Why don’t most men ask for directions when they’re lost? That’s a good question. Maybe it’s a male ego thing. We’re supposed to be strong and bold and perhaps asking for help is a sign of weakness?
Why don’t most men, including myself, go to see the doctor for regular checkups and preventive care? Good question. Maybe it’s because we’re supposed to be strong and going to the doctor when you don’t feel sick is a sign of weakness?
Here’s the problem with being a strong man who doesn’t need any help – getting lost from time-to-time is rarely fatal, but not getting regular health checks can be.
There’s a big difference between treating blood pressure that’s starting to tick up above 130 with diet and exercise and treating a crisis blood pressure above 170, which requires expensive medications and other treatments to prevent a stroke or heart attack.
And there’s a big difference between treating a polyp in the colon, which can be readily removed during an outpatient procedure, and life-threatening colon cancer that requires surgery and chemotherapy.
The best reason for going to your clinician for routine preventive care is to anticipate potential health problems early when they’re either preventable or treatable.
But for some reason, a lot of men don’t seem to get that argument.
The data are clear. According to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are 24 percent less likely than women to get preventive health screenings and only slightly more than 50 percent of men will see a doctor or nurse practitioner each year compared to 74 percent of women.
Not too surprisingly, research shows men who go to the doctor regularly live longer than men who rarely go to the doctor, and they have fewer debilitating chronic illnesses later in life that degrade the quality of life.
That could mean the difference of living a vibrant, active lifestyle in your 70s or 80s versus having to use a walker in your 60s because you survived a stroke in your 50s.
Better use of healthcare is not the only reason women outlive men by six years, on average, but it’s probably one of the biggest.
The top 10 causes of death in men are:
• Heart disease
• Lung disease
• Cerebrovascular diseases
• Drug abuse
• Alcohol abuse
Except for perhaps firearm deaths and accidents, most of these can be prevented or mitigated when caught early and treated more successfully through regular checkups with a physician.
We all have many reasons for why we avoid seeing our primary care provider. One of the most prevalent is that they don’t have enough time. But a doctor’s visit generally takes an hour or so. Treating a major illness can take days, months, years or the rest of your life.
Another common reason is that there’s no need to go if you don’t “feel” sick. But many readily treatable illnesses become much harder to treat as they progress, such as cancer, and they often don’t start making you “feel” sick until it’s too late.
Here’s a simple way to help you decide whether to go for annual checkups – ask yourself if you want to live a long and healthy life. If your answer is yes, pick up a phone and call schedule a checkup. It doesn’t take that long and it may save your life.
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Francisco Garcia is the chief medical officer for Pima County.)