Risky living

HEALTH professionals are appealing to Jamaican men to monitor their health as more males suffer from elevated blood pressure and have a shorter life expectancy than women.

Although the Ministry of Health and Wellness was unable to provide data on the economic impact of men suffering from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), it revealed that 24 per cent of men suffer from elevated blood pressure in comparison to 19 per cent of women.

“We find that men generally don’t come to us, sometimes, until it is too late to do much about their illnesses. As to the reason for this, I am not sure. It could be cultural, or it could be the fact that many men believe they should always show that they are strong even when the occasion doesn’t call for it,” explained Dr Dwayne Hall, consultant general surgeon at Cornwall Regional Hospital.

Dr Hall noted that NCDs are those diseases not transferable by contact but rather developed through family genetics, degenerative changes, or unhealthy lifestyle habits, and argued that more men need to adopt better health-seeking behaviours because male life expectancy in Jamaica is 72 years while for women it is 76 years.

Health professionals have underscored that although more women in Jamaica suffer from NCDs than men, more males may actually be affected than the figures suggest.

“Generally, because females have better health-seeking behaviours it would appear as though females have a higher prevalence of noncommunicable diseases than men but this may not necessarily be the case — and this is why we are encouraging men to take monitoring their health seriously, especially as it relates to illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes,” Dr Hall added.

The consultant general surgeon added that there are also misconceptions about medication and treatment for NCDs.

“Some Jamaicans have the false understanding that one month’s supply of medication for hypertension and diabetes mellitus will cure the disease. They will additionally say, ‘I’m not claiming this disease, doc. And, if I start medications I know I won’t ever come off them, and this is not the life I want’,” noted Dr Hall.

“Then, you have some Jamaican men who stay away from medications for hypertension as they say it affects their nature and make them ineffective. So, the hypertension will go unchecked for months, resulting in complications such as kidney failure, stroke and heart attacks.

Whole foods nutritionist Dr Elloreen Pryce explained that when it comes to NCDs and taking their health seriously, some men are often unwilling to seek, or follow medical advice.

“From my experience, many men do not take their health seriously,” said Dr Pryce.

“When you tell them to check their prostate, especially if they’re over 40, some will ask why it is important or make some excuse as to why they won’t do it.

“They can be very difficult to work with when it comes to things that may impact their health positively. If you say to them, ‘Eat more vegetables,’ they may say they aren’t rabbits or other animals. If you say to them, ‘Cut down on the alcohol,’ they will raise objections. In fact, in preparing their meal plans, if you say, ‘Cut down on the meat,’ they’ll ask what you expect them to eat,” added Dr Pryce, who also wants men to be more proactive when it comes to their health.

“There’s an adage that says when you see men at the doctor, it’s because they are extremely ill or were taken there by a woman. We want men to dispel this notion of not visiting the doctors until it is too late. We want them to take care of themselves so they can be around us for a long time,” said Dr Pryce.

In the meantime, Hugh Reid, general manager of JN Life Insurance, pointed out that even when it comes to acquiring life insurance for protection against critical illnesses, men are less likely to purchase a policy than women.

“When we look at our data here at JN Life Insurance, women outnumber men two to one when it comes to our client base. We need men to take their health seriously because of the impact it has on our economy and families who lose their male breadwinners in the most productive years of their lives,” said Reid.

Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness have revealed that NCDs and injuries are a major public health burden in Jamaica, and are the leading cause of death.

In 2015 an estimated seven out of 10 Jamaicans died from the four major NCDs — cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic lower respiratory disease.

The ministry adds that an individual suffering from NCDs spends approximately one third of the household per capita expenditure on health-care services and the purchase of pharmaceutical drugs.

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