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Could Nairobi men be healthier?

Nairobi is home to many men, lots of men in fact. Simple inferences and calculations from the 2013 Kenya Demographic Estimates quickly imply that more than half a million men aged between 25 to 64 years live in Nairobi. And the majority of these men, 90% in demographic estimates, are literate. To a lay person, this means well-informed and able to make reasoned and healthy judgements.

But there is another depressing statistic, the life expectancy for these clever and hard working men is only 61 years (women are not much better either, with a life expectancy of 64 years). So the majority of Nairobi men can be expected to die at the prime of their lives. Why is this the case?

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, deaths due to infectious and non-communicable diseases; all being dependent on public and individual health service provision and access. It is thus easy to deduce that Nairobi men can to a large extent and individually, contribute to some improvement of their own health and longevity.

Lifestyle choices play a big contribution in our general health. Too much has already been said about smoking, use of illicit drugs, excess alcohol intake, drink driving and sedentary lifestyles. A cursory look at the trends in the city will give you an idea of the state of health of Nairobi’s men. Walk into the city’s pubs and you are likely to be confronted by groups of men gulping pint after pint of alcoholic beverages. 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 non-smoking 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 exercises.

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 their female counterparts are known to ignore disease symptoms rather than seek early medical advice. Such macho theatrics just accelerate the risks of death.

So Nairobi men have rising risks of cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, and deaths from all manner of other avoidable lifestyle related conditions. Not to mention the inherent genetic risk of death 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. Drink less, quit smoking, eat healthier, enjoy safer sex and make healthier choices overall.And for god’s sake, don’t just sit there, do some exercises!

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