Men, women, and taking care of your health. See any differences?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2014-02-28 22:50:14 -0600
Started 2014-02-23 16:40:49 -0600

I am dating myself here, but back when I was a kid there was a song from the musical “My Fair Lady” that I used to hear on the radio stations my parents played when we were in the car. The song was called, “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?”

Now that’s not a song you hear much anymore, if at all. And certainly not a question that’s going to make you very popular. Assuming it even makes any sense these days.

However, it reminds me of a question I often hear from women as well as from healthcare professionals. It goes something like: “Why can’t men take as much personal responsibility for their health care as women do?”

Women talk to me about how they have to push their husbands to go to the doctor, to tell them what they learned when they do go, and how they have to push and prod their husbands to follow their diets and stay compliant with their self-care. And they complain about how much work it is for them to keep pushing. I hear that here on Diabetic Connect as well.

This might include trying to manage his food intake, making doctor’s appointments, and searching out healthcare information. Exhausting

And I have had similar conversations with healthcare professionals.

Now let me just say that I talk to a lot of men who are taking full responsibility for their healthcare. If not giving their partners a push in the right direction. So I don’t mean to paint all men with the same broad brush.

I am interested to know what your experiences have been.

Women, have you had to do a little more of the work than you would like to do in encouraging your husband to take care of his health? What’s that like for you?

Or is he good about taking responsibility, if not even watching out for you?

And men, do you leave the heavy lifting to your wife? Or do you feel like you are taking pretty good care of yourself? And giving your wife encouragement as well?

And for men and women: Any tips to share on how to help your partner take more responsibility for his/her healthcare? Anything that’s worked for you?

Really looking forward to hearing what you have to say on this one!

31 replies

CaliKo 2014-02-28 17:29:21 -0600 Report

Hi Dr. Gary, How are you doing?
My husband and I have different health concerns, and we each take responsibility for our own care. Having said that, I consider his dietary needs when I prepare meals, as well as my own, but since I do most of the cooking, he doesn't have to worry about my meal plan much. Just on our restaurant choices when eating out.
I do keep up with both of our doctor appts on a common calendar, and try to remember to check with him to make sure he remembers his appts.
He has been very supportive of me, especially when I decided to set up a home office and work freelance, which allows me to get more sleep and work in exercise time either before work or on my lunch hour or a slow afternoon as my work load allows. It's working out pretty good, but I was (maybe naively) surprised that sometimes it's more stressful than when I worked for a corporation.
I'm grateful I don't have to push my husband to take care of himself, we are both trying to be as healthy as we can be, in order to more fully enjoy our lives.
Good question, Dr. Gary!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-28 22:50:14 -0600 Report

Hi CaliKo!

Great to see you. You know, you were one of my first friends on Diabetic Connect, back in the summer of 2010. We go back a long way!!! Thanks for checking in.

Nice to hear your husband is taking responsibility for his healthcare. I wish I heard more stories like that. It helps him to stay healthier, and it means one less thing to add stress to your life. That's great.

And good to know you have been able to work at home. That allows you to match your work day with your physical rhythms. But I know what you mean about self employment. It takes some stress away, but can add other stress. I go through the same thing.

I really appreciate that you checked in. It's so good to be back in touch, my friend.


Type1Lou 2014-02-26 17:11:44 -0600 Report

That song is one of my husband's favorites. He's a "strong. silent" type who doesn't communicate much. Luckily, at 71, he's pretty healthy and has been able to enjoy his retirement. His Dad developed Type 2 diabetes later in life and, because my hubby loves his carbs, I hope he never has to deal with diabetes. I do not insist that he follow my diet…I just don't put the carbs on my plate.. Low carb would be a radical diet change for him. He's been very supportive of me. I'd been dealing with my Type 1 for 4 years when we met in 1980 and never hid that I had diabetes. Prior to pumping (2011), I had been experiencing frequent low BG episodes and he became adept at recognizing the signs and administering glucagon when needed. I grew up with a diabetic Dad who would experience hypos without realizing it. It fell to my Mom to be ever watchful. This was back in the 1950's and 60's where there were fewer tools to help manage diabetes. After Dad died in the 1970's at age 81, my first husband asked my Mom, who was 64, whether she thought she'd remarry. Her reply was "Oh no. You might have a few good years but then they'll get sick and you have to take care of them." She loved my Dad but did not want to undertake that responsibility again. She lived another 34 years.

One "Aha" moment for me happened at a training seminar back when I was working. The speaker stated something like…"Remember, we all have a choice and not making a choice is in fact a choice" (I paraphrase it badly but you get the gist) As diabetics, no one can make us do (choose) what we need to do…it's up to us to make those choices, however difficult they may be.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-26 22:10:34 -0600 Report

Hi Lou,

Wow what a great post. Thanks a lot, my friend!

Sounds like you and your husband have a system in place for mealtime choices, he has his carbs, you don't eat them. I can understand why you would be concerned about his future. One of those things we don't have as much control over as we would like to.

We have come so far in our ability to treat diabetes, as you said. But as you also said so well, personal responsibility, taking charge of your self-care, is still the key to staying healthy. That's a great quote about choice.

Thanks a lot!


T'Leesa 2014-02-25 20:52:40 -0600 Report

My ex husband discusses every part of his health care with me. He has certainly gotten better through the years, and i do not have to encourage him to see a doctor like I used to do when we were ttogether. However, after being diagnosed with diabetes as well as hospitalized several times because of high BSLs and having one functioning kidney, he still drinks several classes of wine daily. So i am trying to remind him that he's responsible for whatever he ingests- good or bad. I am practically fanatical now about what i eat. But no one will take care of me but myself. I've got to do all I can to be healthy!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-25 22:53:20 -0600 Report

Hey T'Leesa,

Glad to hear your husband is taking better care of himself. But I agree, that drinking is not a good idea given his condition. The doctor can only help so much, as you said. He's gotta be responsible.

I am glad you are taking good care of yourself. You are a good role model for him, even if he's not watching.

Thanks for sharing this.


Jan8 2014-02-24 09:29:23 -0600 Report

My husband was so bad at taking care of his health that it finally made me sick worrying about him. he would not admit he had a stroke when he was younger, eats anything and everything. Puts up with pain so that he walks like he has a pants full of you know what. I have been told by a counselor that it's his life and I cannot say anymore to him about his health. What a relief !

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-25 22:50:57 -0600 Report

Hi Jan,

Sorry to hear about your husband. That has to be frustrating for you. I always say, we have no control over other people. We can encourage, shame, beg. But adults are still going to do what they are going to do.

I hope husband comes around and gets himself some help.


jayabee52 2014-02-24 02:28:50 -0600 Report

Howdy Dr Gary
Generally speaking I see men as protector types while ladies are nurturnig types. (this is not to deny that there are exceptions which may prove the general rule).

When I first suspected I had diabetes, I really knew nothing about it, only had some vague generalizations about those who had it. And at the time when I discovered that I might have diabetes, we were in a dire financial situation and we didn't have health insurance,. I didn't want to spend a lot of money going to a Dr and getting care, so I said nothing to my wife at the time. I suspect that had I told her of my suspicions she would have insisted on me getting Dx'd and getting care, no matter how much it cost. But at the time I saw my denying myself a Dx and care for my T2 as protecting our little family. (I have since radically changed my mind on that.)

I know that my wife, after I was Dx'd, saw that I was not taking my Met, or really caring for myself as good as I could. One Sat. as we were cleaning church, she called me into pastor's offfice and proceeded to tell me in front of him, that if I did not start taking care of my diabetes, she would divorce me. That shocked me back into taking care of my diabetes again.

She eventually did divorce me a few years later, but it was over other issues, although not caring for my diabetes thing also was mentioned kind of as an aside to some friends who tried to convince her to abandon the divorce. She said that she didn't want me to stop caring for myself and I get complications and then she'd feel "trapped", like her mother felt she did when her dad got sick with congestive heart failure.

God's best!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-25 22:49:23 -0600 Report

Hi James,

Thanks a lot for sharing your story here. Wow, this is really a testimonial to the importance of communication in a marriage, to not hide anything. It is ironic that you thought you were protecting your family but your wife felt exactly the opposite. Not taking care of yourself placed your family at risk.

Sounds like she arranged an intervention for you, and it got you moving. Whatever it takes!

I appreciate this, as always.


shortysmalls 2014-02-23 23:53:28 -0600 Report

now my hubby is good about when at I am at work, despite having circulation problems and pains in his legs, he will help keep our place clean or neat…and he comes everyday for lunch at work…and encourages me to walk alittle at lunchbreak

camerashy 2014-02-23 20:01:33 -0600 Report

The only thing I've found that gets him to the doctor when we both know that something is wrong is a question - "Is your will up-to-date?" That gets him on the run. :->

brusha-brusha 2014-02-23 19:21:13 -0600 Report

There are as many reasons for adult males to ignore their health as fish in the ocean.

Many males have been programmed by generations before us to be the bread winner, protector, and the strong one in the family. Many men have grown up, erroneously thinking that these attributes are expected of them. This probably has a lot to do with with learned behavior (usually from their own fathers.) You might even say it is a control thing. This learned behavior tells them that an ailment will pass and things will be better TOMORROW, but tomorrow sometimes turns into two weeks or more.

Some males feel going to the doctor indicates weakness. Males, brought up to be strong and to brush off cuts, bruises and sprains in childhood, carry those attitudes into adulthood. In childhood, they are told to be a big guy after injuries, that everything will be ok and that tough guys don't cry. Some males carry these learned behaviors into adulthood, even when it comes to their own health. Much of it is inherent.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-25 22:45:16 -0600 Report

Hi brusha-brusha,

Very interesting post. I appreciated your insights. I do think this has a lot to do with programming, a very good word. Guys are often to hold in their feelings, to always be the strong one, and this can keep them from getting to the doctor when they need to or otherwise paying attention to their health.

It's s shame. We see what can happen when men are holding in their stress and not getting help.

Thanks for sharing this.


margokittycat 2014-02-23 18:49:26 -0600 Report

I have been diabetic for 33+ years. I do a good job of taking care of myself. I set up all my appointments and go to them I do all my shots and BS checks ect. I do all theshopping for our family. My husband does most of the cooking.

I also have to take care of my husbands healthcare. He has had a heart condition since he was 15 years old, and been on medications ffor it since then. He had surgery at that time. he has two holes in his heart that can not be close one is were a valve should be and there was no valve so they put an artifical one in.

My husband is not good at calling in for refills when he gets low on meds, remembering if he took his meds, calling the doctor to go in for appointments to be able to get blood work done to continue his meds, ect. I will call his meds in, pick them up then I bought a pill box for him andput hispills in it so he knows if he tok them or not.

He always ask me if I took my meds if I ate ect ect. I wish he would worry about his health as much as he does about mine.

He needs to watch what he eats and drinks but he drinks pop all day long and eats fast food everyday as a truck driver, even though I buy plenty of healthy options for him to make and take his own lunch, he has a fridge and microwave in his semi truck to so there is really no reason for him to have to eat fast food.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-24 18:42:11 -0600 Report

Hi Margo,

It's been a long time since we have been in touch. Great to see you!

First, I am glad you are taking such good care of yourself. That's good news!

I wish your husband took better care of his health, too, as I am sure you do. It sounds like he knows he can rely on you. But it also sounds like he is more worried about you than he is himself, as you said, though I suspect he is not on top of ordering your meds or cooking for you. He is lucky to have you.

He is a good example of what I see in too many men. Kind of an assumption that as long as I don't pay too much attention to it, it won't be too much of a problem. If only it worked that way.

Thanks for sharing here. Your husband sounds like a great guy. I hope you can give him little pushes here and there to take better are of himself.

Nice to back in touch!

Gary .

jigsaw 2014-02-23 18:44:11 -0600 Report

I took an interest in my general health, many years ago. Even more so when I was diagnosed with diabetes. I had the misfortune, or should I say I was fortunate to see first hand what diabetes can do. Some people may need a compassionate, and gentle push with TLC. I guess we all can use it at times. For me, in addition to the TLC aspect, a big hardcore shove, along with nasty shocking words or experience often helps me to see the light.

One of my managers at work years ago, said something to a group of employees, that I never forgot. He was attempting to motivate those that were having a tough time succeeding in getting things accomplished. He said " If I held a shotgun to your head and told you to do something that you preferred not to do, would you do it"? Dog gone straight I would! Harsh words, You bet. I'm sure there are those that would say how crude, and maybe they're correct. So crude, that if you think about it, it's such an unpleasant thought, that many would prefer not to. As for me, it's the impact of the shocking thought that works. A shocking unpleasant thought is more advantageous, then looking down one day and trying to comprehend why a limb is no longer there. Don't get me wrong, I still look forward to that encouraging loving hug from my wife!

By the way, the reason she eats mostly healthy meals, is because I cook! How strange!!

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-24 18:28:08 -0600 Report

Hey jigsaw,

Wow, I really appreciate this.

It is always so great to hear from men who are taking responsibility for their health, and even making sure their wives are eating well, too. Interesting how witnessing what happens when you don't take care of yourself empowered you to take control of your halth. Fantastic. And sometimes tough love is what we need to wake us up.

And it's always interesting to me how when we assume we have a choice, we don't take action, even the action we need to take.

And as you said, some TLC helps a lot, too.

Thank you!


Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2014-02-23 18:30:44 -0600 Report

Henry Higgins and Col. Pickering. Watched the movie a week ago. One of my favorites.

As Henry Higgins said, " Men are so honest so thoroughly square". This is far from the truth. My mother, sister and I spent years trying to get our father to go for a check up. He only got two of those in all the years he was my father that I know of. When he broke his finger and had to go to the ER and when he passed out from an ear blockage (a piece of concrete fell into his ear at a construction site)

I think some men think it isn't manly to show signs of illness because it is a sign of weakness. When they are flat on their backs from a cold or flu or even a surgery, I have heard them say they are fine.

It was a battle in our house when my father got sick and didn't realize it. He still would not go to the doctors even when mom asked her doctor if he would see him. It was not easy for me to go to court to get an emergency petition to get him to the ER. He refused to go even when my aunt and his cousin told him they would take him. The morning two officers came to take him, they told him they were his cab drivers and they wanted him to go for a ride with them. He finished his breakfast and got his coat and hat and walked out the door with him. With his dementia (he had not been diagnosed but I knew the symptoms) he didn't know he was at the ER. This was in June 2001 he died the same year in November in a nursing home. My mom came in the house and said daddy is not going to be alive in the morning. I was in shock and he died two hours after he left.

Men and women die because they go so long with diseases that could have been properly treated had they gone to a doctor sooner. Here in Baltimore we have "Take a Loved One to the Doctor day at one of the local hospitals. I think it is a national event. One of the radio stations has a live broadcast. They interview people and I have heard people say how they have tricked mothers, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and sisters to get them to the screenings just to get them tested for all kinds of cancer, diabetes, cholesterol, eye, hearing, and high blood pressure.

We love our parents, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends and friends and they should know we are asking them to get a check up because we love them and want them around. It does not make you unmanly or womanly because you find out you have an illness of any kind. I think we should find a way to be creative to get a loved one to the doctors.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-24 18:14:18 -0600 Report

Hi Joyce,

As usual for you, a very insightful post.

Yes, I have to say Henry Higgins didn't have it right, as much as he thought he had the last word here. I do think men are raised to be tough and unfortunately many men assume that taking care of their health -- admitting they need help -- is not being a real man. A shame. We aren't so good about asking for directions either. I think it is somewhat generational, but I also often see younger men not getting check-ups and not going to doctors unless they are really sick. At least young women seem to be getting annual well woman exams, and have at least some kind of relationship with a physician.

What an interesting idea you have in Baltimore. I would guess that many people find their way to a healthcare provider when a friend or family member gets them there.

A very sad story about your dad. It shows just how deeply ingrained that attitude about avoiding doctors can be, that even with his dementia this attutide would persist. A shame. He was fortunate that you were watching over him.

Thanks a lot, my friend!


Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2014-02-24 19:02:43 -0600 Report

I think more people would go to the doctors if it were more convenient. If you are sick and it isn't an emergency you could wait 3-6 months for an appointment. I think men are just impatient.

One of the things we are doing with the Police Departments Neighborhood Services Division is to form partnerships with the hospitals in the city to bring multiple services to each of the nine Police Districts on a rotating basis with the use of their community services screening trucks. I think if people could just get the screenings regardless if they are male or female and have the results emailed or mailed to them, they may seek medical help even if they have not done so in several years. I noticed that when we have our Day of Hope that the lines are long for screenings with men and women. They may not get a complete physical but blood testing, diabetes testing and other testing can be a start for some and maybe cause enough concern for them to follow up when they get the results.

robertoj 2014-02-23 18:29:01 -0600 Report

I was raised in a family where men only went to the doctor in an emergency. My mom took us to the doctor annually or when we were sick. I followed the family tradition even after I nearly died at fifteen. Catching pneumonia twice had no affect. It was only later in life that I began to take care of myself by which time I learned I had a chronic illness. When I learned I had type II I happened to watch dLife tv. I went to their online site and learned a lot. I made an appointment with a CDE and a nutritionist. I did everything they said. I also got an odometer and went on a 10,000.step program.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-24 17:57:52 -0600 Report

Hey Roberto,

Great to see you here, my friend!

I have seen what you described so often, with everybody in the house getting adequate medical care except the father, who seems to think that he is either too busy or that he doesn't need it or both. NOt a great role model for their sons, that's for sure.

A chronic condition can be a wake-up call if one is willing to listen. You listened and took action, and you're reaping the benefits.

Thanks for checking in!


Richard157 2014-02-23 17:26:18 -0600 Report

I have been type 1 for 68 years, and my mother was wonderful with her tender loving care. I followed her guidance and never ate sugar. I also followed my doctor's advice to the letter. Even during my teenage years I took very good care of myself. When I was married at age 24 my wife knew nothing about diabetes, but she became so very good with cooking for me and helping me through my hypos and seizures. I have always had excellent support at home, and have been very good with my diabetes management.

I belong to several online diabetes support groups, including several on Facebook. There are many people, mostly females, who complain about their spouses/partners not taking good care of themselves. Some do not take their medications/insulin. They are headed down the road to no return. The non diabetic partner is online to learn as much as possible, so they can help. There is a lot of denial among diabetics of both types. It is tragic when that denial persists so long that it is impossible to get on track before those dreaded diabetes related complications appear.

There are many parents groups for type 1 children. About 90% of the parents posting are the mothers, with not many posts from fathers. I do not understand that. It could be argued that fathers are at work and do not have the time, but when they are home they could participate in those support groups. So why don't they? On Facebook ar least 90% of my friends from the parents groups are the moms, not the dads.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-24 17:51:47 -0600 Report


Wow, it's been a long time since we have been in touch. It's great to see you.

Thanks so much for your wise and insightful post. You said it so well. I often see the same thing. Worries wives, worried mothers. This is not to say that men aren't stepping up to the plate and taking care of themselves -- you are a perfect example. And not to say that they don't worry about their spouses and their children. But it often seems that omn average women are more responsible for the day-do-day sweating of the details at their house.

In my own little corner of the world, I try to encourage men to manager their healthcare, and women to give their partners a push in that direction. Everybody benefits.

Great to see you!


GabbyPA 2014-02-23 17:07:24 -0600 Report

I am, by nature, a caretaker. I do for others all the time. It puts me in a weird place. Lately, what I have been doing is making my husband deal with the "issues" that come up with medical treatments, appointments, and billing. Getting him to make the calls and have to endure the never ending "please holds" that I used to do for him. It is giving him a good view of how to deal with things better. He's not really that patient. LOL

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-24 17:44:56 -0600 Report

Hey Gabby. I am a natural caretaker, too. I suspected we shared that trait. Empowering your husband to get more involved in managing his own health benefits him and it benefits you. I am sure he appreciates you even more!

GabbyPA 2014-02-24 20:37:13 -0600 Report

I am not sure about that, but is a huge help to me. I work from home, and people think that because you work at home you can do all the home things too. I do a lot, but I do need to work. LOL After all, we have to pay the bills.

Kats49 2014-02-23 17:06:33 -0600 Report

My late husband was VERY good at taking care of his health AFTER he was diagnosed with two life changing diseases. Systemic Heart disease and Type 1 Diabetes. But as a family it was up to all of us to help him, both of my children were taught my me to be vigilante in the truck when Daddy was driving if he seemed ill. They both knew where the meds were kept in the glove box. They knew this at young ages of 6/3. I started researching and bought healthier food, our whole way of eating changed and for the better. When I went back to work to pay the bills while he was in recovery, he learned what to pay attention to when his body needed him to do so. Even the medical personal made sure he could give himself his own shots…I was working two jobs…at the time. Through 30+ years we all learned and helped each other, if it was one sided I don't remember never kept count, it was our wedding vows I followed.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2014-02-24 08:48:00 -0600 Report

Hey Kats,

Nice to see you, my friend. Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you and your family really pitched in and made your husband's ongoing care a family responsibility. And what a great lesson for your children in watching out for others.

It also sounds like you had a lot on your shoulders. I'm glad your husband was able to take better care of himself to support you in working so hard to provide a home.

And yes, you really took those vows seriously. Your husband was so fortunate to have you in his life.

Thanks for sharing this with us. An inspiration!