greater chance of earlier death from a wide variety of causes,from cardiovascular disease(on average, 10 years before women) and AIDS(seven times more likely than women), to suicide (three times more likely than women) and traffic collisions. It’s not just that men tend to take greater risks – though statistically, we do. I myself used to work as a mountain climbing instructor, and lost friends to falls and avalanches. But not every risk is as obvious as mountain climbing. Given those facts, you’d think men would take greater advantage of the excellent health care system we have in B.C.and those elsewhere in Canada. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. Canadian men see their doctors less often, and when they do, it’s for primary rather than preventative care – injuries, not checkups. All too often, men avoid their doctors almost entirely until they reach middle age. That’s the bad news. The good news is most of these issuesare correctable. Of all the statistics mentioned above, one of the most jarring is that men in Canadatend to die earlier than women. But as Dr. Goldenberg explains, addressing that means getting out of the mindset that increased life expectancy means being “old” for a longer period of time. Rather, it’s about adding years to the healthy middle of your life.
Consider these 10 steps to live a longer, healthier life. Depending on your current lifestyle, each one has the chance to decreaseyour risk of early death by ten per cent. First, one of the basics: weight loss. And by weight, we’re talking about fat – especially belly fat. Second, a healthy diet. More fresh fruits and vegetables, fewer packaged foods, less salt and sugar. Third, a physically active lifestyle. 30 minutes of activity per day makes a world of difference. It doesn’t have to be marathon running, either – gardening and walking are good too. Fourth, if you smoke, you probably don’t need me to remind you it’s incredibly bad for your health. But quitting smoking is one of most significant changesyou can make. It’s also one of the most difficult; if you want to quit, pleaseconsider calling HealthLink BCat 811 and registering for the smoking cessation program. Fifth, pleasehave your blood pressure checked. A fifth of Canadians have high blood pressure, but there are no obvious symptoms. Sixth, pleasehave your cholesterol levels checked. You can do this in the same visit to the doctor when you have your blood pressure checked. Seventh, be aware of the elevated risk of diabetes, which leads to many other health problems. Eighth, if you enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage, carry on. But if you drink more than two per day, or 14 per week, that’s probably too much and can create or exacerbate other problems. Ninth, don’t forget your head – not scrapes and bruises, but mental health. Depression, stress and anxiety are all common with men. Please,never be shy about seeking help or advice – and not just from your doctor. Finally, it’s your health – you should manage it like anything else in your life you care deeply about. Be aware of your body and habits, and seek advice. I hope you’ll join me in trying each of these. There is no guarantee we'll live any longer – but why not increasethe chanceson our side? We owe it to women to live longer and be the good companions we are as they age too. The bad news is that we men need to do a better job taking care of ourselves. The good news is that it’s entirely within our power to do so. Let’s move beyond P and P Syndrome. Norm Letnick is the MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country and Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Health
-30Media contact: Maclean Kay, B.C.Government CaucusCommunications: 250-952-0778