The male health care crisis…!?


Wait! A male health care crisis? Some thoughts about tough guys and health care after the recent death of James Gandolfini, (aka Tony Soprano.)

You know the joke

You know the joke. A man and woman are driving around lost. She wants him to stop and ask for directions. (This is obviously before GPS.) He insists, “No, we’re just a few turns away…I know exactly where we are.”

He doesn’t.

Or perhaps you know the other joke. The guy is assembling the latest piece of furniture. The arm rest ends up where the leg should be. The woman asks if he read the directions.

“There were directions!” He acts surprised.

We see these tired old scenario repeated in the same kind of TV comedies, because it’s kind of true to life. Guys do kind of act like that sometimes…

Why men don’t like asking for help

Is it just because guys are proud and insecure? Or is there something deeper happening here? Something deeper that has consequences for all kinds of things beyond assembling furniture, like health and relationships?

Well it’s time to blow the lid off a secret that will make this male mystery a little more understandable.

You see, most men don’t like asking for help. At least in some areas of their lives. That’s not really the secret. The secret is why.

The idea that most makes sense to me comes from evolutionary psychology. But, you could also just call it common sense. It says a lot of what we do is just us running programs we received from our ancestors. From thousands of years ago.

Thousands of years ago when our ancestors lived at a time when life was more a of a struggle. When food had to be found, captured, or killed. When there were no police, just your ability to defend yourself, or have someone defend you. When having a bunch of kids was necessary for your village to live.

When life was a struggle, strong guys were rewarded for being strong. Asking for help was seen as a weakness. Strong guys got honor. Warriors were heroes, and their genes were passed on. Men did the dangerous stuff, because women and children were too valuable to lose.

(Think about it: without women and children there was no future. That’s why on the deck of the Titanic men were heard yelling “Women and children first!”)

In some ways that same way of living is still here with us. For example, we make heroes out of high school football players that play injured, placing their still developing bodies at permanent risk for injury. It seems kind of crazy, but we do.

Tough guys also still take on most of the dangerous jobs:

  • Men make up 93% of all fatal workplace accidents.
  • And while more women than ever are now in the military, men make up 97% of all combat deaths and casualties since Gulf War I.

Tough guys are heroes. Some of these tough guys  have made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives for their friends, family, and country.

And even when they act like criminals, like Jame’s Gandfolfini’s character Tony Soprano, tough guys can still capture our imaginations, and make us want to know how the story ends.

The downside of being a hero

Being a hero has its downside, though. Tough guys often suffer more than they need to. Not asking for help, helps them appear strong. But it’s also its own kind of weakness.

  • For example, tough guys suffer when it comes to getting help with depression. According to the the CDC, about 80% of all people who successfully end their lives are men.
  • On average, women outlive men by about seven years and it’s been like this for a while. (This wasn’t the case 100 years ago when men and women had the same length of life.)
  • Women tend to pay a little more for health care premiums because they tend to go to the doctor more often, and spend more money on health care. A lot men can’t be bothered and some pay for it with their lives.

Perhaps the epitome of the tough guy, the average Joe who rose above the rest and gained notoriety, was James Gandolfini. Gandolfini played the patriarch of the Soprano family on the incredibly popular HBO television series, The Sopranos, which ended in 2007. After struggling with extra weight, an addiction to alcohol, and a history of drug use, Gondolfini collapsed June 19th, dying of a massive heart attack.

According to reports, he had been drinking heavily at dinner, while on vacation in Italy. As far as we know, the first and only symptom of Gandolfini’s heart attack was death. He was only 51 and leaves behind a 13 year old son.

Tough guys tend to say the five most dangerous words in health care: Maybe it will go away.

This is just as much the case for the health of their spine and their nervous systems as it is for their hearts.

Most tough guys believe that dying to save someone is heroic. But it’s also just as heroic to live a longer, fuller life with them as well.

As a chiropractor friend of mine says, “If you’d die for your kids, then consider the possibility of living longer for them too.”

Recently I had someone (a tough guy) in the practice tell me, “I hate doctors. But I like you. You’re the only one who’s ever been able to help me.”

Do you have a tough guy in your life? Maybe it s a father, a husband, or a brother? Invite him to consider how his spine is affecting his ability to work, to play, and to be the tough guy he wants to be.

After all, the spine, especially the top of the neck, influences the health of the heart, the lungs, the digestive tract, and the immune system.  I know a few tough guys in my life that need help in those areas. Do you?

James Gandolfini photo acquired here.

Written by Dr. Ward

Father. Foodie. And dedicated upper cervical chiropractor. Find me practicing gentle upper cervical care in Oakland County, Michigan. Have a question or comment? I'm at your service. Reach me at my Auburn Hills chiropractic practice: (248) 598-4002. Or on Google +, Facebook, or Twitter.

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