APPLETON, Wis. – Is your spouse or significant other hesitant to see a doctor? Does he avoid regular checkups or delay seeing a health care provider when ill?
If so, you’re not alone. A recent survey of nearly 2,000 men found that 72 percent said they’d rather do household chores than go to a doctor.
“Men tend to avoid seeing a doctor for two reasons,” said Abdel Marques, MD, an internist at ThedaCare Physicians-Internal Medicine. “First, some men are the more “machismo” type who don’t like to seek help, while others just have an inherent fear of doctors. Neither reason is a good excuse to avoid seeking health care, either routine or when facing a health problem.”
Dr. Marques noted that June is National Men’s Health Month, with a focus on encouraging men to seek routine health care. According to the Men’s Health Network, “…on average men die five years earlier than women of their same age, typically of the top 10 health concerns – heart disease, cancer (lung, prostate, colon/rectal, testicular), injuries, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, influenza (pneumonia), suicide, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s.”
“Most of these diseases can be controlled or mitigated if caught early, and many are asymptomatic in their early stages” said Dr. Marques. “That’s why I encourage people of all ages, including men, to have a yearly checkup that involves routine blood work. If we can diagnose these health issues early, we can potentially reduce their impact on someone’s life, helping them live their unique, best life.”
Dr. Marques observed that men are often obsessive about changing the oil in their vehicles or rotating their tires, and they should extend that “preventive maintenance” to themselves.
“That’s what an annual checkup is – it’s personal, preventive medicine,” he said. “That’s the type of medicine I prefer to offer. Preventive health care is much better in terms of prolonging life and reducing health care costs. The longer we let health problems deteriorate, the more time and money it takes to fix or reduce those issues.”
He also believes establishing a relationship with a primary care provider is important.
“I think people should approach their health care with the thought, ‘I have an established provider who is monitoring all aspects of my health care, so I can rest easily knowing everything looks good.’” he said. “Then, if a problem develops, there’s a trusted relationship that will help the patient and provider address the concern as a team.”
What to Expect
Dr. Marques explained that most health insurance plans cover one free wellness exam every year, and he encourages people to take advantage of that. Here is what men can expect at the exam:
- Health History. This is your chance to mention any complaints or concerns about your health. Your doctor will also likely quiz you about lifestyle behaviors like smoking, alcohol use, sexual health, diet, and exercise. The doctor will also check on your vaccination status and update your personal and family medical history.
- Vital Signs/Physical Exam:
- Blood pressure
- General Appearance
- Heart, lung, head and neck exams
- Testicular, hernia, penis and prostate exams
“Again, we know a lot of this probably does not sound like fun, remember, prevention is key,” he said. “Feel empowered to stay in control of your health.”
Outside of the standard wellness visit, there are other common tests and screenings men should consider to help them keep tabs on their health. Some of those tests and screenings include:
- Bone mineral density test
- Diabetes – blood glucose test
- Skin health screenings
- Eye, ear and dental health
“It’s important for men to speak with their health care provider about specific health needs,” said Dr. Marques. “Sharing your medical and family history, personal preferences, and lifestyle with your provider is also important to help them develop a health plan that is best for you.”
Dr. Marques, shares these suggestions for helping men live better:
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Engage in some type of physical activity every day – maintaining good cardiovascular health and working out regularly is vital to men’s continued good health. It’s important that men have regular exercise. Pick something you enjoy; if you don’t like to run, don’t become a runner. Bike, hike, kayak, snow ski, hunt – do something you enjoy because you’re more likely to keep up the practice.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Maintain good control of blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes
- Keep tabs on mental health:
- Continue close relationships with a circle of friends
- Keep mentally active
- Seek help for symptoms of depression
Provide Support for the Men You Love
If there’s a man in your life who is reluctant to visit the doctor, sometimes a little support and encouragement might help, explain that you care about them and that is why their health is important.
“Something to keep in mind, reminding someone over and over, especially when it’s not done in the context of caring, might do more harm than good,” said Dr. Marques. “Family support is key. So, give him a gentle nudge.”
Here are some ideas to help encourage your loved one to visit the doctor:
- Consider making your health care appointment on the same day as your male loved one’s. Build a lunch date into your joint day of health.
- Explain that screenings make financial sense – don’t wait for something small to become a crisis.
- Have Dad take the kids. In many families it’s mom who takes the kids to the doctor when they need to go. Next time, have Dad do it. It’s a way of exposing a father to a medical setting in a low-pressure situation. A child may ask the father when he’s planning to see a doctor too, and might encourage make an appointment.
Dr. Marques said many people use time as an excuse for not scheduling their doctor visits.
“Especially in Western culture, people are on the go all the time,” he explained. “Between work, family responsibilities and other activities, people often find it difficult to set aside time for exercise or to have regular checkups. The various telehealth options – including virtual doctor visits via video platforms or phone visits – can help make health care easier. Instead of spending time on social media, people could use that time to check in with their provider; that would go a long way toward improving people’s quality of life. Realistically, getting any needed health tests or seeing the doctor shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours out of one’s schedule occasionally.”
Lastly, Dr. Marques wants to encourage everyone to make their health a priority.
“We want all people to feel comfortable discussing your health issues with a provider,” he said. “That’s why we’re here – to empower you to make decisions, helping you live your best life. Your health belongs to you; you should cherish it and work toward staying healthy for as long as possible for the benefit of you and your family.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.