Demographic data implies there are over 50 million Kenyans, and about 35 per cent are men over 25 years. And the majority of these men, 90 per cent, are literate. This means they’re well-informed and able to make reasonable and healthy judgements.
But there are depressing statistics about Kenyan men. Their life expectancy is only 60 years, compared to women who are expected to clock 65 years.
So the majority of Kenyan men are expected to die in the prime of their lives. Why is this the case?
The determination of life expectancy is complex and involves an interplay of many factors. The life expectancy computation includes the high rates of deaths in infancy and deaths due to infectious and noncommunicable diseases; all being dependent on public and individual health service availability and access.
It is thus easy to deduce that Kenyan men can to a large extent and individually, contribute to some improvement of their own health and longevity.
Lifestyle choices play a big contribution to general health. Too much has already been said about smoking, the use of illicit drugs, excess alcohol intake, drunk driving and sedentary lifestyles. A cursory look at the trends in the counties will give you an idea of the state of men’s health. Walk into restaurants and pubs and you are likely to be confronted by groups of men gulping pints of alcoholic drinks.
And with the inevitable accompaniment of sizzling roasts of whatever meats are available. Their waistlines give it all, what with beer bellies and fat-laden skins? A good number will light up and ignore the nonsmoking signs. And to make it worse, most will get into their cars and drive under the influence. If lucky to get home unscathed, they’ll sleep it off the next day rather than burn the calories with some physical activities.
Perpetuation of infectious diseases is not spared either. Casual and unprotected sex sustains our indiscriminate rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Men, compared with females are known to ignore disease symptoms rather than seek prompt medical advice. Such macho theatrics just accelerate the risks to premature deaths.
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In a general sense, men have rising risks of cardio-metabolic diseases, infectious diseases, and all manner of other avoidable lifestyle-related conditions. Not to mention the inherent risk of deaths associated with just being men, blamed on testosterone.
Is there a way out? There’s not much men can do to change their testosterone status, short of a sex change. But lifestyle modification is certainly within the grasp of many. Men should drink less, quit smoking, eat healthier, exercise more, enjoy safer sex and make healthier choices overall.
Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist