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The Art of Male Maintenance

June 23, 2005, Vol. III Issue 13

Dear Friends,

I’m writing this issue ahead of time, as this week I’m at the Spirit of Women Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, along with speakers Bonnie Dean, Sue Kirby and Jana Stanfield. We’ll be immersing ourselves in women’s health issues, learning and leading at the same time as they will each be showcasing and emceeing during the four days of presentations and activities.

Spirit of Women is a network of healthcare professionals, corporate partners, and consumers. They’re committed to making healthcare and wellness a priority that is a pleasure to pursue. That’s a perfect alignment for us! We’re honored to be invited to be affiliated with Spirit of Women as a Preferred Provider. Thank you Michele Wood, St. Francis Health Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, for being the power link to this circle of connections.

We’ll have lots to report next time. Meanwhile, the focus is on men’s health this month, as an outreach from women’s health as women customarily assume the role of caretakers for their families and everyone else on the block. Happy Summer. I hope it’s happening in your part of the world. We’re beginning to see some sun here in the Northwest, and baby robins have hatched on my porch, grown quickly, and are ready to fly.

Yours truly,

The Art of Male Maintenance

June is Men’s Health Month, the perfect time to feature “The Art of Male Maintenance, How to Keep The Men in Your Life Healthy.” I have to admit I borrowed this title from a talk I attended last week. It was part of the monthly Speaking of Women brown bag lunch series sponsored by Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and held at Nordstrom in downtown Portland.

I love the title because it speaks to the influential role of women in the healthcare of their men. As a matter of fact, in telephone conversations recently with two of my speakers, they mentioned they were on the way to pick up or drop off their husbands for colonoscopies. Now, I quite frankly, remember it took me a while to talk myself into making that appointment for myself, and I’d bet you 9 to 1 the women in their lives made their appointments! (In retrospect I am very glad I had the screening and it wasn’t nearly as bad as my imagination made it up to be. Besides, after the fasting, I rewarded myself with gourmet pizza, a real treat for me!)

Back to the men. “Men traditionally have only sought healthcare at the end of life, or when they perceive ‘something needs fixing,’” Melanie Sauvain, MD, told us at the OHSU brown bag lunch. She noted that men at ages 20-30, die at nearly 4 times the rate of women in this age group. At age 42, heart disease becomes the leading killer of men, and kills about twice as many men as women in this age group.

There are three things she gave us that as women we can do to help our men stay healthy and prevent disease. She said we can remind them of certain screening tests, suggest they take preventive medicine if needed, and encourage them to practice healthy behaviors.

Dr. Sauvain also gave us some ideas to help implement new healthcare habits with men. She recommended birthdays as a good way to earmark annual screenings. That makes sense. Many women I know make this their marker for a mammogram. She said to pick your targets, refer to male role models and talk over any healthcare information you’re offering him. You can also facilitate the healthcare appointment by making it for him. Just think, wouldn’t it be easier for you if someone made your mammogram appointment for you? I know . . . I know. . . What the heck, it’s part of our job.

Dr. Sauvain also stressed the same lifestyle makeover elements we’re always recommending for women to create better long-term results: a healthy diet, regular exercise, periodic check-ups and strategies for coping with stress.

Now we all know from experience that men and women experience the exact same situation differently. When it comes to exercise, I learned that men and women have fundamentally different motivators. Dr. Sauvain said that most men are functional exercisers. They exercise to have a good time, to play and to compete. They don’t
exercise just to exercise. This is useful information if you’re trying and failing to get your man off the couch and into the gym.

She also talked about mental health and its connection with the physical, noting that hostility in men (and not merely Type A Personality) is associated with early death from heart disease. “If emotions were colors, men have black and white and women have a whole palate of colors,” she said. “Social conditioning for men allows expressions of anger rather than other emotions they may be feeling. Their nonverbal communications often carry the emotional messages.”

For those of you wanting more information on this topic, Dr. Sauvain recommended the book, “From Boys to Men: A Woman’s Guide to the Health of Husbands, Partners, Sons, Fathers and Brothers,” by Emily Senay, MD.

Brown Bagging at Nordstrom

The OHSU Speaking of Women brown bag lunch series at Nordstrom (referenced above) is very well attended although it’s not about numbers, Wendy Mitchell, Program Manager for OHSU’s Center for Women’s Health told me. “If we reach one woman and change her life because of the medical information we give her, that’s success for us and this program.”

“In order to make effective use of today’s medical systems we need to be well-educated consumers,” she continued. “It is therefore more important than ever for women to learn as much as possible about their own health issues and the those of their families. In so doing they empower themselves to achieve optimal health.

“Through these programs, women become ambassadors. We all know women talk. They go home and tell their friends and neighbors what they’ve learned. We’re making ambassador health educators with every woman who attends.”

The series is free, no reservations necessary and held at noon, the second Thursday of the month, September through June (and also repeated later in the month on the OHSU campus). Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch or order from the Nordstrom café for pickup. I receive an email notification the week before and a reminder the day of the event.

While brown bag lunches aren’t anything new, I think the location of these gives the concept a unique twist. It’s a way of taking the information out to the people rather than having them always come to the information. Nordstrom keeps hosting the program so I’m guessing they experience a sales increase right before and after that noon hour once a month. If any of you would like to borrow the idea, I’m sure Wendy would be very pleased.

Coming Home to an Empty Nest

Every time I walk out my front door these days, I get to talk to the baby robins nested in the rafters of my front porch, reassuring them that I’m a friend. As of this writing, they are becoming highly visible. I can see them poking at their wings, probably trying to figure out what those things are for. When Mom or Dad brings a tasty morsel, there’s a raucous chorus of peeping voices. I’m going to miss that.

When I first moved to Oregon, finches made a nest in an artificial wreath (no kidding!) hanging outside on the wall of my apartment balcony. I literally had a bird’s eye view of that nest. One morning, I was aware of a lot of noisy activity, and it turned out it was the parent birds urging the fledglings to fly. One by one they’d been getting up on the edge of the nest and waving their wings, strengthening them, I imagine. Then each would retreat. It was evident that morning, however, there would be no retreating. It was time to take flight. Eventually, from a respectable distance in my living room, I got to see three of the four take off, one by one, disappearing into the branches of a tree across the way. The last one was really a treat. I kept wondering how it, suddenly alone in what had been over capacity housing, was thinking/feeling. The entire process was really an honor to witness. And then I was left with an empty nest.

The robins have been coming to nest on the porch of my house every year. I like to think they like my hospitality. Not knowing the life cycle of robins, and as they always come dressed in look-alike feathers, I have no idea whether they are the same parents, the new kids, or complete strangers who nest here. All I know is that I treasure the experience every spring when, all of a sudden a new nest appears in the rafters.

Unfortunately for me, the positioning of the robin’s nest does not give the great view I had of the finches at the apartment. If they could, I’m sure the robins would have posted the porch with a Do Not Disturb sign. They seem to be more tolerant of my coming and going lately, actually staying on the nest with the kids as I enter and exit. I marvel at how these baby birds will learn to fly. These baby robins can’t see the sky they will learn to soar in, as the finches on my balcony did. They’re looking up at a painted white ceiling and it looks to me like their direction of exit and learning to fly is straight toward my picture windows. Must be their parents will give them left and right directions, as well as take-off specifications.

When I return from my trip next week, they will all be gone. Once again, they’ll have brought home the message that comes with an empty nest: beginnings and endings are made of the moments in between. Make the most of them.

Until next time, take care of yourself, for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,


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