Preventive Health for Men – Why It Matters
There’s a common perception that men hate to go to the doctor and won’t go, even if they’re feeling sick. This theory has persisted throughout the years and is often the subject of jokes within families. But is it true? Unfortunately, this premise is sound: men do not go to the doctor if they are feeling well.
“In an online survey among approximately 1,174 U.S. males 18 years or older, Cleveland Clinic found that 72 percent of men would rather do household chores, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn, than go to the doctor. Even for the men who take their health more seriously, some are holding back: 20 percent of men admit they have not been completely honest with their doctor before.”
The same study found that 77 percent of men who are married or in a domestic partnership would rather go shopping with their wife or significant other than go to the doctor.
These numbers are alarming because study after study has proven that being proactive about health, including accessing preventive services, is the key to living a long and healthy life. It is also a key component in keeping healthcare costs affordable. So why don’t more men access preventive care? The reasons are both psychological and practical in nature.
- Doctor’s office hours line up with men’s working hours: many men don’t want to be perceived as slacking off at work, so they will neglect preventive care in order to maintain an image of work first. The Cleveland Clinic study also said that 61% of men would go for preventive care more often if they could access a healthcare professional during non-traditional hours.
- Men struggle with talking with healthcare professionals: Men are conditioned to stay quiet regarding health issues. “There is a cultural understanding that all men should be macho,” John Chisholm, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee, told The Telegraph. “But we need to understand that this expectation of stoic masculinity is putting lives at [risk]—men shouldn’t be bottling these things up.” According to Everyday Health, men often shy away from discussing embarrassing topics related to sexual health or urology.
- Financial concerns: Despite the fact that the ACA now legally requires the coverage of certain preventive healthcare services, financial concerns are a big reason that men don’t seek preventive care. There are concerns about the financial burden of missing work, coupled with any costs for additional tests or screenings that may come as a result of an annual exam.
- Men do not want to change their lifestyles due to health issues or hear that anything is wrong: In the Cleveland Clinic study, men admitted that fear of finding out they were sick and a lack of desire to change diet or exercise habits.
Coupled with these issues is a staggering statistic: 82% of men try to stay healthy to live longer for friends and family who rely on them, yet only 50% engage in preventive care. But to stay healthy, men need to be proactive and engaging in preventive actions. Preventive services that men need to stay healthy include height and weight/Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings; blood pressure checks; cholesterol screenings; colorectal cancer screenings, including colonoscopies, starting no later than age 50 and earlier if there is a family history of colon or rectal cancer; prostate cancer screening, and age-specific immunizations. These measures require seeing a physician on at least a yearly basis, and sometimes more often to monitor specific conditions.
Other ways men can stay healthy include:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, lean meats, and whole grains.
- Exercise for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week
- Don’t smoke, vape, or chew tobacco.
- Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages to two drinks a day. Even less is better.
- Use sunscreen every time you’re outside.
- Limit stress and address stressful situations through coping mechanisms like meditation and counseling. Use medications to help if needed.
- Practice safe sex.
The best way for men to maintain good preventive health is to establish a relationship with a primary care provider that they can trust and communicate openly with. UNC Lenoir Health Care can help you find a physician that can help men with all of their health needs. There is also an extensive network of specialists available in the UNC Lenoir system should more advanced care be needed. Please reach out to UNC Lenoir Health Care for more information by visiting our website, calling us at 252.522.7000, or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.