7 Jun 2017

Phil Gifford's tips for men's health

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:15 pm on 7 June 2017
Sports journalist, Phil Gifford, fronts up for Bookmarks.

Phil Gifford Photo: celebrityspeakers.co.nz

Journalist Phil Gifford says his latest book is his most important so far.

Looking After Your Nuts & Bolts: Kiwi Men's Health Guide was released last week as Men's Health Month kicked off.

Gifford promises Jesse Mulligan he's not suggesting a switch to organic enemas and kale smoothies.

Gifford has had a few "health adventures" himself over the past few years, he says.

"I've had prostate cancer, I had bowel cancer, I had my bowel taken out, I've got two artificial hips… What else? Oh, yeah and I had a bit of skin cancer – very low level, thankfully it wasn't melanoma – taken off my nose."

He counts himself extremely fortunate that the cancers were detected early and he didn't have to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Gifford's father died of a heart attack at 59.

"[His heart condiiton] had been detected, but in 1964 when he died there was nothing they could do about it."

He doesn't want the book to be doom-mongering or for guys to feel like they were sitting an exam while reading it.

"I'd much rather them to feel 'Hey, isn't this fantastic - if you do this you'll live better and you'll live much longer.

"It's kind of a toilet book, to be honest."

One of the main reasons New Zealand men die on average four years earlier than New Zealand women is they don't like going to the doctor, he says.

"I'm not sure whether it comes from a macho thing or… we're a bit too chicken to do it. 'I don't want to go to the doctor, they might give me bad news'."

But when men hit 50, they definitely should be getting a check up once a year.

"You can be feeling fantastic. Well, hopefully, the doctor will confirm that."

The book includes advice on nutrition, which Gifford says can be a "minefield".

Most guys may be surprised to find they already know what they should be eating, he says.

"Don't eat too much fatty stuff, don't eat a whole lot of sweet stuff, try and cut down on sugar, eat as many unprocessed foods as you possibly can."

The book also includes advice on love, which Gifford considers an aspect of health.

"This is an embarrassing confession I've got to make, mate. One of the topics that was suggested was sexual dysfunction … hopefully there's love involved in that."

As a "typical guy" Gifford says he was squeamish to approach the subject.

"It was my wife who gave me a good slap on the legs and said 'Grow up, man up and write a chapter about it'."

He found the chapter on love and sex one of the most emotional to write.

"Guys do all that dirty stuff talking about sex, but for an awful lot of guys it's hardest thing for them to talk about if they're having problems with it. I'd hope that if there's a guy out there that is having sexual problems they can read this thing and it's sort of private, it's between them and book."