Considering all the differences between men and women, it should come as no surprise that men and women handle their health quite differently.
It’s important for men and women to recognize differences in how illnesses present themselves in the opposite sex, and also worth borrowing healthy habits from each other.
Here are some things women should know about men’s health and some tips they can take from how men handle their health.
3 Things Women Should Know About Men’s Health
1. Men are more likely to participate in risky behavior, which can have health implications.
Men already have a tendency to be heavier smokers and drinkers than women, but on top of that, they also tend to engage in riskier behavior that can result in death. Behind cancer and heart disease, the leading cause of death for men in the US is accident (or unintentional injury).
Cancer and heart disease are also the leading causes of death in women, but the next most common cause is medical — chronic lower respiratory diseases.
2. Men are less likely to see a doctor regularly.
Men generally go to the doctor less often than women. “Women generally are much more proactive about seeking health care sooner, so they tend to get treated sooner and get better faster,” says Arthur Hong, MD, a family practitioner. “I encourage men to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor early on so they have that trust level when a problem comes up.”
Or even before a problem arises for tests and checkups that might catch an issue before something becomes a problem.
“Prevention is important,” says Lorraine Novas, MD, an OB-GYN with Northwest Community Healthcare. “Women are much better about going to the doctor for care before they are ill for routine testing and cancer screening. They pick things up before it is a serious problem and when it’s easier to treat.”
3. Sometimes erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign of other problems.
Women aren’t the only ones who go through physical changes that affect the way their body works. “Men, like women, may go through hormonal changes as they get older,” Hong says. “Men may experience declining testosterone levels over time. In some cases, this can affect libido, muscle mass, and energy levels amongst other things.”
Erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of a number of issues some of them physical and others mental. Stress, depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions along with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are some of the conditions that are associated with erectile dysfunction.
3 Things Women Can Learn From Men’s Health
1. Doctor might know best.
Notably, men appear to get more advice from their doctors — and follow it more closely — than women do.
According to a 2016 American Academy of Family Physicians survey of men’s health, 80% of men find it easy to talk to their doctors, but where it gets interesting is what they do with the advice. Forty percent of respondents said they followed their doctor’s advice 100% of the time with an additional 58% saying they followed their doctor’s advice between 50% and 75% of the time. Only 31% of women said they followed all of their doctor’s advice.
2. Higher-level activity during leisure time may pay off.
When men have downtime, they may be more likely to spend it getting exercise like a pickup game of basketball or weightlifting.
A health study of adults in the United States conducted between 2011 and 2014 found that 53.7% of women did not not meet federal guidelines for aerobic activity, compared with 46.3% of men.
Novas pointed to exercise as the No. 1 thing women can take from men’s health routines. “It’s good for your mind, your body, and it can be fun,” she says.
When men exercise, they also tend to do it more intensely, Hong says. “I’ve noticed more male patients will do moderate to vigorous intensity exercises,” he says.
Current exercise guidelines recommend that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise.
3. Men tend to crave savory; women sweets.
A 2016 study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine suggests a link between obesity and cravings. To start, they found that having cravings is a strong predictor of eating and weight gain. The researchers note that women tend to report stronger and more frequent cravings than men do. And they are more likely to crave sweets than men are.
And sweets may be a particularly risky food to crave. Current dietary guidelines suggest that most of us should cut back on added sugar. Substituting sweets for foods with more protein or fiber may help you feel fuller longer and help control weight.
Even small changes can help. When researchers at Harvard University tracked dietary changes of nearly 74,000 people over more than a decade, they found that those who made even moderate improvements to their eating habits had lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. But when swapping sweets for proteins, stick to lean meats, poultry, fish, and plant-based proteins. Dietary guidelines also suggest cutting back on red or processed meats.