By Francis Ewherido
I took the decision to write on middle-aged men’s health again after I completed my annual medical check-up and got the result on Friday last week, but a post on the wall of a Facebook friend, Viktor J. Okungbowa, inspired the title. Last Sunday, Okungbowa wrote: “you cannot pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first.”
My focus today is on my contemporaries, men around 55 years plus/minus one. It is shocking that some of us are still not taking our health seriously. We provide for our families, which is wonderful, and meet other obligations, but forget our health.
As I sat before the two doctors, who explained the results of my medicals to me at different times, the question on my mind was, “do some of my contemporaries realise what we are up against?
”The results were generally good, just two minor issues which the drugs they prescribed should clear within 10 days. But you know that in health matters, it is the small issues of today that become major health challenges of tomorrow.
The prostrate result particularly gladdened my heart because it proved me right in an experiment I have been involved in for about a year (I will share it with you subsequently; I do not want it to distract us from today’s topic). The kidneys were also very good, which also made me happy.
In 2012 when I did my medicals in India (I went there for another reason o!), the doctor told me that he did not want to scare me, but I should watch it. Whatever the defect or deterioration he saw has been reversed.
Medicals cost money. Currently in Nigeria, it costs about N70,000. It can be less or more, depending on where you do it and the scope of your medicals, and further tests if the initial results throw situations that need further investigation.
Of course, in a country, where the minimum wage is N30,000 per month and some employers are even paying lower, annual check-up is beyond the reach of some men. But there are those who are not doing it, but can afford it if they plan. If you keep N200 away every day, that comes N73,000 a year! That is enough for your medicals at the minimum.
That is less than what many of us spend on airtime and data every day. Some men concentrate on external appearances the world can see. Looking good is good, but staying healthy is better.
The human body is like brand a new car at birth, all things being equal. By the time you turn 40, you are like a five-year-old car. The brand, usage and prior maintenance (genes and lifestyle) determine the level of depreciation and the maintenance needed. By the time you are in your 50s, you are like a 10-year-old car.
No matter the brand, maintenance or usage, a 10-year-old car needs more attention if you want it to serve you well. So, middle-aged men cannot afford to gamble with their health. But some don’t even have a personal physician! That is a crime against humanity (your family and you).
In many cases, the man is the breadwinner (cup) of the family, so he must continue to be healthy to win more bread. You cannot priotize the upkeep of the house over your health in your mid-50s.
If you become incapacitated, the finances of the whole family are in jeopardy. You better go for medicals. Do physical examination, visual examination (if necessary), blood sugar level, liver function test, electrolyte, lipid profile, full blood count, urinalysis, prostate-specific antigen, prostate scan, ECG, colonoscopy (when necessary); check your heart, kidneys, gallbladder, pancreas and spleen.
Do chest x-ray (if necessary). I did a chest x-ray to check a persistent situation and was relieved when it came out negative. Chest x-ray will also show the state of your lungs; it detects heart-related lung problems, cancer, infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia or air collecting in the space around a lung.
The beauty of medicals is that it helps to detect ailments that can lead to complications, incapacity or kill you, if not detected early. But if you get a clean bill of health, you get the reward of peace of mind. This is especially so when you have been having signs of a particular ailment and the test results point to the contrary.
Beyond looking after your health, you should manage other aspects of your life that can affect your health. Food is one of them. Your food must be medicinal. Take your time to study various health benefits of the food, fruits and vegetables you consume. Be wary of eating anything that has no health benefits. Also, avoid consumption of anything that aggravates your underlying health conditions.
Another major one is finance. At 55, the number of years left for you to be economically active is not much, especially those involved in physical activities, like artisans. Those in employment have about five years before retirement.
So, unless you have kept the money for your children’s education aside, you cannot begin to send children abroad for first degree at this stage. Do not rely on anticipated income to engage in such an adventure.
Those whose children are there are eager for them to graduate, why start when you do not have the money in place either in a domiciliary bank account or other forms of concrete investments?
For me, it is not even an age to send your children to a private university, if you have not kept the money aside. It costs between N6m and about N14m to see a student through a private university in four years.
This is not the kind of project you should be engaging in at 55, hoping to fund it with anticipated income. The economy is too volatile and unpredictable for that. If your cash flow does not work to plan, you will be under enormous pressure, which might affect your health. Send your children to a state or federal university, preferably federal universities, because they are cheaper and also good.
The only problem with government universities is incessant disruptions in studies. But nothing lasts forever. They will graduate someday. Remember your health comes first.
If you are currently in a position where after paying the fees of the children in primary or secondary schools, you have no money left for yourself, withdraw and send them to cheaper schools and save some money to take care of yours health. Higher school fees do not necessarily mean better education.
When you are in your 50s, especially mid-50s, your health is number one primary. You have to be healthy to take care of the family, while having an eye on retirement. At 55, you must have plans for retirement. I have said it before, retirement planning must be self-based, not others-based.
The way debilitating ailments are ravaging and wasting middle-aged men is scary. Let us help ourselves. On the aeroplane, the hostess usually announces that if the oxygen mask drops, fix yours first before the one of the child you are carrying. Middle-aged men, get your priorities right.