Did you know it's Men's Health Week?
Sometimes it feels like there is always some sort of "week" being held, but as someone who has a lot of great blokes in her life, I reckon this is one we need to take seriously.
According to the NSW Heart Foundation, heart disease is responsible for nearly 13 per cent of deaths in Australian men.
More than 30 per cent of men in Australia have high cholesterol and almost 75 per cent are overweight or obese. One-quarter have high to severe blood pressure levels.
You know, we have done a reasonable job over the decades of breaking down outdated gender stereotypes, but when it comes to men's health, we have a long way to go.
It is hard to imagine an area where the "strong, silent type" approach is more outdated than when it comes to health issues. There is nothing inappropriate or unmanly about wanting to look after your health and it's more important, not less so, as we age.
Why is it that many people still think it's perfectly acceptable for teenage boys and young men to be health and image conscious, but as they age they're supposed to somehow develop superpowers that make them impervious to ill-health?
Well, sod that.
Can I say - as a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a mother, a partner and a friend to a great bunch of blokes - that you really do need to take care of yourselves? Call me selfish, but since these blokes are so important to me, I want them around - and healthy - for as long as possible.
Jonathan Bedloe, the president of the Australian Men's Health Forum, this week made some comments about the health of men in the ACT, but it is worth taking a look at his words because they apply all over Australia, not just within the national capital.
Can I say - as a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, a mother, a partner and a friend to a great bunch of blokes - that you really do need to take care of yourselves?
"This report card on the state of men and boys' health in the ACT tells us we must do better. Our sons are less educated than our daughters. Our brothers die younger than our sisters. Our fathers are more likely to die at work than our mothers. Our male friends are more likely to die by suicide than our female friends," Mr Bedloe said.
"The solution to these problems is not to stop working to improve the lives of women and girls, but to increase our efforts to tackle the issues facing men and boys. This means investing more time, money and resources into helping health services become more male-friendly and focused on the needs of men and boys.
"It also means looking at the wider social factors that shape men's health, which include boys' education, our experiences of fatherhood, our working lives, our financial wellbeing and our social connections."
Me Bedloe's got a huge point and since we have to start somewhere in acting on his advice, the Heart Foundation has issued a few reminders for our beloved blokes on how they can take care of themselves:
- Get a heart health check.
A new Medicare-funded heart health check is available to all Australians. If you're over 45, or an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander over 30, arrange one today. Your doctor will look at a range of factors about your heart health and help you devise a plan to stay well.
- Be more active more often.
More than 81 per cent of Australian men do not meet physical activity guidelines. You should be active on most days of the week, and preferably all, aiming for at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
A healthy eating pattern doesn't focus on one type of food or one particular nutrient. Heart-healthy eating relies on a combination of foods, chosen regularly, over time. A good pattern gives us food that is low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugar, and rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats.
- Quit smoking.
Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, not to mention a host of other health problems. Act now to quit.
None of this stuff is rocket science and a lot of it is just as important for Australian women, but we're not talking about them. We're trying to get blokes to look after themselves a little more carefully.
Men's Health Week may not come with a prettily-coloured ribbon, but that doesn't make its message any less important.