4 Health Hacks Women Already Know That You Should Too
Guys tend to keep their health problems to themselves. This isn't always the best move, particularly with depression. Read this and take your first steps to getting help

October 23, 2016

When it comes to staving off sickness, men can learn a lot from women.

“Men consistently misperceive their level of risk,” says psychologist Dr Will Courtenay, author of Dying to Be Men (R338, kalahari.com). And that misperception can allow serious ailments to go undetected. Even when something’s clearly wrong, guys sometimes endure the pain; studies find men are more likely than women to ignore a medical problem. Man up and take a cue from the softer sex.

Visiting The Doc

The Facts: Men are twice as likely as women are to say they haven’t seen a doctor in the past year, according to a 2010 survey. Men also lag behind women in visits to their dentists.

The Takeaway: For women, the annual gynaecological exam becomes routine. “That’s just part of being a woman,” says Courtenay. “There is no corollary for men. We don’t take our sons to the doctor every year and say, ‘You know, it’s really important that you talk with your doctor about your health.’ ” But we should. Call your GP and schedule a check-up. Have the blood tests. You know the drill. Going once a year won’t kill you; going less often might.

Eating Smart

The Facts: More women than men eat two or more fruits a day (36% vs 29%) and three or more vegetables a day (31% vs 21%), US Centers for Disease Control survey reports.

The Takeaway: Women, being weight conscious, choose low-kilojoule foods such as vegetables, says Dr Paul Rozin, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  The irony: “While women tend to think they’re bigger and heavier than they actually are, men often think they’re skinnier and lighter than they are,” says Courtenay. Plus, men have higher levels of heart-harming LDL cholesterol. They’re also more likely to have high blood pressure before age 45, and they have a higher risk of heart disease before age 60. The fix? A 2011 Greek study suggests a Mediterranean diet that’s rich in fish, nuts, fresh produce and olive oil.

Head health

The Facts: Of people with major depression, women are nearly three times as likely as men to seek professional help (75% vs 26%), according to a 2012 study in Depression and Anxiety.

The Takeaway: “Women are more likely to talk about their emotional problems, while men are socialised to be stoic and avoid showing weakness,” says Dr Linda Carli, a senior psychology lecturer at Wellesley College. Men also may be less likely to recognise behaviours like anger and irritability as signs of underlying depression, Courtenay says.Psychological pain is just as legitimate as physical pain; if you broke your arm, you’d wear a cast. Find a therapist who can help.

Skin Cancer

The Facts: In just one year, 44 500 men will be newly diagnosed with melanoma and 6 060 will have died, the International Agency for Research in Cancer estimated in 2012. That’s 12 250 more cases than predicted for women, and 2 940 more deaths.

The Takeaway: Women pay attention to their skin and take precautions early, says Dr Michael Steppie of the Skin Cancer Foundation. So should you; skin cancer is common in men. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen, and see a doctor if you notice a mole changing colour, size or texture.