May 08, 2019
As an advocate for men’s health, particularly men over 50, my passion is advancing the dialogue among men and their loving constituency: their wives, partners, children, grandchildren and others who care.
The healthy behaving men over 50 I’ve studied exhibit a strong cognitive alignment between their behavior and their most valued relationships. For them, health is a means to an end. The endgame is a fulfilling life built around what they love and cherish most: family, friends, career, travel. They’ve found their “why” when it comes to diet and fitness, and designed a lifestyle with continual reinforcement.
Accordingly, my mantra is that gym memberships, diet fads and exercise equipment are worthless without a strong motivational platform that sustains behavior. As evidence, I cite the alarming state of health among men and women of all ages where only 3 percent of Americans live healthy and 70 percent are classified as either overweight or obese.
Within this context, I’d like to offer a new perspective on men’s health: women. No discussion of men’s health is complete without the acknowledgement that women play a huge role. Consider their credentials. They make twice the preventative medical visits as men, are more likely to have health insurance and take medications, and orient to health consciousness at an earlier age. Women live longer and perform better than men across a number of health measures.
Women are adept at rescuing men from one of their most serious afflictions, the healthcare attention gap. They are the ones who schedule doctor’s appointments, get prescriptions filled and ensure their men get screenings. Psychologists call them the household managers of health. They keep their men conscious of changing body conditions and advocate for the acceptance of medical treatment when questions arise.
Perhaps the most significant measure of a woman’s impact on a man’s health is found in marriage. Research indicates that married men generally live longer and healthier lives than unmarried men. Living with your significant other may also have health benefits. By all measures, women are the driving force. They need to be. Sadly, on their own, the data shows that men over 50 drop the ball big time.
So, if a new, motivationally-based approach is the answer, beyond these clinically-oriented tasks, what can women do when it comes to building a man’s socially-based motivational platform? I offer three key roles: designers, participants and supporters.
The social nature of my approach almost automatically makes women a participant in a man’s lifestyle, but my studies suggest that such engagement doesn’t always extend to all dimensions of a man’s behavior. A number of healthy men have told me stories about wives who don’t share their interest in a lean diet or fitness activities. As a consequence, these men have had to find support from daughters, sons and good friends. The extent to which women can be an equal or even part-time partner in a man’s dietary and fitness regimen, the greater the opportunity for success. Healthy men take walks with their wives and share nutritious meals.
Finally, there’s emotional support. A woman leverages considerable influence by acknowledging a man’s desire to live healthy, encouraging positive behaviors and helping him stay on track when he inevitably is thrown off course by the challenges of aging.
If men’s health is a team sport, then women are the most valuable players.
Louis Bezich is a healthcare executive with a passion for health and fitness formed through a lifetime of experiences (including divorce, single parenthood and professional challenges) where diet and exercise carried him through and ultimately enabled him to flourish personally and professionally. Decades later, that commitment drives this 60-something to share his experience and advocate for a new culture of men’s health through his books and at his website, 50plusmen.com.