By John Hanc
He doesn't eat his broccoli. He never used that gym membership you gave him. He hasn't seen a doctor since his accident with the weed whacker a few years back. And as for the annual prostate exam he's supposed to get—well, do you have to ask?
This man sounds all too familiar to millions of women. Men are far less likely than women to adhere to almost every recommended healthy behavior, from checkups to workouts. Women take better care of themselves and, perhaps not coincidentally, tend to live about five years longer than men. "Plus, men get sicker at much younger ages," says Harvey B. Simon, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Experts have begun to investigate why, in the long run, men—who can generally bench-press more weight and throw footballs farther than women—turn out to be the sicklier sex. Some of it is physiological. For example, while both men and women gain weight over the years, women usually carry the extra baggage on their hips, thighs, and buttocks—which may make trying on bathing suits unpleasant but is not dangerous. Men, on the other hand, typically gain around the belly, increasing their risk of heart attack and stroke.
But this is not the whole story. Behavior—typically "bad" when it comes to males—plays a huge role. "Too many men view manliness as being able to keep up drink for drink, polishing off a big steak, taking risks, and going without sleep," says James Mahalik, Ph.D., professor in the counseling psychology program at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
While you can't change your husband's DNA, you can challenge some of his perceptions and help alter a few of those not-so-good habits.