Men's health over 50 and living in denial

Posted by Anthony Page

Shall I, Shan’t I go to the doctor? It's a question we all face as we age. Overcoming fear or embarrassment is crucial if you want to enjoy a healthy retirement says Tony Page.

health concerns for older menAgeing is a strange process – while your body gradually changes and some would say declines, the mind and your maturity grow and enhance and while these conflicts battle things out the ego in all of us goes into serious denial – ‘I’m not getting old and I can do everything I always have done!’ If only?

My first realization that I was getting less able than I was, was when ‘little Fred’ didn’t wave at me in the morning any more. ‘Too much whisky last night – mental note use smaller glasses!’. My next experience in this fascinating  unique decline (well it’s unique to me) was a little stumble as I was going downstairs – rather than quickly regaining my balance I went into gyrations that would have done credit to Cirque du Soleil! Since then I’ve had a number of little experiences that tell me I’m now walking on a downward path – dim lights and reading; noise that hides speech; the need to hold on rather than rush; the wobble that turns into a stumble that turns into a fall!Two bad experiences – both falls have now put me on serious notice that care rather than haste is the order of the day.

I have all my life searched for this thing that older people have – gravitas. I never found it until now – it is just the need to focus on doing what we have always done naturally rather than gallop along with bravado - it gives you an air of seriousness and contemplation (gravitas). The world admires it and you are just grateful no one has noticed you have peed on you trousers!

Now while all these are obvious declines we have the hidden worries – blood pressure, loss of breath, aching joints, tiredness creeping up at 8pm as opposed to midnight. They are all signs of the inevitability of ageing. So when does natural and unavoidable ‘running down’ turn into something more serious? I have always been conscious of my health – well except when it comes to eating!

I have not been one of the men who hold garlic and silver crosses at the name plate of the local doctors’ practice! Why men have this absolute aversion to going and getting things checked out baffles me. If it was their car and they heard a rattle – the bonnet would be up in a flash ... or for the less mechanically minded among us, down to the local garage. So why do we ignore the health signals our body gives?

At one of my early ‘middle aged check ups’ my doctor told me my cholesterol was too high and I had a choice of going on a tight food regime or take a statin tablet  once a day. That was 18 years ago and my blood pressure and cholesterol are now normal! It would have been no consolation to me, or my family, had I ignored his advice and had to rue 'If only' from the cardiac arrest room at the hospital.

Now some of the necessary examinations can be more embarrassing  than others – that terrible ‘finger’ for the prostate examination ‘Ooops, there now that didn’t hurt did it?’ Or the cast of thousands in the room as the doctor starts the colonoscopy , ‘Good God, that nurse is younger than my daughter!’. These two are about the worse that can happen and they are over in minutes and if it’s this or dying unnecessarily then I know which one I go for.

Remember what George Burns said, ‘It’s not that I’m old but I just don’t buy green bananas anymore!’. We should all live that long.

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