Men: Do You Need a Health Tune-Up?
Guys are notorious for skimping on self-care. But "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't work when it comes to your health. Here's what to do instead.
Men and Depression
There are at least 6 million depressed men in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The real number is a lot higher. Why? A lot of diagnoses are likely missed because men don't want to discuss their feelings or they are afraid that being diagnosed with depression will mean they're less manly.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Depression is as much about brain chemistry and genetics as it is about how you respond to the death of a loved one or financial disaster, for example.
Whatever the cause, the cost of not talking about what you're going through is high: Men often choose alcohol and drugs over asking for help, and men account for 80% of suicides in the U.S. each year.
As devastating as depression can be to your mental well-being, it can take a huge toll on your body as well. "Depression has been associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, and erectile dysfunction," says Nehra. Don't try to tough it out. If you've been feeling down for more than a couple of weeks, see a doctor.
Men and Stress
"Stress and depression are kissing cousins," says Fields. But, he says, stress is often very difficult to get men to discuss because they think they need to be stoic in handling problems. "It's easier for men to talk about erectile dysfunction than it is for them to talk about depression or stress."
Stress often shows up as physical complaints, like headaches or stomach pains. "It's very common to tease it out from such symptoms," he says.
Stress is best caught early and quickly, because it can cause trouble in all areas of life: It shoots up blood pressure, upsets digestion, and weakens your immune system. It can also wreak havoc in the bedroom. Nehra's had plenty of patients who complain they can't get even a partial erection. His diagnosis? Stress.
"Stress is associated with low libido," he says. "It affects you psychologically as well as physically."
Exercise can help reduce stress, says Nehra. So can getting enough sleep.
Men and Sex
Stress, alcohol, drugs (prescription and over-the-counter), low testosterone, performance anxiety: The list of what can sap your appetite for sex goes on and on. But getting help can often get your sex drive back on track. And men, says Fields, are more open to talking about sex problems than ever before.
"We have [former Senator] Bob Dole to thank for that," he says. "Discussions about erectile dysfunction are increasingly common. I have two to three conversations about it each week."
If other men are talking about it, so can you. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine what's causing the problem. Just don't be surprised if you end up on the couch.
Nehra sees many patients with low libido in his urology practice, but he doesn't hesitate to refer them to a psychologist when the problems don't originate below the belt.