The reluctance of men to visit the doctor when they are sick, pursue routine check-ups when they are well and take advantage of preventive measures is taking its toll — helping explain the longevity gap where women outlive men by an average of 5 to 10 years and higher death rates men have for all top 10 leading causes of death.

To learn more, Smart Business turned to Stanley Arnold, M.D., an internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, and Brian Henry, M.D., an internist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center.

What keeps men away from needed health services?

Reasons include an unwillingness to take time away from work, discomfort with discussing personal issues, feeling invincible and those early lessons from childhood of ‘playing with pain’ and not asking for help.

If men took better care of themselves, they could most certainly stretch their life spans. Physician visits as well as health screenings allow us to discover undiagnosed medical concerns before they become serious, and identify and address risk factors for any subsequent diseases. While women are often more educated about and less threatened by the health care system, men can regularly put their health care on the back burner.

How does the workplace contribute to the problem?

Too often, managers spend so much time taking care of their employees, they forget to take care of themselves and feel guilty about taking time away from the office to see a doctor. Additionally, a stressful work environment can take its toll on your health. Chronic stress may lead to a lack of exercise, poor food choices, inadequate sleep and inattention to preventive screenings and immunizations.

Where should I start?

Research shows that regular screenings and early intervention can alter risk factors and treat medical conditions early on. View screenings as an opportunity to maintain and improve your quality of life, increase productivity at work and improve your likelihood of enjoying a healthy retirement. Doctor visits and preventive measures also give you the peace of mind that you’re healthy and that early detection offers the best opportunity for beating the odds if a disease is detected.

Therefore, the best time to visit a doctor is when you are well, enabling a physician to assess your overall physical condition through appropriate tests and screenings and to obtain a baseline to observe future health. Having said that, it is crucial for men — who too often ignore important symptoms — to schedule an appointment with their physician if they notice anything out of the ordinary about their health. Getting the right screenings at the right time is one of the most important things you can do for your health. As in business, one’s health is better served by being proactive.

What’s typically included in check-ups?

Having regular check-ups and screenings tailored to age, gender, personal and family history and lifestyle can lead to early detection and expedited treatment of many ‘silent’ disorders that can lack obvious symptoms. These include heart and vascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and orthopedic issues. Test results can warn of problems, such as elevated cholesterol levels, precancerous polyps or any prostate problems, which can allow you and your physician to map out a plan to lower the risk of serious diseases while identified in their most treatable stages.

We know that many of the common medical conditions men face as they age can be controlled or cured if detected early. Don’t duck doctors when faced with symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath. The odds of developing diseases such as diabetes, which partly result from unhealthy lifestyles that can be exacerbated by stress, can be greatly minimized by adopting healthier habits.

Which other actions are important?

Include activities that raise your heart rate and strengthen your muscles. If you have not been exercising regularly and are over 50, consult a physician before you start any type of rigorous exercise activities. Good nutrition involves a balanced diet that maintains healthy weight. So eat a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains while limiting drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol. And protect yourself by wearing helmets when cycling as well as a minimum SPF 30 sunscreen when outdoors.

Make prevention part of your business. Offer preventive techniques, health programs and screenings at your job site or a convenient community location in partnership with physicians and local hospitals.

Also, Saddleback Memorial and Orange Coast Memorial offer business outreach programs that include onsite seminars, screenings, immunizations and executive physicals. This website can provide free online tools, guides and physician referrals that help you and your work force enjoy a healthier life.

Stanley Arnold, M.D., is an internist at Orange Coast Medical Center. Brian Henry, M.D., is an internist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center.