Men’s health: We need to talk

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Men are losing the battle of the sexes when it comes to health. More men than women die in numerous disease state categories, including heart disease, lung and colon cancers, influenza, chronic liver disease, and more, according to CDC statistics. Pharmacists are in a position to encourage men to get important health screenings and can even provide screenings at the pharmacy’s onsite clinic, if available. Pharmacists can also counsel men about prescription and OTC medications as well as answer questions about a broad range of health topics.


Macho, macho man?


Whether because of an ostrich mentality, the “John Wayne syndrome,” or some other reason, many men are often reluctant to seek medical help, follow health advice, or schedule necessary tests and screenings. 


“A lot of men are reluctant to go to the doctor unless they absolutely have to, but they will go to the pharmacy to see about medications that can help them with a condition,” said Brandon Leonard, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Men’s Health Network. “[A pharmacy visit] is a great opportunity for men to interact with a health care professional about their concerns.”


Ask the right questions


One of the best ways pharmacists can promote health education is to ask men questions and dig deeper to learn more about health problems or symptoms. “There is a perception among many who work in health and medicine that men don’t want to talk,” said Leonard in an interview with Pharmacy Today. “Actually, the key is to ask the right questions and make a guy feel comfortable. After that, they often up and share more than expected.”


Leonard noted that it is important to understand what motivates men to take action about their health and use language that resonates for them. “For example, the idea of taking charge of your health so that you can be in control of your life may be more effective than simply ‘taking care of yourself,’” he said. “Being there for family and friends is another big motivator for a lot of men, and they can’t be effective in that role unless they are in control of their own health.”


Many men tend to respond well to facts and numbers, and respect confidence from the person speaking to them. “When possible, providing straightforward, proven advice can be very effective,” Leonard added.


Men’s issues


There are numerous health conditions about which pharmacists can provide information and guidance to men. “Managing blood pressure and cholesterol are two of the key components related to heart health that many men are concerned about,” explained Leonard, who is a board member of the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE). 


Pharmacists can also answer questions related to prostate health and discuss concerns about sexual health, such as erectile dysfunction. “Another big issue for men is low testosterone, which can have effects on everything from their libido to their mood and energy level,” Leonard told Today. “In all of these cases, it’s important for both men and their health care providers to consider conditions that may be related, including heart disease and diabetes.” 


Medication safety


Many men have jam-packed work schedules and high-pressure jobs, factors that contribute to the difficulty of blocking out time for a doctor’s appointment. During an appointment, men may not take the time to ask their doctor for specific information about their medication regimens or new prescriptions. 


“One of the big challenges for every­one, but particularly for men, is medication adherence,” said Leonard. “Pharmacists can help men understand the importance of establishing a routine and sticking with the entire treatment plan.”


Pharmacists can direct patients to NCPIE’s Talk Before You Take initiative at www.talkaboutrx.org to learn more about adherence to prescription and OTC medications. The website also has tips for patients to use when talking to their doctor or pharmacist about medications.


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