Men don’t go to their doctor and never recieve a thorough men’s health checkup for several reasons – fear, denial, embarrassment, and the belief that it threatens their masculinity. Our culture perpetuates the myth of male invincibility. But do tough guys live longer? As most everybody knows, women live longer than men – seven years longer on average. In the United States life expectancy is 72 years for men and 79 years for women.
The reasons for this life-span discrepancy are not completely understood. Men may have some genetic predisposition for lower life expectancy, seeing as women tend to outlive men in most areas throughout the world. But men also have lifestyle patterns that increase the wear and tear on their bodies. Men tend to drink and smoke more than women, men obtain medical care less frequently than women, and men generally have more occupational exposure to toxic chemicals. However, it is clear that men can benefit from increased knowledge of male disease prevention issues and by understanding how lifestyle choices impact health.
“I Don’t Want No Doctor Poking Me!” Top 5 Excuses
- I can handle it.
- What do doctors know?
- No pain, no gain.
- I take care of my family first.
- Hey, when my time is up, it’s up.
So, most men are literally willing to die as long as they appear tough, stoic, and independent in the process.
When the Doctor Says: “Sorry, Too Late”
If every serious physical condition or disease had visible symptoms and obvious pain, you might be more willing to see a doctor, but many diseases are relatively symptom-free until it may be too late. Early detection and treatment of cancer, heart disease and diabetes can keep your doctor from saying, “Sorry, Sam, if only we’d known sooner.”
One of the most dangerous examples of preventable disease is prostate cancer. A few seconds of discomfort can save one’s life. There are two types of prostate exams performed in a doctor’s office – the more common digital rectal exam (DRE) which is conducted exactly the way it sounds, and the prostate specific antigen test (PSA), which is a blood test used in conjunction with the DRE.
Heart and blood vessel disease usually develops over many years. Without regular checkups Increasing blood pressure, inflammation and high cholesterol can easily go undetected. Even the simplest physical exam will pick up on cardiovascular problems and start you on the road to good heart health.
A routine blood test can diagnosis a disease that is reaching epidemic proportions. Diabetes affects an estimated 150 million people worldwide. Many people go untreated, leading to a rapid increase in cardiovascular disease, stroke, nerve damage, blindness and premature death.
With a little more effort colon cancer can often be detected by colonoscopy, which is done be inserting a small flexible scope into the large intestine. This lifesaving procedure can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for men.
When Should You Have a Checkup?
If your health has been generally good, a physical exam every two or three years is probably enough when you are under 40. Between ages 40 and 49 every two years, and yearly exams are recommended after 50. These exams should include the items listed below and other tests as indicated for your age, family history and health condition. If you’re not sure what may be best for you, ask your doctor. Will regular exams guarantee a long and healthy life? Of course not. But they surely improve your chances, and add a healthy amount of peace of mind.
- Blood pressure check.
- Prostate exam and PSA blood test.
- CRP and fasting blood fat levels (triglycerides) and glucose levels, checking for diabetes and increased coronary risk.
- Urine tests check for infections, kidney problems, and diabetes.
- Fecal occult blood test.
- Skin cancer exam – the entire skin is checked closely for irregular or changing moles, lesions, or blemishes, usually red, white or blue in color.
- Exams for other potential cancers such as: skin, testicular, oral cavity, lymph nodes, and thyroid.
- Flu vaccination, annually for certain adults age 65+.
- Hepatitis vaccination if traveling to certain countries or medical and emergency workers exposed to hepatitis transmission.
- Health counseling about physical activity, diet and nutrition, healthy weight, safety, substance use, sun exposure, depression, sexual practices, potential occupational exposures and other healthy lifestyle issues.
Every 2 years:
- Consult an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) every two years for vision and glaucoma testing.
Every 5 years:
- Cholesterol check including total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol, at least every five years, more often if high.
- Sigmoidoscopy checks the health of the rectum and lower colon.
- Stress electrocardiograms (ECGs) check the status of the heart.
Every 10 years:
- Tetanus booster.
- Pneumonia vaccination at age 65 or as directed by your doctor.
Generally, men are biologically and culturally programmed to appear strong and capable. We can easily ignore and deny anything that makes us look weak and vulnerable. We tell ourselves we can handle it and we believe we can. But, how many of us can handle recovering our health once it is gone. To avoid this scenario spend some time envisioning how you want to feel when you are 80. Then make a commitment to take the necessary actions to achieve that vision.
Scheduling regular exams can find potential problems early and keep you focused on your future health, but wellness checkups can’t be of benefit if you never have them. See how much courage you have. Call my office today to schedule your check-up.
You may survive yet, tough guy.