It is no secret: men seem to hate going to the doctor. Their life expectancy reflects this fact. Men die five years sooner than their female counterparts. They are also more likely to die from injury and suicide than women.
Why is this? Men are not going to the doctor, and when they do, they are not honest with their physician. Sometimes, they are too busy to go. They do not want to find out what is wrong with them. Exams are uncomfortable. What could it be?
Some doctors and psychiatric professionals have a theory, and it might be masculinity itself. Quite possibly, men standing in their own way when it comes to their own health and wellbeing.
Is masculinity to blame for men’s lack of doctor’s visits?
Do health problems inherently threaten a man’s masculinity? The first, most immediate answer would be “no.” Of course not; a man is not less of a man for going to the doctor. However, in practice, it seems like this is the cause.
Throughout history, to be in good health meant to be able to procreate. Procreation was (and, in some ways, is) the main goal of the human race. If you trace the roots back far enough into humanity, being ill was associated with being unfit for reproduction. The interest of men that far back on the collective family tree was to deny that their health was poor, so they would be seen as good mates.
Men may also fear being seen as weak or vulnerable if they visit the doctor. It could also be that they do not want to ask someone about a topic they are less knowledgeable about, such as health.
These days, however, we know that being ill does not affect anyone’s ability to procreate and we know that men are not weak for seeking a doctor’s care. However, men still do not go to the doctor.
Feeling fine is not the same as being fine.
There are plenty of silent killers in men’s health. High blood pressure, cancer, cholesterol, heart disease, blood sugar, and many other illnesses can creep up on you and hit you when you are not looking if you are not careful.
More often than not, these diseases mentioned above do not have many symptoms. If they do, they are very minimal, and they easily go unnoticed. Things such as a cough, back pain, headaches… these minor things can add up to big health problems.
We get it, some things are unpleasant to talk about too. Erectile dysfunction, rashes, getting up twice a night to go to the bathroom, these things can be embarrassing to tell someone, but if anyone needs to know, it is the doctor. Just because it is hard to do does not mean that it should not be done.
So, how often should you see a doctor?
There are a few answers to this question. If you have not yet been to see a doctor in your life as an independent adult, go as soon as you are able. A doctor can work with you to schedule important screenings. That being said, here is a rough outline:
Every two years, men between the ages of 18 and 39 should have their blood pressure checked. However, if your blood pressure becomes borderline high (a condition referred to as prehypertension), you should get checked every year.
Every three years, men older than 45 should be screened for diabetes. However, if you are overweight, you should be screened sooner.
Every five years, men over 35 should have their cholesterol levels checked. They should also be checked for heart disease. However, if you have diabetes, this should be more frequent. Additionally, if you should also have your colon checked every five years, but more often if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.
You got to the doctor, now what?
You did the unthinkable and got yourself to the doctor. That is a great first step, but it is only the beginning. 40% of men wait until a problem becomes borderline intolerable before going to the doctor.
The first and most crucial step is to be honest with your physician. Even if you would not mention it to your friends or your family, mention it to your doctor. Even (maybe even especially) if it is related to reproductive health and urology. These are strong indicators that another, potentially life-threatening disease is taking place in your body.
Learn the right ages to get health screenings. Talk to your doctor about a timeline for future visits, and especially if you have a family history of disease. Here is a starting point:
- Get screened for colon or rectal cancer at 50,
- Prostate cancer at 50,
- Blood pressure at 20,
- And heart and coronary artery disease at 20
Talk to your doctor about your health, the health of your family, and they will find what is right for you.
What are the benefits of improving men’s healthcare?
Firstly, leading a healthy and fulfilling life is your right as a human being. If that is not enough, it would improve your overall mental health as well.
Healthier men would have an economic benefit as well; lost productivity in the workplace would lower and treatments would cost less, as screenings and preventive care are much more affordable than corrective care.
Do not forget to check yourself!
Self-examinations should not be discounted, however. You know yourself better than anyone, and you have the ability to tell when something is amiss. The first step to treatment and a cure is the early detection of bumps or abnormalities. Testicular cancer affects one in every 250 men, check yourself!
Trusting your health to a professional can keep a small problem from becoming a big one. All you have to do is be proactive, seek the knowledge, and take advantage of the healthcare system readily available to you. Your life is ahead of you, so do not waste it on expensive treatments. Once every two years is enough.