Most men take their cars for a service more often than they take themselves for a health check-up, but they really need to start taking responsibility — prevention is better than cure

If you asked any man who the strongest sex is, he’s sure to reply male. It’s easy to see why — men are bigger, faster and stronger than women. But, if you asked doctors the same question, they are likely to say women are stronger, especially where health is concerned.

When you consider that women live, on average, five years longer than males — to an age of 80 years as opposed to 75 — we must look at the reasons why.

Men die from the five biggest causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease, and accidents, at rates ranging from 40pc to 220pc higher than women.

The health gap between men and women is explained by looking at the difference between biological, social and behavioural factors.

Chromosomes, hormones and our metabolisms play a factor but central obesity and abdominal fat is more common in men and this stomach fat inhibits your organs from performing their jobs properly.

Men suffer from work-related stress more than women and it is men who are more likely to abuse alcohol, engage in violent behaviour and be less diet-conscious than women.

One of the biggest causes of such a discrepancy between the sexes is the ‘real-men-don’t-see-doctors’ syndrome. They put their heads in the sand and ignore their symptoms for as long as possible. Even when they can no longer pretend nothing’s wrong, they grit their teeth and tough it out instead of getting prompt medical care.

Women, on the other hand, think about health more than men, and are more diligent about check-ups. They are better at listening to their bodies and reporting unusual signals to their doctors.

Women spend most of the health euro. They look after their bodies better. They look after their image by visiting hairdressers, beauticians, gyms and doctors. Women buy more health magazines than men and it is women who tend to persuade their spouses to have a health check-up.

A study in America confirmed that three times as many men as women had not seen a doctor in the previous year. It is unlikely that their cars have not seen a mechanic in this time so, in effect, we are treating our cars better than our bodies.

In men over 50, 41pc had not been screened for prostate cancer and 60pc had not been screened for colon cancer in the previous year. Some 25pc of men said they would handle worries about health by waiting as long as possible before seeking help.

The good news is that men are more likely to look after their health when there is an emotional component involved. School reunions, beach holidays, shame and the love of a woman are big incentives for a man to get himself in shape.

Emotion triggers motion and men need to take better control of their destiny because long working hours will only make you the richest man in the graveyard.

This is most evident when you look at the Irish politicians who grace our TV screens. These politicians are representatives of society and they need to be better health role models for the people they represent in order that they can carry out their jobs more efficiently.

Time for change

A change in attitude is required. Work promotions and house re-mortgaging are starting to be conditional on the results of a health check. It is often a routine exam that highlights an existing problem. But men need to be more proactive and organise an annual NCT.

There are many hospitals and medical centres offering health check-ups for men. We need to learn from women how to look after our health and be better communicators with health professionals.

A proper nutrition and exercise programme is a must, and it is imperative that you devote four hours out of the 168 on offer in a week towards a health-building regime. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

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