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Men and the Doctor

separator It may not surprise you that a study by the Commonwealth Fund shows that men delay getting healthcare even if there are warning signs that something is wrong. The same study showed that 24 percent of men said they hadn’t seen a doctor in the previous year, while only 8 percent of women said the same.

Men are usually pretty honest in saying they wait until they feel real bad before they’ll go to the doctor. In a way, it goes along with their personalities. Men seem not to like to admit they’re having a problem. They like to be thought of as the ones who come up with solutions. Aren’t women always wondering why men won’t ask for directions when they’re lost? Going to a professional and admitting something’s wrong creates feelings of vulnerability that men appear to tolerate less well than women.

This reluctance to visit the doctor is not doing men any favors in terms of their health:

  • Men have a life expectancy that’s six years less than women’s.
  • Men die of heart disease and chronic liver disease at twice the rate of women.
  • Men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide or die a violent death.
A Push in the Right Direction

There’s no absolute proof that more preventive care and more attention to early warning signs could improve these statistics for men. But surely it couldn’t hurt. If you’re a man reading this, maybe you’ll rethink your healthcare management. Maybe you’ll consider getting regular preventive care and care for early symptoms.

If you’re a woman reading this, and there’s a man in your life, you can play a role. Nobody’s saying it’s up to you to get your husband or partner to the doctor. But if you’re interested in helping him maintain his health, here are some things to keep in mind:

Some of the conditions men should be aware of include

  • Prostate cancer: It’s the most common cancer among men, and African-American men are 50 times more likely to get it than Caucasian men. Prostate cancer can be detected as part of a routine physical by having a digital rectal exam or a blood test called a PSA.
  • Colorectal cancer: This is the third most common cancer in the US. The American Cancer Society recommends screening for colorectal cancer every five years starting at age 50. Those in a higher risk group—which includes a family history of the disease, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diet high in animal fat—may be requested to be tested earlier.
  • Heart disease: Heart disease can often produce no obvious symptoms, so it’s important to check blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) and blood pressure regularly.
  • Testicular cancer: Men should perform self-exams regularly, and have regular check-ups that include testicular exams.
These are just some of the reasons men should have regular check-ups. They should be aware of the possible meaning of certain symptoms as well:
  • Impotence:Erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of depression, cancer and other illnesses. Any man who is having trouble with impotence should see his doctor to determine the cause.
  • Heartburn: This can be a symptom of heart disease, gallstones, or gastrointestinal reflux. Heartburn should be taken seriously and evaluated by a physician.
Asking for help isn’t always easy. For many women, going to the doctor is a matter of course, and doesn’t feel like a weakness. Men, on the other hand, may benefit from a little push in the right direction.

The Commonwealth Fund; Journal of Family Practice, February 2002; National Center for Health Statistics; Kra, S. How to Keep Your Husband Alive, Lahbar-Freeman, 2002.
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