By: James Kuan, MD
In preparing to write this post, I got to thinking about the curveballs 2020 has already thrown our way. We believed the Australian wildfires would be the story of the year, but then the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world, and of course this month the crisis surrounding the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd.
All of this has me re-thinking what I was going to write, when so many have lost their jobs, businesses, social connections, relationships and loved ones.
As a urologist who primarily treats men’s health issues, I know that men aren’t always good at asking for help. They are half as likely to seek help from a doctor, compared to women, so I initially set out to provide an inventory of the things that men should know about their health in order to motivate or shock them into action:
- Men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with cancer. It’s 1 in 2!
- Men are more likely than women to die of heart disease, complications of diabetes, liver disease, and more than 90% of work-related deaths are men.
- Men are at greater risk of misuse and death related to alcohol
- Men have higher rates of suicide, and are more likely to die in motor vehicle collisions
- Sleep apnea is the “not so silent killer” of men, and a sleep study can diagnose this.
It’s all important stuff, and I’d also encourage men to see a primary care doctor to get screening for heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, get prostate cancer exam and PSA blood test, get a colonoscopy, seek help for depression or substance issues…and like that, the post would write itself.
Still it didn’t seem like enough, given the circumstance of the times. Men’s health in this moment, is more than just checking boxes and listing the facts. Also, I couldn’t get a line from a Foo Fighters’ song to stop playing over and over in in my head:
It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again
It's times like these you learn to love again
It's times like these time and time again
For me, 2020 is about learning to live again, and preparing for another curveball. As men, what we can control, in the world, is how we take care of our mind, our body, our hearts, our spirit and our community. To do this requires attention, focus and practice.
I recommend men develop a toolbox of sorts. Borrow the tools from the self-help world. Use them to address the personal stress of a changing world, the uncertainty of working during a quarantine, the challenges of relationships, the COVID-19 weight gain, the depression, the boredom, the loss of ritual like graduations, funerals, weddings and birthdays…the list goes on.
- Trust: Pause and trust your instincts and trust that the storm will settle. Trust that we can navigate the turmoil and there is opportunity for growth, even now.
- Resilience: This is the practice of letting go of things we can’t control and working through, around or amongst the curveballs. It is letting go of the way things used to be, our failures, owning our mistakes and forging a path forward toward success.
- Golden rule: Do unto others what you would have them do to you. Honor your word and be clear with your intentions and align your actions with your values. Be gracious and lead with your best in matters pertaining to yourself and others. We are all in this together, and we all deserve the best.
- Community: Seek out social support from your communities and offer support to those in your community and access professional support when needed, that’s why we are here.
- Commitment to ourselves: Honor yourself by committing to a goal that moves you forward in a way that is important to you (nutrition, exercise, relationship, career). Break the goal down into bite size pieces that you can handle and work toward being consistent with your new practice at least 80% of the time, forget about perfection and be prepared for missteps.
Finally, let’s remember that we have each other. Whether it is Men’s Health Week or not, now more than ever, when we are isolated physically, we must connect socially to remain grounded.
There are many resources at Swedish to help you take your first step, in honor of Men’s Health Week. We would be honored to participate in your path to better health and well-being. We can even do this by maintaining physical distance. Swedish offers virtual video visits in several primary care and specialty clinics:
- Swedish Primary Care: General health screening, health maintenance, chronic health management, behavioral and addictions support
- Swedish Urology: Prostate cancer screening / management, male sexual dysfunction, low testosterone, vasectomy planning, prostate enlargement
- Swedish Behavioral Health: Depression, stress and anxiety, substance use, loss/grief
Dr. James K. Kuan, M.D., FRCS, FAC, is the Medical Director for Swedish urology clinic. The guiding principle in his practice is to provide care that optimizes and improves a man’s quality of life. His clinical specialties include urinary and sexual issues after prostate cancer treatment, penile prosthetic implants and urinary incontinence.
Dr. Kuan practices at Swedish First Hill.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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