Fellas, Let’s Talk: Part 1
If there is one thing we fellas can learn from the ladies, it is how to talk to each other – especially other males in our families - about our health issues.
Very often when I, as a nurse practitioner, am discussing family medical histories with male patients during physical exams, I hear something like, “my dad had some kind of cancer, but I don’t know the details because we never spoke about it.” On the flip side, I find that the female patients often know a lot more about their family medical history – especially concerning specific health issues that their mothers may have experienced.
Why is it important to know your family’s health history? Because it helps your providers to take better care of you. For example, according to the American College of Physicians, the average healthy patient who has no family history of colon cancer will likely be screened starting at the age of 50 if there are no identifiable risks. However, if there are first-degree relatives who have had colon cancer, especially at an early age, the patient may be recommended for colon cancer screening as early as the age of 40, or even at the age at which the youngest relative was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Such an example not only applies to colon cancer but to other medical conditions, too. In fact, many chronic conditions such as diabetes or even high blood pressure have a hereditary component.
For example, if your provider ever told you that you were diabetic or even pre-diabetic, this would be great information to share with other members of your family since this information could be used as a motivating factor. In letting other family members know that they may be genetically predisposed to diabetes, they could adjust their lifestyles in order to reduce their risks. You could open the door for the entire family to keep each other accountable in order to live healthier together. This information could also help your family members’ providers optimize the type of care they provide to them.
Although I have emphasized here communicating your health history with other males in the family, it is equally as important to do so with females in the family.
In many cultures, men are trained to behave as if they are strong and invincible. Keeping this in mind, it is easy to understand how sharing your health history with other members in the family can make one feel vulnerable. However, when you think about it, a single instance of vulnerability can make a huge difference for the health outcomes of the others in your family. So fellas, let’s talk more – with each other as well as the females in the family!