Health professionals are appealing to Jamaican men to monitor their health as more males suffer from elevated blood pressure and have a shorter life expectancy than women.

Although the Ministry of Health and Wellness was unable to provide data on the economic impact of men suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), it revealed that 24 per cent of men suffer from elevated blood pressure in comparison to 19 per cent of women.

“We find that men generally don’t come to us sometimes until it is too late to do much about their illnesses. As to the reason for this, I am not sure. It could be cultural, or, it could be the fact that many men believe they should always show that they are strong even when the occasion doesn’t call for it,” explained Dr. Dwayne Hall, consultant general surgeon at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

NCDs are those diseases that are not transferrable by contact but rather developed through family genetics, degenerative changes or unhealthy lifestyle habits. Consequently, more men need to adopt better health seeking behaviours because male life expectancy in Jamaica is 72 years while for women it is 76 years.

Health professionals add that although more women in Jamaica suffer from non-communicable diseases, (NCDs) than men, health professionals say more males may actually be affected than the figures suggest.

“Generally, because females have better health seeking behaviours, it would appear as though females have a higher prevalence of non-communicable diseases than men, but this may not necessarily be the case, and this is why we are encouraging men to take monitoring their health seriously especially as it relates to illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes,” Dr. Hall added.

Whole foods nutritionist, Dr. Elloreen Pryce explained that when it comes to NCDs and taking their health seriously, some men are often unwilling to seek, or follow medical advice.

“From my experience, many men do not take their health seriously,” she revealed and “When you tell them to check their prostate, especially if they’re over 40, some will ask why it is important, or make some excuse as to why they won’t do it,” she revealed.

“They can be very difficult to work with when it comes to things that may impact their health positively. If you say to them eat more vegetables, they may say they aren’t rabbits or other animals. If you say to them cut down on the alcohol, they will raise objections. In fact, in preparing their meal plans, if you say cut down on the meat, they’ll ask what you expect them to eat?” she added.

Hugh Reid, General Manager, JN Life Insurance, adds that even when it comes to acquiring life insurance for protection against critical illnesses, men were less likely to purchase a policy than women.

“Members of the life insurance industry will point out that women are also more willing to purchase policies for coverage against unforeseen circumstances than men. When we look at our data here at JN Life Insurance, women outnumber men two to one when it comes to our client base. We need men to take their health seriously because of the impact it has on our economy and families who lose their male breadwinners in the most productive years of their lives,” he said.

Dr. Pryce also wants men to be more proactive when it comes to their health.

“There’s an adage that says when you see men at the doctor, it’s because they are extremely ill or were taken there by a woman. We want men to dispel this notion of not visiting the doctors until it is too late. We want them to take care of themselves so they can be around us for a long time,” she said.

Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness has revealed that non-communicable diseases and injuries are a major public health burden in Jamaica, and are the leading cause of death. In 2015, an estimated seven out of 10 Jamaicans died from the four major NCDs, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease.

The ministry adds that an individual suffering from NCDs spends approximately one third of household per capita expenditure on healthcare services and purchase of pharmaceutical drugs. National aggregate out of pocket health expenditure amounted to $33,813 million (US$452 million), or 3.08 percent of Jamaica’s GDP.

In 2019, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, said the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is placing an economic burden on the country. He noted that data suggests that it will cost the country some $77 billion over the next 13 to 15 years to deal with treatment and loss of productivity associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases alone.