Why do men avoid going to the doctor?
If you’re a man who would rather do anything than go to a doctor, consider this: men are dying at higher rates than women when it comes to the top ten causes of death. Why do men avoid going to the doctor or caring for their health, and what can they do to turn this around? Cedrek McFadden, MD, offered some thoughts and advice.
So, why do men avoid going to the doctor?
Is it because it’s harder to get off from work? Or that you don’t have health insurance? Or are you waiting to see if things will just get better?
“The biggest obstacle is often not making health a top priority,” Dr. McFadden said. “We tend to put the needs of our family or jobs ahead of our own. This can lead to ignoring small health concerns, which could cause them to worsen without treatment, when earlier diagnosis and treatment might lead to better prognosis.”
Why is it dangerous for men to brush off or ignore health concerns?
Consider these facts:
- Over 60% of American men are overweight or obese, and men between the ages of 65 and 74 have the highest prevalence of obesity.
- One in three men have some form of heart disease.
- 12 million American men aged 20 and older have diabetes, and people with diabetes are two times as likely to develop heart disease or to die from heart attacks.
- Heart disease and diabetes can lead to erectile dysfunction.
- Half of all men will get cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common and lung cancer is the most fatal.
- Half of all men over the age of 50 will have an enlarged prostate, but less than half of those are diagnosed and less than 20% are treated for it.
- One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, with African American men at increased risk.
There’s also been an increase of stress, anxiety and depression among men and women.
How can men live a longer, healthier life?
Dr. McFadden said the main way men can protect their health is through prevention.
“Prevention is much easier than a cure,” he said. “Among men, more than 50% of premature deaths are preventable, whether accidents, cancer, heart disease or diabetes.”
Here are some ways men can live healthier:
Get an annual health examination. Meet with your doctor or nurse practitioner and review your numbers, including your cholesterol, PSA, blood sugar and blood pressure. Make sure you have all your questions that you want to bring up. You know your body better than anyone, so addressing your health concerns is essential, even if they seem like “no big deal.”
Take advantage of free screenings, whether they’re community health screenings or employer offered health services and benefits.
Involve your family. “It’s not a bad idea to bring along your wife or relative to your appointment,” Dr. McFadden said, “because it often takes someone else ringing your bell to say, ‘Hey, we were concerned about this.’ Often people wait until they’re 50 or 60 to have that first appointment, which could be too late.”
Also, if you have children, consider yourself a role model and show them how to make their health a priority in their own lives.
Obtain and maintain a healthy weight. Nutrition is important to help prevent diseases like diabetes and heart disease. “Regardless of how much you exercise, you can’t outwork a bad diet,” Dr. McFadden said. “So, the only truly effective way to lose weight and to keep yourself healthy is with nutrition.”
That starts by reducing the number of calories you’re eating and exercising regularly. Ensure your diet includes fruit, vegetables and whole grains throughout your day.
If you’re going to eat meat, choose lean meats, such as fish and chicken. Protein from beans, eggs and nuts is also a healthier choice. But limit the amount of saturated fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.
Eat more plants than meats, if possible. And if you’re going to have the bad stuff, make sure that’s the exception rather than the rule.
Exercise. Before starting any exercise routine, always talk with your doctor for guidance. And start easy.
“Don’t show up on day one ready to bench 400 pounds,” Dr. McFadden said. “Gradually increase your workout capacity as you can do more, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.”
Any exercise, whether it’s cutting the grass, washing the car or walking the dog, is better than none. As you exercise, you will improve your cardiovascular health.
Choose a healthier lifestyle. In addition to eating well and exercising, it’s important to limit alcohol and caffeine intake, and if you’re smoking, quit.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, reach out for help.
Depression often goes untreated in men because they are less likely to talk about it. But with proper treatment and diagnosis, people with depression can continue to lead happy everyday lives.
Treatment of depression starts with recognizing you’re not feeling well. Do you want to sleep more? Do you have less energy to do what you’ve been interested in doing in the past?
“Treatment doesn’t always mean that you have to start with medications. It can start with just getting good exercise, spending time with other people, doing something you enjoy doing, even if you have to force yourself initially to get back engaged,” Dr. McFadden said. “It’s important that you set realistic goals and give yourself some patience as you’re working through this process.”
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