Attention Men: Doctor Knows Best

Men who think they're too "macho" to seek medical help could end up making more trips to the doctor's office in the long run.

By waiting to see a physician until his problem has become more severe, a man might need medical attention for a longer period of time..

Although the life-expectancy gap between men and women has shrunk to 5.2 years, the narrowest since 1946—men still need to pay more attention to their bodies. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, men tend to:

  • smoke and drink more than women, and generally lead less healthy lifestyles.

  • not seek medical help as often as women.

  • join in fearless, risky, and dangerous behaviors more often than women.

  • largely define themselves by their work, which can be stressful and lead to being disconnected from their emotional side. This can add to problems in relationships, as well as in jobs and careers.

But a lot of men still seem reluctant to go to the doctor. Left untreated, conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can lead to complications that require hospitalization or repeated visits to a physician to monitor the health problem closely. Such chronic problems usually are detected early in men who see their physicians for regular checkups or minor illnesses.

Part of the reason may be that men tend to be raised to ignore pain and show toughness. As they get older, they are busy with job and family, and just don't have time.

Another reason healthy young men may not see a doctor regularly is that few preventive exams or services are available for them. (Women, however, see their doctor regularly for pap tests and gynecological exams.) In fact, there are several tests that are very important for men, including cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose tests, as well as prostate exams and blood tests and colon cancer screenings.

Spouses and other family members can discuss the benefits of routine physical exams and early detection of health problems, and encourage men to see a physician when they're sick.

Men aren't the only ones who will benefit. Boys can learn a lot from the example set by their fathers.

How to get your man to see the doctor

Encourage him to go for a checkup, and get screening tests.

If you want your husband to visit the doctor, send him a postcard. Many doctors do this, but their cards often get tossed aside. To make yours stand out, paste photos of people he cares about on one side to remind him why he needs to take good care of himself. On the other side, let him know he's due for an appointment.

If your husband seeks medical care for an illness, his doctor can take that opportunity to review any preventive screening available for him.

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