A concerned man sitting at his computer.
The Bible sets the average human lifespan as threescore and ten years.
But while the Kenyan woman may expect to live for these seventy years, the average Kenyan man will pass away at the age of 64.
And on this month of June, dedicated to ‘men’s health’ the world over, it is important that we find out why this is so, in a way and manner that is holistic; as men are still considered to be the leaders of society and family, in some ways, and key breadwinners in most two-parent families.
Dr. Gabriel Njue, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Bliss Healthcare, says they see many male patients, all across Kenya, in their 77 facilities that span over 40 counties in the country.
He says heart issues (cardiovascular), hypertension, lung and prostate cancers, diabetes, and arthritis are the key serious things they can catch and mitigate against if caught early.
And these are the severe health issues that commonly afflict Kenyan men.
We still want to know why our women will outlive us, men, by six years, a long time (and if you want to know, teleport yourself back to mid – 2015, and think of everything that has gone on in your life since then until now).
“Men simply live riskier lifestyles,” Dr. Gabriel Njue tells us.
“They are in riskier jobs, physically. They drink and drive; they drink more (than women) even when not driving, more men are smokers as compared to women (12% of men, compared to 7% of women), their sexual lifestyles are riskier, including lack of prophylactics, and all these things just add up, tick tock, tick tock, until a man’s clock stops! Six years earlier than woman’s.”
The Bliss Healthcare COO also speaks of our ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’ culture.
“You will find that many ‘African’ men simply do not confide their psychological issues to anyone. Instead, they drown their pain with alcohol or numb their pain with drug abuse. Which tots up their health tab.’
Another example Dr. Njue gives is how men are supposed to ‘tough it out’ with ailments.
‘A man has a persistent headache, but he just takes ‘Mara Moja’ kila saa, until one day, he gets a stroke. You are taking allergesics for chest pains, or have urination issues for years, or see blood in the stool from time to time, but just self-medicate,’ he warns. ‘Then you find kumbe you had a heart issue that has now ballooned, or prostate or colon cancer at a more advanced stage.”
The Bliss Healthcare COO says men must stop this ‘health-seeking avoidance behavior,’ and ‘regularly visit the clinic for a thorough health check,’ if they are to claw their way towards 70.
Wahu Kagwe told us the touching story of how a few years ago, her husband, David Mathenge, kept complaining of ‘mild head pain,’ – until the day he got a seizure and ‘had to be rushed’ to hospital – where he got admitted for over a week. ‘I thank God my husband recovered,’ she says gratefully.
Many other men, even moguls, are not as fortunate as Mr. Mathenge, better known as Nameless, was and have paid the ultimate prize for this laissez fair attitude to life/living.
In his memoirs ‘Another Life,’ the legendary publisher Michael Korda writes of meeting the Gulf & Western tycoon, Charles G. Bluhdorn, whom he described as ‘an energetic man in his early fifties, with a wild look in his eyes (of one who barely gets sleep), and the red complexion of someone whose blood pressure is off the scale. Someone too busy to bother with either watching his diet or pay attention to exercise. In the end, it came as no surprise when he died suddenly of a heart attack on his private plane, on his way to the Dominican Republic, at age 56.’
‘On your birthday, gentlemen,’ Dr. Gabriel Njue counsels, ‘cut a cake but also go to the clinic to check your blood sugar. While there, give yourself a birthday treat by making it a priority to get screening tests, which we subsidise. Check your height vis a vis weight, to obstruct against obesity, and our nutritionists will advise on diet. Kenyan men like beer and nyama choma too much. Men can control and avoid health issues, or modify behavior to control those that cannot avoid, like pressure or diabetes.’
The Bliss Healthcare COO closes with the example of a Man and his Machine.
‘You don’t wait till your car breaks down on Uhuru Highway, or the engine knocks, before you take it for service,’ he says. ‘Gentlemen, treat your bodies the same way you treat your vehicles. You don’t have to be sick to get regular check-ups at the clinic or at death’s door before seeing a doctor. Put these things on your schedule. It may just save your life one day.’
For just as cars run smoothly from regular servicing, so do our bodies from regular check-ups.
And Dr. Njue wishes to see that odometer hit at least 70 years, or more, for Kenyan men.