MHLbannerWhen it comes to health behaviors, men often take different approaches

There are some obvious physiological differences between men and women, along with a number of diseases and conditions that are exclusively gender-related. Historically, there's also a life-expectancy gap between the two that has increased over the years.

With regard to lifestyle-related factors, however, there are some important differences between men and women that are worth noting. For example, in terms of percentages, men drink and smoke more than women. Even men and womenwithin the subset of women who smoke and drink, men tend to be more extreme in those behaviors.

What else? Well, statistically speaking, men don't seek medical help as often as women and they get less support from their peer groups to make an appointment with their doctor for everything from regularly scheduled checkups to dealing with a specific health concern. This particular problem isn't helped by the fact that men, particularly in the 25 to 40 age range, are less likely to have a relationship with a primary care provider.

Another difference is that men tend to define themselves by their work more than women do, an approach that can lead to stress and a host of related health problems.

Finally, and this should come as no surprise to the women who have seen them behind the wheel, studies show that men as a group (and there are plenty of exceptions so don't take offense if this doesn't apply to you) drive more aggressively and, consequently, are involved in more accidents.

If you're a man who falls into all or some of these categories the changes you need to make aren't likely to happen all at once, and some of these behavioral differences can be tough to alter.

But what you can do right away is to simply think more about your health and about factors that influence your health and safety. Be more aware and then start making small steps toward changes. For example: slow down when you're driving and don't follow other cars as closely; share your health concerns with people who care about you and are supportive of you taking action; reflect on what's important in your life beyond the workplace.

Again, change never comes easy, but in all cases (after you acknowledge that the change is important and worth pursuing) the first step is to pay more attention to your health in general and to some of these "men only" behaviors in particular.