Real men do get sick. However, their reluctance to seek medical care on a timely basis can take a toll — helping to explain the longevity gap with women outliving men by 5 to 10 years.
If men took better care of themselves, they would lengthen their life spans. Reasons for pushing aside their health needs include not being able to take time away from work duties, inertia, feeling invulnerable and out of control of the situation, or a macho stereotype that believes consulting a doctor is a sign of weakness.
What can men do to improve their health?
For answers, Smart Business turned to Brian Henry, M.D., board-certified internal medicine physician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, and Frank Marino, M.D., family physician and medical director for the Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley.
How serious is the situation?
Research shows too many men stay away from physician visits and health screenings — activities that can spot medical concerns before they become more serious. While women traditionally have a history of doctors’ visits, know the health system and find it less threatening, men too often put their health needs on the back burner. Managers especially spend so much time taking care of their employees that they often forget to take care of themselves.
When do problems arise?
Because of stress levels associated with management — which often translates into poor eating habits, lack of exercise and not enough attention to age-related screenings — serious health problems can occur at any age. Worsening the situation are managers who will cancel appointments because they feel they can’t get away from work and are less likely to take medications as directed.
What steps should be taken?
Because tests and treatments can add years and quality to one’s life, men can no longer avoid health screenings, ignore warning signs and hide emotions. The best time to visit a doctor is when you are well. This allows physicians to assess your overall physical condition through proper tests and screenings and get a baseline to observe future health.
Why are checkups so important?
Getting the right screenings at the right time is one of the most important things a man can do for his health. Regular checkups and screenings tailored to your age, gender, personal and family history, and lifestyle can lead to early detection and quick treatment of many ‘silent’ disorders lacking obvious symptoms. These include high blood pressure, heart and vascular disease, diabetes, orthopedic (back, shoulder, hip, knee and feet) issues and cancer. When test results warn of such problems as growing cholesterol levels, precancerous polyps in the colon or increased prostate problems, it allows you and your physician to map out a plan to lower the risk of serious disease since concerns are being identified in their most treatable stages.
You can no longer dodge the doctor when faced with serious problems such as shortness of breath and chest pain. Some of the most prevalent medical conditions men face as they age can be cured or controlled if caught early. For example, diseases like diabetes partly result from an unhealthy lifestyle aggravated by stress, which can be controlled by adopting healthier habits.
What about gender-specific diseases?
While men are screened for and adopt preventive measures for diseases mainly afflicting their gender, they are also susceptible to other ailments. Nearly 2 million men 65 or older have disabling bone disease, and nearly twice that number is at risk. Older men suffering hip fractures have more than three times the risk as women of dying within a year. And, while in much smaller numbers, men may be diagnosed with breast cancer, contract bladder infections and are subject to eating disorders.
Where should I start?
Take responsibility for your health. Get regular checkups, preventive screenings, tests and immunizations determined by your physician. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol, and eat a balanced diet to help keep a healthy weight. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and strengthen your muscles. Protect yourself by wearing helmets, seatbelts and sunscreen, and wash your hands to stop the spread of germs.
Make prevention part of your business. Collaborate with hospitals and physicians by offering health programs, preventive techniques and screenings at your site or a convenient location. MemorialCare’s business outreach programs include executive physicals and onsite seminars. This website offers free online tools, calculators, guides and referrals to physicians that can help you and your work force reach the goal of a healthier life.
If any of this advice rings true, make that appointment now. If someone you know needs to make that appointment, pass this page along to them.
Brian Henry, M.D., is a board-certified internal medicine physician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills. Frank Marino, M.D., is a family physician and medical director for Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley.